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Title
Medusa Mondadori

Designer
Giovanni Mardersteig

Year
1933

Client
Arnoldo Mondadori Editore

Medium
Book

Size
22×14 cm

Notes
Italy counts numerous masterpieces in all the fields of graphic design, but publishing is perhaps the field that achieved the finest results. Medusa book series is one of these results and represent one of the most important pieces in the history of Italian editorial graphics.

The series somehow, marked the advent of modern publishing in Italy thanks to both its graphics and the authors published. In fact, it was instrumental to introduce foreign writers to the Italian public bypassing the Fascist order that prescribed to only publish autarchical (Italian) literature. Indeed, the covers reported a headline reading “I grandi narratori d’ogni paese” (The great narrators from every country). Numerous Jewish writers were also published at least until the Racial Laws of 1938.

Designed by renowned typographer Hans Mardersteig, Medusa translates Neoclassical order into modernity, being both reminiscent of the first and precursor of the latter. From a graphics point of view, Medusas represent what Penguin Books represent for the English readers, but anticipating Penguins by two years.

Indeed, Penguins and Medusas share numerous features such as the characteristic coloured background, centred white frame with epigraphic title, cover texts set in capital letters, geometric typeface with soft shapes, and the figurative icon printed on all the covers as a trademark.

While great is the difference between the two as objects. If Penguins actually are cheap books because of price, printing, paper and binding, Medusas represent the extraordinary quality typical to the Italian tradition: impeccable in paper and typography, thread-sewn and hardbound with a flexible cardboard and dust-jacket.

Typography was set in elegant Nebiolo’s Semplicità series 501, also designed in 1933. The green background, black frame, thin white rules, and stylised Medusa head – that surprisingly looks sometimes to the left and some others to the right – drawn by illustrator and cartoonist Bruno Angoletta, let the covers to become a real monument to the books themselves.

While the striking name chosen by Arnoldo Mondadori himself, the overall clarity of the graphics, the immediate recognisability, and above all the great consistency make Madusa books one of the greatest and finest works in the history of Italian publishing and graphic design.

Released in 1933, the series was published uninterruptedly until 1971 counting 535 volumes and 138 authors, also supported by related series Quaderni della Medusa (1934-67), Medusa degli Italiani (1947-61), three series of Capolavori della Medusa reprints (1970-71, 1974, 1980), Medusa Serie Ottanta (1979-82), and Medusa Serie 80 new series (1983-86).

A curious fact: One of the titles published (n.25, 1934) is Almanacco della Medusa, an almanac dedicated to the series itself.

(All the images have been entirely or partly redrawn, thus reproductions might slightly differ from the originals.)


Title
Medusa Mondadori

Designer
Giovanni Mardersteig

Year
1933

Client
Arnoldo Mondadori Editore

Medium
Book

Size
22×14 cm

Notes
Italy counts numerous masterpieces in all the fields of graphic design, but publishing is perhaps the field that achieved the finest results. Medusa book series is one of these results and represent one of the most important pieces in the history of Italian editorial graphics.

The series somehow, marked the advent of modern publishing in Italy thanks to both its graphics and the authors published. In fact, it was instrumental to introduce foreign writers to the Italian public bypassing the Fascist order that prescribed to only publish autarchical (Italian) literature. Indeed, the covers reported a headline reading “I grandi narratori d’ogni paese” (The great narrators from every country). Numerous Jewish writers were also published at least until the Racial Laws of 1938.

Designed by renowned typographer Hans Mardersteig, Medusa translates Neoclassical order into modernity, being both reminiscent of the first and precursor of the latter. From a graphics point of view, Medusas represent what Penguin Books represent for the English readers, but anticipating Penguins by two years.

Indeed, Penguins and Medusas share numerous features such as the characteristic coloured background, centred white frame with epigraphic title, cover texts set in capital letters, geometric typeface with soft shapes, and the figurative icon printed on all the covers as a trademark.

While great is the difference between the two as objects. If Penguins actually are cheap books because of price, printing, paper and binding, Medusas represent the extraordinary quality typical to the Italian tradition: impeccable in paper and typography, thread-sewn and hardbound with a flexible cardboard and dust-jacket.

Typography was set in elegant Nebiolo’s Semplicità series 501, also designed in 1933. The green background, black frame, thin white rules, and stylised Medusa head – that surprisingly looks sometimes to the left and some others to the right – drawn by illustrator and cartoonist Bruno Angoletta, let the covers to become a real monument to the books themselves.

While the striking name chosen by Arnoldo Mondadori himself, the overall clarity of the graphics, the immediate recognisability, and above all the great consistency make Madusa books one of the greatest and finest works in the history of Italian publishing and graphic design.

Released in 1933, the series was published uninterruptedly until 1971 counting 535 volumes and 138 authors, also supported by related series Quaderni della Medusa (1934-67), Medusa degli Italiani (1947-61), three series of Capolavori della Medusa reprints (1970-71, 1974, 1980), Medusa Serie Ottanta (1979-82), and Medusa Serie 80 new series (1983-86).

A curious fact: One of the titles published (n.25, 1934) is Almanacco della Medusa, an almanac dedicated to the series itself.

(All the images have been entirely or partly redrawn, thus reproductions might slightly differ from the originals.)