Be Bold, Be Italic: Hands on “La Operina”, exploring Italian Calligraphy

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Be Bold, Be Italic: Hands on “La Operina”, exploring Italian Calligraphy

Presenting the first writing manual of Cancelleresca in the year of its 500th anniversary

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Italian Cultural Institute 496 Huron Street Toronto, ON M5R 2R3 Canada

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About this event

From the 19th to the 21st of October, 2022, for the International Week of Italian Language and Culture, the Department of Italian Studies at the University of Toronto, in collaboration with St. Michael’s College and the Italian Cultural Institute in Toronto will present a series of events to celebrate La Operina (1522), the first manual on humanistic cursive in the year of its 500th anniversary.

On October 19th, a panel of experts in manuscript culture and early printed book, including a delegation of calligraphers from the Scriptorium Foroiuliense in San Daniele (Italy), coordinated by University of Toronto’s Book & Media Studies Professor, Paolo Granata, will officially present this beautiful copy of La Operina, in a show-and-tell panel exploring the historical significance of Cancelleresca handwriting, in light of the rise of typographic cursive – known as Italic – in the early 16th century.

La Operina, by copyist, publisher, and type designer of Renaissance Italy, Ludovico degli Arrighi of Vicenza (1475–1527), was the first practical manual on Cancelleresca, the Papal Chancery script now usually called humanistic cursive or italic handwriting. Arrighi was a scribe in the Papal Curia, which had refined cursive chancery hand in its infancy during the latter half of the 15th century. Cancelleresca was developed at a time when the spread of printing technology had already decreed the fall into disuse of manuscript books, consequently shifting the calligraphic attention from the books to the production of single papers and documents, for which handwriting remained an irreplaceable tool.

Join us to learn the historical significance of Cancelleresca script in Renaissance Italy, as featured in Arrighi’s iconic manual.

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For this special event, a handmade anastatic copy of Arrighi’s La Operina, known in English as “The Little Work”, will travel to Toronto from the Biblioteca Guarneriana in San Daniele del Friuli, one of Italy’s oldest and most venerated public libraries, founded in 1466 by humanist Guarniero d’Artegna and enriched with the collection of Archbishop and bibliographer Giusto Fontanini in the 18th century. As the very first practical manual on Cancelleresca, the first stand-alone handwriting manual of Renaissance Italy and the piece revived in 20th century works by esteemed calligraphers Alfred Fairbank and Gunnlauger SE Briem, La Operina is one of the most decorated handwriting works of the 16th century.

In 1522, papal scribe, copyist, publisher and type designer of Renaissance Italy, Ludovico degli Arrighi of Vicenza (1475–1527), surnamed Il Vicentino, published La Operina (The Little Work). The author referred to himself as Ludovico Vicentino, a name he incorporated into this brief text eight times, while his colloquial name, Arrighi, is nowhere to be found among the beautifully lettered pages of this work.

La Operina was the first practical manual on Cancelleresca, the Papal Chancery script now usually called humanistic cursive or italic handwriting. Arrighi was a scribe in the Papal Curia, which had refined cursive chancery hand in its infancy during the latter half of the 15th century. Cancelleresca was developed at a time when the spread of printing technology had already decreed the fall into disuse of manuscript books, consequently shifting the calligraphic attention from the books to the production of single papers and documents, for which handwriting remained an irreplaceable tool. For these needs, it was necessary to write faster than how humanistic script originally allowed, yet just as elegantly, hence the birth of the Italic script with a thinner and slightly inclined style that made it adaptable to more rapid execution.

The event is presented by:

Department of Italian Studies at the University of Toronto

St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto

Massey College, Toronto

Istituto Italiano di Cultura in Toronto, for the International Week of Italian Language and Culture

City of San Daniele del Friuli (Italy)

Scriptorium Foroiuliense, San Daniele (Italy)

Be Bold, Be Italic: Hands on “La Operina”, exploring Italian Calligraphy image
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