Two hundred years ago on this day, Giambattista Bodoni, the great Italian typographer, died. The Updike Collection includes one of the United States’ best collections of books published by Bodoni, as well as ephemera and a few manuscripts, and we’re going to be celebrating with an exhibition this February (so stay tuned for more information and mark your calendars for February 27th for the opening reception).
Having such a fine Bodoni collection means that in some cases we have multiple copies of items he printed. Why would anyone need more than one, you ask? Here’s an example, with two copies of a 1799 broadside side-by-side:
On the left is a copy with hand-written annotations, in this case possibly by Bodoni himself. On the right is a copy with the emendations called for in the copy on the left. In other words, this is a chance to see a great printer at work. Here are some of the details:
In many cases Bodoni (we’ll just assume that’s who made the correction marks) is indicating letters that need to be replaced, as in the case of the damaged “I” in Austria:
Or the “D” in “Ducum” with the wandering lead at the bottom of its bowl (say that ten times fast) and changes to letter spacing:
Sometimes you’ll have a letter like the “A” not keeping up with the baseline:
Or punctuation that needs to disappear completely (plus a shift closer to the center):
Here’s the full page view (Click for animation):
The devil is in the details.
(And if you find yourself wanting more bookish animated gifts, there’s no place better than the University of Iowa Special Collections tumblr.)