Thursday, November 11, 2010

An Italian Interlude, Thanks to Fascism

A late but most welcome addition to the Hamilton Wayzgoose agenda was a showing of Italian cinema posters from the 1920s and 30s.

Red, green and white wood type title reading Italian Wood Type Cinema
The slides, shown by calligrapher and type historian James Clough, were accompanied by Italian music. It was a lovely interlude.

James Clough at his laptop with Bill and Jim Moran in the background
This is Clough, preparing to start the show. In the background are two of the Moran brothers -- Jim (left), technical director of the Hamilton Wood Type Museum, and Bill (right), artistic director of the museum.

Two Italian cinema posters with wood type
A hundred posters were shown, out of a total collection of 15,000, which is held at the Cineteca Italiana in Milan.

Two Italian cinema posters with wood type
The posters were collected within Milan. They were displayed to promote over 160 theaters that were in operation during those decades.

Two Italian cinema posters with wood type
Sometimes, American film stars' names would appear with variant spellings if they included letters like K, J or W that don't occur in Italian.

Two Italian cinema posters, one spelling Boris Kaloff's name Harloff
The posters were printed on cheap paper, befitting their intended short-term use. The slides make it clear they had been stored with haphazard folding for a long time before being sent to the museum.

But why were such ephemeral pieces kept at all? you might wonder. Clough's final slide explained the mystery: "Between the two World Wars, censorship laws required printers to deposit a copy of every poster with the police. Most unusually, the Milan Central Police Station hung onto their posters for many decades until they were eventually donated to the Cineteca Italiana."

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