Elisa Tallone, letterpress printer since 2008. Italy

Everything happens in the world to end up in a book. Books are a wonderful invention, because they convey thoughts which shape the reader’s imagination and imagery. Through my profession I have the chance to offer to the readers the best possible reading experience. Is it not fascinating?

Imagine we don’t’ know anything about it… can you describe your profession?

The production of the Tallone Press results in a diverse catalog of some 400 books, ranging from Greek pre-Socratic philosophers to the great classics of worldwide literature and contemporary poets in a multiplicity of languages and book formats. Each is typeset by hand in movable metal types, letterpress printed and hand-bound to a new typographic design, thus creating a unique “book-diversity”.

The story of the Tallone Press started with my grandfather Alberto Tallone, who, in the 1930’s, purchased in Paris type and equipment made in the 18th century in order to create hand-set books.  In the present-day Tallone Press, where everything is preserved authentically, exactly as it was when it was founded in France at the epoch of the French Revolution, the determination in upholding the tradition of fine printing, go hand in hand. It was in fact in the XVI (16th) century that the Book reached its peak in terms of Beauty, Harmony and Readability. Keeping up with this deeply-rooted tradition is, therefore, pursuing Beauty.

My grandfather moved the studio home to Italy in 1960. His goal of combined aesthetic and editorial truth has been pursued since the 1970s by his son Enrico, my father, who has passed the family tradition to me and my brothers. 

What materials do you use?

The best cotton papers handmade and mould-made in Europe. Japanese and Chinese papers handmade from noble vegetable fibres. Often, paper is a special production expressly made for Tallone books. This has recently been the case of Pinocchio, printed in a limited edition of 450. Because one character in the fable is the Blue Fairy, this edition has been printed on a light-blue pure-cotton paper, expressly made by a papermill in Sicily.

Sometimes, few deluxe copies are printed on ancient handmade papers, which have been perfectly preserved till now. For example, this is the case of the short novel which I am currently printing. One special copy will be on original 18th-century paper, made by famous English papermaker John Whatman.

Tallone books are typeset by hand in foundry’s movable metal types, those derived from steel punches engraved by great artists. The collection of typefaces  in use at the Tallone Press is among the most prestigious and ample in the world: because it was founded in the 18th century and continued operating through the centuries, the Tallone typographical workshop includes original types from the 17th century up to the 20th century. Among the modern ones, there is the Tallone type, designed in Paris by Alberto Tallone and cut on punches by Charles Malin, which has been immortalized in 2016 in a permanent monument at the Italian Cultural Institute in Paris, as a symbol of Italian style.

The third indispensable material is ink, a very thick matter made from carbon black mixed with varnish. The best black inks – black being the main color for printing books – comes traditionally from northern Europe (Germany, Denmark in particularly).

Who is your ideal client’s profile?

A cultivated person who loves reading books and agrees with Cicero’s aphorism “A home without books is a body without soul.” 

You chose to be a craftsman. How did this decision appear to be an evidence to you?

The pros in being a craftsman are many and very valuable to me.

First, it allows me to honor a family long-standing tradition. 

Second, it allows me to create artworks which are valuable, beautiful objects which will be transmitted from generation to generation.

Third, it allows me to create in total freedom and total control of every phase and process. 

Would you define your job a passion? What is the best moment you had in your job?

What I do is such a joy and satisfaction that I certainly define it a passion. 

The best moment was in 2013, the year of the Italian Culture in the U.S.A., when the Italian Ambassador presented a Tallone book, chosen as a symbol of the made in Italy, to the Library of Congress, Rare and Manuscripts Department.

What role do “talent”, “know-how” and “creativity” play in your profession?

Know-how: the skills for letterpress-printing and binding a book are multiple and take years to be learned. Moreover, know-how must be implemented day by day, because every new book implies new challenges and the need to find unattempted solutions.

Creativity: creativity is the most important ingredient here at the Tallone Press, because every book made by the Tallone Press is intended to be a unique work of art and must differ from all the books created before. For instance, in 2017, it is the first time that we have printed a book using a different paper for each copy. This is something never attempted before. 

Talent: Some skills needed in my profession cannot be learned and should be there as innate, natural predispositions. For instance, the ability and patience to handle for many hours tiny and delicate objects. 

And what about innovation, what are the changes since you started? Do you use new materials, tools, processes, marketing. What’s the impact of innovation on your performances? How could your profession be more innovative? 

Innovation at the Tallone Press is to be intended mainly as the constant research for new texts to be printed and the constant experimentation of new high-quality papers and inks to be used in our book.

Also, innovation is necessary to face the challenges of the market and intercept the market demands. For instance, it implies to continually find new communication and marketing tools (e-commerce in the first place) and, in order to intercept the growing interest in type design, the Tallone Press has opened to visits its Archive of Styles, which houses a four-centuries long collection of types, punches and matrices.

Where and how long did you train before you were ready for creating your business? Imagine that you want to invite young generations to choose your profession, what would be your message to them?

It took many years to acquire the competences and skills required by this profession. My apprenticeship, started when I was a teenager, took place in my father’s workshop. First I learned to hand-set type; hand-binding books came second; then I learned to letterpress print; finally, and most difficult of all, I learned to design and create a new book, which imply the choice of the author and the text; the choice of the print-run; of the book format, layout and pagination, the choice of types, papers, illustrations, and inks and how to combine these elements to create something beautiful.

To the young generations I would say: Everything happens in the world to end up in a book. Books are a wonderful invention, because they convey thoughts which shape the reader’s imagination and imagery. Through my profession I have the chance to offer to the readers the best possible reading experience. Is it not fascinating?

In Conclusion, describe a meaningful experience or a personal reflection that you would like to share with us and explain why 

Every time a visitor walks through the entrance door of my workshop, he feels as if he is entering a new dimension, far away from the hustle and bustle of the outside world.

He looks around mesmerized, with awe and when he goes away, he thank me heartily, feeling regenerated. There is nothing more rewarding, meaningful then the happy sight full of admirationhat illuminates his face.

 

To know more about this craftsman, see her profile

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