The publisher's eye and workshop

By Labirinto della Masone

Labirinto della Masone is not only a magnificent park and a vast museum. It is also the seat of Franco Maria Ricci's publishing house, a laboratory of creative ideas, where erudite and elegant books are produced.

Franco Maria Ricci at the Museo Bodoniano in Parma (1967) by Ugo MulasLabirinto della Masone

The sign of Bodoni

Franco Maria Ricci started his publishing career in 1964. The turning point was the discovery of Giambattista Bodoni's "Manuale Tipografico", the "artistic testament" of the great Piedmontese printer where, one after the other, his magnificent typefaces are displayed.

The wish to hold in his hands one of the most beautiful books in the world, pushed Ricci to reprint it.

Typographical Manual (1818) by Giambattista BodoniLabirinto della Masone

With the money he received as a graduation gift, Ricci purchased two old printing presses and set to work. Reprinting the Manual by photographing each page to reproduce each letter, one by one, was a crazy but inevitable mission.

Serie di Majuscole e Caratteri Cancellereschi (1788) by Giambattista BodoniLabirinto della Masone

These crisp signs of both impressive and measured elegance...

...are the bricks that Bodoni used to build perfect pages and books, as if they were neoclassical temples.
These volumes quickly became an object of research for Franco Maria Ricci, as well as treasures to be collected.

Pages of the book "Zötl", from the series "The Signs of Man" (1972) by Franco Maria Ricci EditoreLabirinto della Masone

So it was that, after the reprinting of the Manual, Ricci decided to print books "à la Bodoni": he had grasped its essence, realizing how a book is an object of both function and beauty.

"The Diserter", from the series "The Signs of Man" (1966) by Franco Maria Ricci EditoreLabirinto della Masone

While noting that publishers were usually concerned with "dressing up" and distributing books that were born from other people's impulses, Franco Maria Ricci chose to do things differently.

The unpublished subject was the result of a personal "enchantment", namely the encounter with a series of images belonging to an unusual iconography.

"Tarots. The Visconti pack in Bergamo and New York", from the series "The Signs of Man" (1975) by Franco Maria Ricci EditoreLabirinto della Masone

Once the images have been found, the right words to guide them are entrusted to scholars and authors of great competence, who have created texts that entered the history of literature.

"Beato de Liébana", from the series "The Signs of Man" (1973) by Franco Maria Ricci EditoreLabirinto della Masone

It was with the series "I Segni dell'Uomo", which appeared in 1966, that the "Franco Maria Ricci style" made its mark, thanks to the large volumes covered in black silk, with light-blue pages hosting unexpected contents and illustrations.

Franco Maria Ricci and Jorge Luis Borges (1977)Labirinto della Masone

Jorge Luis Borges

Among Franco Maria Ricci's closest collaborators, a special place is held by the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges. Their partnership was not only a professional one: Borges was first of all one of the publisher's closest friends, and Ricci promised him that he would sooner or later build a huge labyrinth.

The fiction series "La Biblioteca di Babele" is one of the many accomplishments of this wonderful relationship.

Book covers from the series "The library of Babel" (1975-1985) by Franco Maria Ricci EditoreLabirinto della Masone

In "La Biblioteca di Babele", both famous and less known treasures from fantastic literature were presented following Borges' personal taste.

The multicolored covers are a masterpiece of editorial design.

Book covers from the series "The Blue Library" (1972-1977) by Franco Maria Ricci EditoreLabirinto della Masone

The series "La Biblioteca Blu" honors those books intended for a humble readership, that in the eighteenth century were sold at fairs or by peddlers in the countryside.

"Valentino", from the series "Luxe, Calme et Volupté" (1980) by Franco Maria Ricci EditoreLabirinto della Masone

The series "Luxe, Calme et Volupté" explores the world of haute couture through sketches, drawings and projects of great designers of the twentieth century.

"Musca Depicta", from the series "Quadreria" (1984) by Franco Maria Ricci EditoreLabirinto della Masone

Like the walls of an omnivorous and bizarre museum, the volumes in the "Quadreria" series reveal unknown or unusual themes and fascinating treasures.

"Etèria", from the series "Impossible Guides" (1992) by Franco Maria Ricci EditoreLabirinto della Masone

"Guide impossibili" narrates remote and inaccessible lands, once rich (but often nowadays too) in natural and human wonders, mysterious and colorful rituals, or nearby famous destinations with unexpected sides.

Covers of the art magazine FMR (1982-2003) by Franco Maria Ricci EditoreLabirinto della Masone

FMR

The art magazine FMR is definitely one of the most important publishing works of Franco Maria Ricci, and has become over time a true cult object. Launched in 1982, luxurious but in its own way austere, it featured three to five topics per issue. A treasure trove of wonders parades along the glossy pages of what has been called "the most beautiful magazine in the world" .

Until 2003, 162 issues of FMR were published every two months, with a circulation never reached before by magazines entirely dedicated to art.

"Firenze", recently published by Franco Maria Ricci (2019) by Franco Maria Ricci EditoreLabirinto della Masone

In the early 2000s Franco Maria Ricci left his publishing activities and sold FMR, in order to focus his efforts in the project of the Labyrinth. The separation did not last long: the Publishing House, reborn and renewed, is now based in the Cultural Park of Labirinto della Masone. Now as then, wisely immortalized beauties are embraced by the elegant black cover and are narrated in Bodonian typefaces.

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