As testimony of the bond between Neruda and the publisher, we have selected the transcription of the speech with which the Poet, on November 12, 1970, inaugurated the exhibition “Tribute to the Book and Alberto Tallone”, at the Italian Library of Santiago de Chile.
Homage to the book and to Alberto Tallone (1970)
When speaking of Gutenberg and the invention of printing, Lamartine coined this beautiful expression: “The printing press is the telescope of the soul …”. A telescope that communicates us the secret thought of the past, the present incessant work, and the future’s unknown.
Those so-called “luxury” books, which we often have the inclination to condemn, because they seem to be only accessible to few, do not hinder the popularization of the book which is produced in millions of copies, which crosses all the alleys and reaches all the houses, reflecting in its way the great errant work of the thought.
But a tradition of making beautiful book does exist, which aims at the same perfection once reached in painting and sculpture. This is the work of man to whom many wonderful artists have dedicated their lives. Among them was Tallone.
Tallone from Italy for many of you is just a name, while it means so much to me. I had admired his work even before I met him: his beautiful books, his immaculate typeface designed by himself. And I never thought that life would do me the great honor of having my books printed by him.
It happened one day, that I received an invitation from him. He lived near Turin, “presso Torino”, in Alpignano, and there we went, Matilde and I, by train. Yes, I knew where the house was, the printer had told me: the house is on this side of the railway. And we got there, but suddenly I felt disorientated; it seemed impossible, there was a steam locomotive with carriages, and the locomotive was smoking. I told Matilde: “We took the wrong way”.
No, sir! Among other things, Tallone was a collector of locomotives and he had one started so that the smoke would announce his house to me from afar.
I went through the bright room where there was people at work, the large workshop: an almost exact duplicate of Gutenberg’s printing press. The large tables, the metal letters set one by one, the shelves full of reams of wonderful Italian paper.
And then the conversation, the pleasantness of the wine – a white wine produced in the surroundings of Turin. But most of all it was his love for typography, his immense vocation as a printer, his absolute dedication to every page of his books, that illuminated him and beamed from his soul.
That European light went out, that humanist passed away, it is not long, leaving the book I wrote for him unfinished, “La Copa de Sangre”.
Bianca Tallone wrote me: “Alberto has left us, but I will finish the book and I will keep the Press alive; I feel responsible for this workshop and the great quality it is committed to”.
Tallone, among so many masters of typography, was the most rigorous, the most demanding. The slightest fault was a sin for him, a wound hat stood out from each printed line.
For instance, some of my books required six months of work, because a single accent was slanted in a different way than it should have, and he had to bring it back to its correct position.
The commitment, the decorum, the supreme beauty of his books are something to behold. He printed all the Italian classics and many great French poets, such as Ronsard. But it was in printing the most eminent Italian ones, from Dante to Machiavelli, from all the branches of Italian literature, that he achieved absolute excellence.
Here, then, I entrust you with a name which is, to me, unforgettable, and which shall enlighten us through his work.
Santiago, Chile, November 12, 1970
Interview with Alberto Tallone (1966).