There are some printers who are also scholars. One such was Giovanni Mardersteig (1892-1977). His press, Officina Bodoni, published some 200 books, many using type cast from the original matrices of Giambattista Bodoni. These illustrations are taken from a catalogue that accompanied an exhibition of the press’s work, held at the British Library in 1978.
Mardersteig had no formal training in press work, the catalogue reports, with his primary reason being “the slow process [a hand press] permits printing on damp hand-made paper. The ink is more easily received by a paper made of rags and hemp which has become flexible through wetting. Considerably less ink is required than in dry-printing and a sharper and more even impression is obtained”.
Mardersteig’s first type ‘design’ was Griffo (cut in 1929 by the French punch-cutter Charles Malin, who had a strong relationship with Mardersteig). This was cut on the instance of Stanley Morison, and based on the roman by Francesco Griffo for Aldus Manutius, first used in Pietro Bembo’s De Aetna of 1495. Morison thought it better than Monotype Bembo, being closer to the original.
Other designs by Mardersteig include Zeno (1937) and Dante (1955), which also has a resemblance to Bembo, being cut by Malin between 1947-1954. Morison had the face cut for Monotype, and it has become one of the ‘great’ faces.
Mardersteig noted that Dante was the finest achievement by Malin, who completed it before his death in 1956. “When the inventive powers of Malin came to an end so did my pleasure in type designing,” Mardersteig wrote.