Palladio on the perfect house - and what visitors have thought of his designs
The last few months - and last week in particular - have seen considerable
progress on this title.
Andrea Palladio left not only a legacy of fine buildings, but also a detailed
exposition of his ideas in his I Quattro Libri dell'Architettura ('The
Four Books of Architecture'), first published in 1570.
He prefaced his descriptions of his villa designs in I Quattro Libri with
chapters laying out his general principles for the placing and design of villas. Palladio's Homes will
reprint those chapters in his original Italian together with a parallel
translation by the eighteenth-century English architect Isaac Ware and
observations made by visitors.
In my newsletter back in September last year I hinted that an agreement was in
the offing with an Italian artist to do the illustrations. I'm delighted to say
that signor Carlo Rapp has agreed to collaborate on the book. He has the perfect
graphical style and was first introduced to me by Alessandro Zanella at the
Ampersand Press near Verona (see below). Signor Rapp speaks little English and
my Italian is pretty thin, but a face-to-face meeting was the only realistic way
of seeing whether we could jointly visualise a book, so I threw caution to the
winds and flew to meet him in Milan. Now in his seventies he proved a delightful
new friend and we sat on a sofa in the breakfast room of my rather modest hotel,
me burbling in broken Italian, he speaking slowly enough for me to catch the
majority of what he said. We had both taken dictionaries and found ourselves
resorting to them on several occasions to ensure
we understood each other. It was exhausting. But the upshot was that he will be
visiting seven or eight of the villas concerned, with the texts, and making his
preparatory sketches, then returning to his studio in the foothills of the Alps
to work up illustrations that can be letterpress printed.
The first part of our discussion was taken up with the different possibilities
for combining coloured illustrations with letterpress. One thought of mine had
been to use the archival inkjet process that has proved so successful for
example with Henry James Sat Here, but I also wanted to print the text on
hand-made Amalfi paper which is really quite different from the Somerset and
Hahnemühle papers that would take inkjet without the complex business of
profiling a different stock. Signor Rapp rightly did not feel comfortable about
mixing two papers in the one book, and we slowly converged on using just the
Amalfi hand-made and printing his line and colour illustrations using
letterpress. He will specify the colours he wants using Pantone numbers and I
can then get the inks made and print from blocks made from his 'separations'. We
also agreed that, whereas most books on Palladio's architecture concentrate on
the architectural structure and symmetry and hence almost invariably have
straight-on views of facades, this book is about the villas as places to live
and work and this will steer his illustrations.
By lunchtime we were done and in the afternoon signor Rapp treated me to a tour
of the centre of Milan including the spectacular trip onto the roof of the Duomo.
By the time I arrived home that evening back in Hinton Charterhouse I was done
Pretty much all the text is ready though I still have some research to do,
collecting the comments of those who subsequently visited the villas. I have a
list of books and documents to examine, probably at the Bodleian, which I plan
to go through in March. I can then make the final decisions about the different
measures (line lengths) of the various sections of text and get the typesetting
underway, and make up my dummy of the book and estimate the paper required,
ready for ordering from Amalfi. I already have enough information to make some
first estimates of production costs which will in turn point to the price.
So, gradually everything is coming together: texts (Italian and English), paper
(Amalfi), type (Dante), and illustrations. The binding is still a consideration.
I suspect something simple here. But we do at least know that this will be a
large book: 36cm tall by 26cm wide (about 14in. by 10in.) and currently running
at about 100pp though this might fall a little. Lots of paper and white space.
Yummy. As for edition size, perhaps 150. More anon.