Phases of the reproduction work

As for all the volumes of the “La Biblioteca Impossibile” series, facsimile reproduction of the Torriani Book of Hours is achieved by means of the most sophisticated technological resources, for image processing, and also by means of markedly traditional handcrafting techniques, in order to conserve the special ‘magic of the past’ that we find in the original.

For the work’s ‘hard copy’, the publishing house selected a special paper which perfectly reproduces the effect and texture of parchment. The paper selected provides as faithful a facsimile as possible of the original in general in terms of its colour, and tactile and material characteristics, while also ensuring strength and durability, thus enabling frequent and prolonged use (i.e. without the particular concern we would have when handling an antique object). To ensure optimal safeguarding of the original work, arrangements were made for specially air-conditioned darkened studio space with special lighting in which to photograph the book using the cameras, plates and lenses considered most appropriate for this codex.

The photographic plates were then handed over to technicians for electronic colour break-up, the colours then being ‘re-assembled’ for printing. The nuances and toning, and even the fingerprints left by readers over hundreds of years were all left ‘ as is’ – nothing was left out, the aim being that the matrices, with their infinite degrees of colour and chiaroscuro work,  perfectly render the creative energy and painterly qualities of the renowned artist responsible for the codex’s splendid illumination work.

Particular care was taken over the heightened light effects. As part of the painstaking efforts required to produce these facsimiles, the embellishments constitute a particularly tough challenge for the chromolithographer (who must constantly go back to the original manuscript to verify with great precision the various backgrounds), and also for the printer. Illuminators used to apply the gold powder with a paintbrush, thus obtaining a specific ‘raised’ effect. Here, the technique of screen printing with special inks is used, combined with the use of special embossing or letterpress machines for a further step that confers upon the embellishments a raised effect, and tactile consistency.

A further aspect of the work at hand, the Torriani Book of Hours, which proved most demanding and complex, regards reproduction of the binding – undoubtedly one of the most refined works ever produced by the jewellers’ workshops of Renaissance Lombardy. In this reproduction, the two fields of fine arts and craftsmanship come together seamlessly. The work was carried out entirely by hand and was preceded by in-depth study of all the components of the cover:  the intricate gilded silver plant motifs, tendrils and volutes, the eight medallions with ivory heads of putti, the ivory inserts of the covers, and the painted enamels of the inside covers. The expert binder gathers together these many components for final assembly, and seeks to provide a fitting tribute to the painstaking care and attention that went into the original.

Before the final stages, at Chantilly, the Torriani Book of Hours was checked and re-checked, again and again, by the publishing house’s most highly qualified experts, external consultants, the scholars engaged in drawing up the commentary, and library officials.

Il dorso del Libro d’Ore Torriani
Il dorso del Libro d’Ore Torriani