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Home > Mezzofanti > Biography > 1803 to 1806 > Bodoni

Mezzofanti's handwriting in Hebrew : Click to enlarge picture
Mezzofanti's handwriting in Hebrew
Mezzofanti's intimacy with the two gentlemen named in this letter, Tommasini and Bodoni, was lasting and sincere. Tommasini, although an eminent physician of Parma and an active member of most of the scientific societies of his day, is little known outside of Italy : but Bodoni, the celebrated printer and publisher of Parma, whose magnificent editions of the classics are still among the treasures of every great library, was a man of rare merit, and a not unworthy representative of the learned fathers of his craft, the Stephens, the Manuzi, and Plantins of the palmy days of typography. He was a native of Saluzzo in the kingdom of Sardinia. His early taste for wood-engraving induced him to visit Rome for the purpose of study : and he set out in company with a school-fellow, whose uncle held some office in the Roman court. Bodoni supported himself and his companion upon the way by the sale of his little engravings, which are now prized as curiosities in the art. On their arrival, however, being coldly received by the friend on whom they had mainly relied, they resolved to return home; but before leaving Rome, Bodoni paid a visit to the printČing-office of the Propaganda, where he had the good fortune to attract the notice of the Abate Ruggieri, then director of that great press. He thus obtained employment in the establishment, and at the same time was permitted to attend the Oriental Schools of the Sapienza ; and thus having learned Hebrew and Arabic, he was employed exclusively upon the OrienČtal works printed by the Propaganda. The excellence and accuracy of the editions of the Missale Arabico-Coptum, and the Alphabetum Tibetanum of Padre Giorgi which Bodoni printed,excited universal admiraČtion ; and when, on occasion of the tragical death of his friend and patron Ruggieri, he resolved to leave Rome, he was earnestly invited to settle in England : but he accepted in preference an invitation to Parma, where he was appointed Director of the Ducal Press, and where all the well-known master-pieces of his art were successively produced. Himself a man of much learning, and of a highly cultivated mind, he enjoyed the friendship of most of the literati of Italy.

Blest with a taste exact, yet unconfined,
A knowledge both of books and human kind

his conversation was in the highest degree entertaining and instructive ; and his correspondence, which has been published, is full of interest With the Abate De Rossi, who employed his press in all his Oriental publications, Note 1he was for years on terms of the closest intimacy ; and during Mezzofanti's visit to Parma, he treated De Rossi's young disciple with a courtesy which Mezzofanti long and gratefully remembered. Bodoni's wife, who, upon his death in 1813, succeeded to his vast establishment, was, like her husband, highly cultivated, and a most amiable and excellent woman.


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Note 1
Bodoni was the printer of De Rossi's " Epithalamium" of Prince Charles Emmanuel, in twenty-five languages, alluded to in page 33. I should say however, that some of his classics,especially his " Virgilii Opera," although beautiful specimens of typography, have but little critical reputation.


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