International Exhibition of Industry and Labour - Turin 1911

Industry and Labor

April 29, 1911 - November 19, 1911


Back - List of Pavilions

Medieval town

manque image

People always come back to see the medieval town; in the 27 years of its existence, it has already taken on the brown patina of the fifteenth century from which it was evoked by the brilliant artists who created it in 1884.

Visitors who have not returned to Turin in the meantime will be pleased to see again, like old and dear acquaintances, the large Franciscan cross at the entrance, the drawbridge, the wide door, the Annunciation after the one in the castle of Malgrà in the Canavais, the Pilgrims' Hospice, the fountain of Salbertrand and Oulx in the Susa Valley, the long street with low arches, with bricks arranged in a chessboard pattern, with overhanging roofs, the houses of Alba, Bussoleno, Cuorgnè and Avigliana. Then there is the inn with the sign of St. George, with the Dance of the Fools of Lagnasco, and the little church that is not to be found in any specific place in Piedmont and yet recalls and unites them all, from the colossal St. Christopher of Verzuolo to the St. Anthony abbot of Piossasco, from the terracotta of Ciriè to the decorative motifs of the churches in Chieri, Chivasso and Dronero.

The Middle Ages also played a joyful and active part in the 1911 Exhibition. The long medieval me has been repopulated by craftsmen who make vases and earthenware; by blacksmiths who work with wrought iron; by armourers who burnish spurs; by pharmacists who sell the elixir of long life; by merchants and fruit growers who offer their wares, all in fifteenth-century costume.

But the great novelty that the medieval town brings to the 1911 Exhibition is not the workshops and shops that survived the 1884 Exhibition, but the art of 15th century printing. Guttenberg's typographical workshop has transported its presses here, and all visitors can witness the first glorious steps of this art, which we saw giant in the Journal Palace and which dominates and invades our time.

All the objects we see in the medieval printing house belonged to that time or were reproduced exactly, with the same attention to detail as the construction of the Burg. Here, in the house of Bussoleno, we see the making of handmade paper, with the vats and sieves, the work of the masters of Fabriano and Pale. Further on, in the neighbouring house of Alba, we follow, with growing curiosity and affection, the xylographers in their patient work of wood engraving which gave the world the first illustrations of the book. There, one watches the composers aligning these movable typefaces, whose invention must have seemed at the time a find inspired by heaven or by the devil. Elsewhere, one observes the proofreader doing his humanist work, or the printer, the machinist, as he draws from the humble and crude primitive press typographic harmonies which we, in our century proud of so many inventions, no longer know how to achieve.

The typographical workshop of 1911 will also leave a memory of him in one of those editions which are the object of admiration and despair of bibliophiles. The Divine Comedy was printed in front of the public in the Foligno edition of 1470, enriched with the best illustrations of the time. Among other things, a Book of Hours was printed, adorned with delicious engravings, both sacred and secular; nearby, in the bookseller's shop - the "bibliopola" of the Middle Ages - one can admire the products of an exquisite art, obtained, more than 400 years later, using the same processes.

On the first floor of the house of Alba there is a retrospective exhibition of the art of the press for book lovers, containing the most famous typographical marks, a collection of bookplates, woodblock prints and a reproduction, made especially for this occasion, of the first and last pages of the most precious Italian incunabula.

©Guide Officiel de l'Exposition Internationale de Turin 1911