Autumn 2021

The Nebiolo legacy

Though Italy’s most renowned type foundry closed its doors more than four decades ago, its influence endures. By the Nebiolo History Project [EXTRACT]

Nebiolo Foundry

Nebiolo of Turin was Italy’s greatest type foundry on both a national and an international level for most of the twentieth century until its closure in 1978. Exactly 100 years earlier in 1878, Giovanni Nebiolo founded the company that took his name when he bought the small type foundry established by Giacomo Narizzano in 1852. By the turn of the century, Nebiolo expanded as a printing press manufacturer. Its 1908 merger with the Urania company of Milan enabled Nebiolo to dominate the Italian market for printing machinery and type for handsetting until the end of commercial letterpress in the 1970s. Nebiolo was then known for the quality and variety of its printing machines; today the company is best remembered for its contributions to type design …

Nebiolo specimens for Eurostile, 1962-68. Eurostile was drawn by Aldo Novarese. Top: Photo of the Nebiolo type design office, ca. 1936. Image taken from a Nebiolo specimen book of 1939.

The Nebiolo Project – Eurostile

Making metal type exclusively for handsetting meant progressive exclusion from the newspaper, book and magazine industries, which started using typesetting machinery early in the twentieth century. Nevertheless, Nebiolo was able to compete successfully in the international and domestic markets for advertising and other types used by jobbing printers …

Specimen for Recta, 1963. When Aldo Novarese followed Alessandro Butti as artistic director of Nebiolo in 1952, he inherited Butti’s working drawings for Recta, a yet unpublished neo-grotesque sans serif, which demonstrates Butti’s ability to anticipate market trends. Recta was released, with many later additions by Novarese, as a response to the success of Helvetica and Univers.

Nebiolo – Specimen for Recta

The Nebiolo History Project is a research team set up by Marta Bernstein, James Clough, Alessandro Colizzi, Riccardo De Franceschi, Massimo Gonzato and Riccardo Olocco to investigate the archival and oral history of Italy’s most renowned type foundry.

An international conference took place in Turin on 16-17 September 2021, whose proceedings are due to be published in 2022. An illustrated monograph is planned for the future.

Read the full version in Eye no. 102 vol. 26, 2021

Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues.