CHIESA, Carlo and Ernesto Guffanti

In Memoriam Gianni Mantero


Lugano and Como: Published by the editors. 1985:.

Limited edition, number four of one hundred. Signed by Carlo Chiesa and Ernesto Guffanti. Issued to mark the death of Gianni Mantero in 1985. Housed in a beige linen covered wooden folder with a cardboard pouch to hold the contents. Gianni Mantero's signature is printed in black on the upper cover. The contents are a booklet and collection of Ex Libris bookplates. The booklet is formed of eighteen leaves of cream paper folded in two and tied with a silk and wool thread. The text is printed on the recto of each folded sheet. Three leaves have book plates pasted onto them, one of which is a self portrait by Gianni Mantero himself. The text includes a brief note on about Mantero's life and brief recollections from seven of the artists who made bookplates for this In Memoriam collection. There is a list of the artists represented. Issued with a portfolio of sixty Ex Libris bookplates designed by sixty artists and printed in memory of Gianni Mantero in the year of his death, 1985. The prints are pasted onto a sheet of cream paper folded in two (measuring 210x148mm when folded) with the name of the artist printed on the verso of the front leaf, opposite the bookplate. Lacking the bookplate designed by Oswin Volkamer although his portrait of Mantero is in the bookplate but the collection does include an additional very attractive colour woodprint bookplate by Ernesto Guffanti. There are two patches of waterstaining on the front cover of the booklet and a tiny hole but overall the entire collection is in excellent condition and the bookplates are immaculate. A lovely collection in memory of one of the great commissioners and collectors of Ex Libris of the twentieth century. Worldcat records just one copy, in Italy.

Gianni Mantero (1897-1985) grew up in Como where his mother ran a successful textiles business. The only member of his family not to work in the textile industry, Mantero trained as an engineer and used that background to begin a career as an architect rooted firmly in the Modern Movement. His work, found mainly in Northern Italy, clearly shows the influence of Loos and Gropius.

For the bibliophile, though, Mantero’s importance lies in another artistic field, that of the bookplate. Mantero was perhaps the greatest collector of bookplates in the twentieth century, commissioning scores of graphic artists to design Ex Libris and so expanding the possibilities and the markets for the art form. In 1946 Mantero founded the Bianco e Nero Ex Libris (BNEL), the Italian society of bookplate artists and collectors. He was instrumental in organising, in 1953, the first International Ex Libris Congress in Austria with the intention of bringing together artists and collectors to exchange ideas and designs. Following the success of the early annual meetings, FISAE (International Federation of Bookplate Amateurs and Associations) was founded in 1966. The aim of FISAE was to bring together national bookplate societies. Gianni Mantero was the Federation’s first president. Among Mantero’s many achievements perhaps his most lasting (certainly to the world of books) is his recognition that a small print designed to advertise ownership of a book could be a unifying force.

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