the blue print press


The Blue Print Press - Janine Raedts


Via Mezzavilla 26A, 31029 - Vittorio Veneto (TV) - Italy 

phone: +39 3200 5252 89


Inventors of letters

homage by a typographer by Nicola Dal Falco

Inventing Letters


Before two letters sufficed 

for the divine summary, 

the alphabet
still lacked some signs;


to capture breath
in writing out a sound was
a human mission, certainly inspired 

by a practical and graceful


a spirit that perceived
in the unripe side of things 

the growing strength
of drawing, motion;


more than moulding or hammering

incandescent iron,
crafting a letter
was akin to the silence

of mime, of someone dancing;


it was Palamedes the Greek, disciple 

of Chiron, cousin of Menelaus,
son of Nauplius and Climene, 

herself daughter of Catreus, 

begotten by the navarch

Minos and by Pasiphae


who made the world reverberate 

with four new letters –
Ζ zeta, Υ upsilon, Φ phi, Χ chi;


sketching down the majesty 

of a diagonal, the spouting 

crossroads, the split depths 

and point of intersection: 

zeta, upsilon, phi, chi;


then Simonides of Ceos, 

choral poet, guided
sound to image,
towed another four to shore, 

Ψ psi, Ξ xi, Ω omega, Θ theta;


a hiss of incense, a perilous 

footstep, a wave, the circle 

of the sun or city walls.




Translation by Pat Snidvongs

Oxford, 2nd April 2024

Photo, video and website credits: Maddy Vettorello

For those who knew Alessandro Zanella, typographer and private press printer are interchangeable and reversible terms. We are dealing with the felicitous case of a humanistic craftsman, a refined specialist and an intellectual who worked skillfully with his hands.
What we present here is a homage, the etymology of which, I like to recall, has nothing to do with the more modern idea of gift. Hommage was the ceremony by which the sovereign invested someone with a fief. It was, therefore, a pact of gratitude and loyalty.
Two feelings that lie behind this artist's book, designed and printed by The Blue Print Press in Vittorio Veneto, Italy, at the hands of Janine Raedts, who was a pupil of Zanella. It is a purely typographic book, without illustrations, where it is the typefaces that show and tell. Above of all, the master's monastic rigour, devoted to his agonising labours, in his printing studio near Valeggio sul Mincio, Verona.
This homage arrives, with a slight delay (which we will explain), in the tenth year (plus one) after his sudden death on a Greek island. It is therefore also becomes a bow to his passion for Hellas. Inventors of Letters was composed by hand in Bodoni, and printed on a FAG and Albion press on Laurier paper in an edition of twenty-five copies.
For the poem, the help of Achilles Tzallas proved to be crucial, as he scoured his warehouse and sent the Greek lead type described in the verses.
Some circumstances and details are worthy of note. Firstly, the paper for the book was purchased from Ivan Pengo in Milan, where Zanella also replenished his stock; the black ink, manufactured by Daniel Smith of Seattle, was also a gift from Zanella and dates back to his American sojourn, when, in the spring of 1977, he had accompanied Richard Gabriel Rummonds to the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa to assist him on a course on printing with a hand press. Zanella would collaborate with Rummonds from 1976 to 1982 at his Plain Wrapper Press in Verona.
The organic ink slow to dry, all the more so in Janine's printing studio, housed in a former wine cellar in the Veneto. The needles and threads used in the binding had been bought for, but never used by, Zanella. Something perhaps 'serenissimo' is added by the fact that the paper was cut at the Tipoteca in Cornuda, in the province of Treviso, where Zanella had made his expertise available. Not least, the eight Greek letters mentioned in the poem (invented by Palamedes, a pupil of Chiron and Simonides of Ceos, a choral poet) arrived from overseas, with all the contingencies of chance, through the intercession of a Greek named Achilles. After a long wait, the retrieved letters turned out to be perfect in height and size, fitting seamlessly into the rest of the text. Someone was evidently watching over us.

Finally, even in the making of the cover, graceful connections can be glimpsed. At first, the printer considered an illustration, perhaps something from the work of Bill Moran, letters walking around in the insect world, animated and, so to speak, prehistoric.
Then, reading and re-reading the text, she decided on designing the front cover with wood type.
“I was convinced,” she explains, “not least because of my interest in socio-linguistics, of the fact that the human mind, when confronted with a series of jumbled up letters, immediately tries to reconstruct possible complete words.”
The wooden sans serif typeface comes from a former printing studio, whose printing presses are still perfectly functional, and regularly restarted (like an old, valuable engine) by Piero Montagner, Janine's fellow citizen. Having retired from his trade, carried out with incomparable dedication, and now almost blind, Pietro Montagner can still put the press into gear, knowing his work by heart. Another ‘cantore’, then.
I believe that this project, which arrived at its destination slightly late, was truly a journey between words that seem like islands, with inks that remind us of the sea, and sentimental cartography.

In other words, a way of guiding 'sound to image'.


Translation by Pat Snidvongs

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