Thursday, January 27, 2011

Don't judge a book by size alone. Concept, content and design combine to make a book collectible. Tema & Variazioni

I'm constantly amazed by books that are oddities.  For most of my life I was drawn to a small book that my Uncle kept in his bedroom.  Measuring 2.5" by 6.5", this softcover gem is a collection of 144 tiny illustrations of woman, Tema & Variazioni, by Piero Fornasetti, accompanied by a single sentence quotation by famous authors in their own language and with an Introduction by Alberto Moravia.  The quality of the publication is first rate and the illustrations beautiful, creative and haunting.

After my Uncle's' passing in 1994, this book was living in a closet at my Mom's house and after years of making sure it was still there, I finally decided to take it home, catalog it for my library and find out whatever I could concerning the illustrator and the publication itself (I was granted the responsibility of taking care of my Uncle's library after his death).

Discovery is what keeps my young!  Piero Fornasetti (1913-1988) was a Milanese artist, sculptor, interior designer, engraver of books and is credited with creating over 11,000  products.  He is considered one of the most creative talents of the 20th century and this little book is one of his most unique and powerful products, in my humble opinion.

The site, has a wonderful section concerning Fornasetti and his designs along with this insight into Fronasetti and the woman featured in Tema & Variazioni, "what inspired me to create more than 500 variations on the face of a woman?  I don't know.  I began to make them and I never stopped.  fornasetti used the same image (the portrait of lina cavelieri, he had found in a magazine from the 1800's) on a variety of other objects, until it became virtually his trademark." The 144 images in Tema & Variazioni represent the variety of images he created using this one portrait.  Today, one can still buy Fornasetti designed plates, clothing and even lamps with the image of Lina Cavelieri!  There arebooks about Fornasetti and I've seen sellers on eBay hawking individual pages of Tema & Variazioni framed for $60+.  I prefer to keep my copy intact, safe and accessible so I can visit the illustrations whenever I want and I can think of the joy my Uncle had in acquiring this tiny book. 

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