More Books, More Freedom in Rome

By Jeffry Larson, Yale University

WESS Newsletter
Spring 2007
Vol. 30, no. 2

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Say you want to see the production of a country’s small and medium-sized publishers without them being overshadowed by the “majors”, who can all be seen at the mega-fairs such as Frankfurt.  Then Più Libri Più Liberi [roughly, “More Books, More Freedom”] is for you: it’s the annual fair of the independent Italian publishing houses, held since 2002 over the (long) second weekend of December in the Palazzo dei Congressi in the EUR, the Mussolini-modern complex on the south edge of Rome. 

UNESCO designated Rome, along with Turin, as “World Capital of the Book” for 2006.  (This program was initiated in 2001 with Madrid the first World Capital of the Book; Antwerp was the next European city so honored [2004], and Amsterdam will be the next [2008]--for more information, see http://portal.unesco.org/culture/en/ev.php-URL_ID=24019&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html.)  So it was fitting to visit Rome at the end of its tenure.

Più Libri Più Liberi (http://www.piulibripiuliberi.it/index.php) is sponsored by the Associazione Italiana Editori, with the support of the Comune of Rome, the Province of Rome, and the Region of Lazio, as well as the Italian Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities and the Chamber of Commerce of Rome. 

The fair is open to the public, with no day set aside for professionals of the book, as in Turin or Paris. By registering online in advance, however, professionals can be spared the modest entrance fee of 5 euros. A free shuttle is provided from the nearest Rome metro station to the Palazzo.  There were ample free, clean restrooms.

The fair provides a space for children’s activities and related promotions, but otherwise the arrangement of booths is apparently at random.  And what one sees are books, only books (or almost)--no flashing lights or tubes or other such hi-tech bells and whistles. Almost 400 publishers, including WESS friend Casalini Libri/Cadmo, were represented.  There were all levels and categories of publishers, but not very many governmental agencies.  Italian regional or local governments do not publish as many trade books as their counterparts in Spain do; their stands were mainly promoting literacy rather than displaying backlists.

The most interesting conversation I had was at the booth of Campanotto Editore (http://www.campanottoeditore.com/), a publisher of high-brow literature and cultural studies in 33037 Pasian di Prato (Ud).  They even brought to the fair some single-copy artwork. Their partial catalog is browsable on the web, and a pdf version of the full catalog can be e-mailed upon request.

The fair had more than 200 scheduled events, primarily book signings and author panels.  One session on cultural reviews in Lazio public libraries was drowned out by an adjacent omaggio to Bird Parker.  This was practically the only event or stand devoted to periodicals, so it was unfortunate there was no opportunity for dialogue.

The fair was very crowded, with more than 50,000 attendees over four days, perhaps because the day I attended was the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (which does not rhyme in Italian with “piña colada”, as I learned).  One exhibitor, however, told me the attendance had been higher the year before.  The Palazzo dei Congressi did not devote all of its space to the book fair, with some sections of the building being simply closed off.  As a consequence, the aisles and snack facilities were jam packed, making them difficult to navigate with a bag full of catalogs.  Let us hope that in the future the book fair will have the run of the building.

Much as I would like to indulge in invidious jactations about enjoying the sights and sounds and tastes and odors of Rome that accompanied my professional activities, I must acknowledge that on the morrow of my visit to Più Libri Più Liberi I was felled by an intestinal influenza (gotten from my wife--Galeotto fu la mia moglie--who had caught it at points north, though she said that what I was suffering from was an acute attack of Munchausen’s syndrome) and spent the rest of my stay in Italy confined to a hotel bed (it was Prévert, I think, who elaborated on Pascal by observing “tout le malheur des hommes vient ... de ne savoir pas demeurer au repos dans une chambre--d’hôtel”).  So be sure your family gets all their flu shots before embarking for Italy.

I would like to thank Casalini Libri for sympathetic advice and support in visiting Più Libri Più Liberi.

Further Notes on Book Fairs:

Please note the recent updates on the WESS book fair wiki ( http://wess.lib.byu.edu/index.php/European_Book_Fairs), maintained by the intrepid Dick Hacken (BYU).  All and sundry are invited not only to browse but also to add their contributions, which the wiki format makes easy. 

Just added to the wiki is a younger French counterpart of Più Libri Più Liberi, the Salon International de l’Autre Livre (http://www.editeurs-lautrelivre.net/association/salon.htm), which takes place in Paris in mid-December. The 2006 Salon was held in the Salle Olympe de Gouges in the XIème, near Père Lachaise.  Perhaps a self-selected group of WESSies could rendezvous there in 2007 or -8: À bas la pieuvre verte!  Vive Jim Morrison!


Editor: Paul Vermouth

Association of College & Research Libraries
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