Munari’s Books

Italian artist Bruno Munari (1907-1998) made significant contributions to advancements in graphic design, photography, painting, and even teaching, and is recognized throughout the art world as a pioneer in modern visual expression. Munari spent much of his seventy-year career on book design and illustration, employing various bindings, materials and typesetting techniques, to the point that Pablo Picasso even called him “the Leonardo of our time”.

On June 23rd, Princeton Architectural Press will release the first English-language monograph on Munari’s book designs, showcasing the artist’s gift for multi-sensory storytelling, with books as his preferred medium. Written by art historian Giorgio Maffei, the book focuses on Munari’s work in the publishing industry, which ranged from illustrated books, artists’ books, and educational materials full of design and illustration theory. All are part of the mix, and presented in chronological order alongside detailed notes.
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Abecedario de Munari Image Credit: Rome: Emanuele Prandi, 1942

In the 1920s, Munari was a major proponent of the futurist movement, exhibiting at various art shows dedicated to this youthful, vibrant movement. Soon enough, he began manipulating how books communicate ideas and can exist as an art form and as a teaching tool. Perhaps the most accessible culmination of his book experiments can found in his works for children. With unusual formats, layouts, and striking images, Munari’s books appealed immediately to young readers, and encouraged young, preliterate children to delight in all the ways of engaging with a book, and to discover their own creativity in the process.  Despite reenergizing the world of children’s publishing, Munari remained surprisingly humble on his contributions, and in the June-July 1975 edition of Italian art magazine Le Arti said that his work was simply meeting a need: “There is nothing utopian about this; it is just a real social service.”

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Bruno Munari’s Zoo. Mantua: Graziano Peruffo, 1963

Munari’s Books is a visual treat from start to finish; printed and bound in Italy with hot pink wrappers, the book maintains a modern European layout with wide right-hand margins. It is a thorough and glorious examination of this innovative artist, whose work continues to inform multiple domains today.

Munari’s Books, by Giorgio Maffei; Princeton Architectural Press, $40.00, 288 pages. (June 23)


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