Venetian Gutenberg keeps the tradition of printing

Hugh Grant and Marisa Tomei are appearing together, albeit not in a new Hollywood film. The movie stars are just two of the elite clients whose business cards adorn the Venice shop window of master printer Gianni Basso, the man who fashions handmade prints using the methods and instruments of the Gutenberg era.

Perhaps such is the quality that attracted clients like the late Nobel laureate Joseph Brodsky and contemporary author Danielle Steele. Basso’s presses and plates are pre-industrial, recalling the 16th century when Aldus Manutius copied numerous works from the Greek and Latin secular canon to type for the first time in history, turning Venice into one of Europe’s great renaissance printing capitals.


Stamperia Gianni Basso

Stamperia Gianni Basso


When he was just 15, Basso studied his craft on the Venetian island of San Lazzaro, known for its printing heritage and the ancient library where Lord Byron studied Armenian in 1816.

Thirty years ago, Basso recuperated several presses from the island and elsewhere in Venice and brought them to their current location in the historic Calle del Fumo, or “Alley of Smoke,” a reference to a string of workshops that still line the walkway. In today’s era of mass information, Basso says his clients are interested in the personal, handmade touch he instills in his craft work, something he says is lacking in xerox copies and digital prints.




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