The Tipografia Grifani Donati was set up in late 1799 in Città di Castello, an Italian city with a long typographic tradition, by the typographers Francesco Donati and Bartolomeo Carlucci. The site they chose for that purpose was the former one of the 13th church of S. Paolo, which after that was home to a convent and finally, before they moved in, it had been used as a prison.
Their studio soon became well known for producing books and publications of great artistical and cultural value, and orders came in from all the neighbouring cities and provinces. Upon the death of Carlucci, the business was continued by Donati, who in 1817 introduced the Bodoni typeface. Active for over two centuries, it is the only printing workshop in the world that has always been run (for seven generations by now) by the same family. Its works are held in museums, historical archives and libraries (e.g. from the numerous proclamations of the Imperial Government, religious pamphlets to posters on events in town; from calendars to collections of poetry and stories; from complicated railway timetable and number of periodicals of various leanings). Little has changed since then … the scents of the press, the light from the windows illuminating the dark machinery, the silence and the sight on the roofs of the city make it easy to imagine a jump in the past of more than 200 years.
The present owners Giovanni Ottaviani and his wife Adriana continue the family tradition. Giovanni has added lithography (using stone plates) to the repertoire, as well as etchings (on copperplates) and the binding and restoration of books. Today the workshop produces a wide range of printed matter such as lithographs, etchings, posters, letterheads, visiting cards, business cards, wedding invitations, wedding announcements, bookplates, ex libris and much more. Mostly traditional techniques and equipment are still used, such as the printing press Elia Dell’Orto from 1864, Platen Tiegeldruk from 1903, a star lithography press by Bollito & Torchio 1880, a copperplate printing press by Paolini from 1960, a cylinder transferring press from the Werk Augsburg from 1910, a printing press Kruse 1906 and more than 536 cases filled with typefaces, masterpieces, cliché, xylographs etc, all originals.
All of these serve to work with different types and motives, printing plates, woodcuts and galvanos. In the workshop art exhibitions, including those by artists who produced their own works in the Tipografia site with the original equipment, are often hosted. Besides being a real museum dedicated to the art of printing, the printing shop is a landmark for all those artists who still want to use the old techniques of engraving on wood blocks or copperplates and drawing on stone for making litographs. In 2005 the Umbria Region has recognized the Tipografia Grifani Donati as Museum of the living Graphic Arts. You will be accompanied directly by the owner on a guided visit during which you will discover the history and the secrets of the press, from Gutemberg to Aloisio Senefelder. You will see the composition with typefaces, how to make a chalk, and how to design lithographs on stone and much more.