A forthcoming exhibition will feature recently restored manuscripts from the archive of the Bibilioteca of the Sacro Convento – the great library of the St Francis Basilica in Assisi. As the lead designer of the show’s brand identity, I was invited to step into the halls of this hidden gem and peruse the medieval tomes.
The manuscripts are preserved under very special conditions in the library of the Basilica, unaffected by humidity and direct sunlight. The books are rarely handled or even viewed. Browsing through pages that date as far as 400 AD felt like a ritual, as I was entering the writings of the scientists, thinkers and healers of the era who were trying to understand the natural world through illustration and writing. Many of the books were written to pass on their findings to the next person– and not fancy presentations. Thus, there were imperfections in the writing, event notes on the sides – a raw quality that was fascinating to experience.
Graphically, the books were simply done – black text on white cotton paper, bound in leather or sometimes in paper. Occasionally, a bright color would appear as an accent. I was thrilled to come upon collages too, when the writer incorporated a rotating element to show the movement of the planets, for example. Several books were dedicated to botany, the medicinal qualities of plants, a catalog of the natural world, with descriptions in ancient Italian. All of that bound by small imperfections that made the designs even more special.
I love books – handmade books especially. Whether reading them, perusing or creating them… I received wonderful inspiration from this experience, and feel I have a basis for my brand research. In the era of digital books and PDFs, there was something so special in handling and reading these fascinating artifacts.