Parmigiano, Pasta, Parma!
Parmigiano – Pasta – Parma! “Food as culture, not as calories” was the motto of the morning. On Friday 24th September we were invited to the Academia Barilla, the first worldwide centre dedicated to the study, promotion and development of Italian gastronomic culture. The Adademia houses the Biblioteca Gastronomica, a unique collection with over 8500 volumes on every aspect of the art of gastronomy and food. The library includes books, menus, and manuscripts dating back as far as the 16th Century. It is open to scholars, collectors, enthusiasts and cooks to study new recipes. Do you wish to learn how to prepare Tagliatelle Bolognes? (Or a Nutella sandwich?) Use the library! The books are there on the shelves. After an hour of practical work in the kitchen (which mainly consisted of watching the Barilla chefs creating delicious pasta while we did a lot of tasting), the ILAB dealers wondered: What was more exciting? The food or the books?
In the afternoon we climbed up the stairs of the Palazzo della Pilotta – the home of the Biblioteca Palatina and the Bodoni Museum. The Biblioteca Palatina was established in August 1761, when Paolo Maria Paciaudi received the title of “Antiquarian and Librarian” from Filippo di Borbone, Duke of Parma. The library is divided into 6 principal categories: “Theology, Nomology, Philosophy, History, Philology and Liberal and mechanical arts”. The architecture is wonderful with its library ladders, lamps and old wooden desks. The books are arranged on neoclassical shelves. Oddly enough, they are protected from the dust by little lace curtains. It’s a great, great pity that many volumes are in terrible conditions. We climbed 99 more steps on the Palazzo stairs to reach typographical heaven: the Bodoni Museum with a marvellous collection of Bodoni prints, the tools and the typeletters Bodoni made and used to create his magnificent books.
In the evening Umberto Eco’s lecture about “The Vertigo of the List” attracted hundreds of people to the Artelibro Festival. He explored a phenomenon that is at the heart of the desire to collect and catalogue books: the list and the sense of vertigo which we experience once we attempt to look beyond - or perhaps beneath - the appearance of systematic unity from which the list draws its authority.