Art and Architecture Italian Books I

The Leonardo of our time — Pablo Picasso

Munari, Bruno (1907-1998)

Le macchine. Einaudi, 1942.

4° (283x210 mm). [32] pages. Fifteen full-page coloured plates showing 'useless machines'. Editor's illustrated cardboard, spine covered in black cloth, black-and-white author's portrait on the front pastedown. A very good copy.

Provenance: given by the author to the Italian architect Carlo Paccagnini (see Munari's autograph dedication to on the front pastedown: “Caro Paccagnini, ti regalo l'apparecchio per sostenere la testa del cane stanco, puoi fartene pure uno di ferro (da Crespi) e tenerlo in casa tua. Ciao. Munari” ('Dear Paccagnini, I give you as a present a device to sustain the head of the tired dog, you can also have it made in iron (by Crespi) and keep it at home. Bye. Munari').

First edition of Munari's most important artist book, a brilliant re-use of those 'useless machines' invented by the American cartoonist Rube Goldberg (1883-1970). The definition 'useless machines' indicates machines, made up of various movable parts, which are unable to produce expendable goods and do not increase resources. Munari, inspired by Goldberg's comics, began to draw these humorous machines during his student period to make his friends laugh. Some of these 'useless machines' are: a Machine to tame alarm clocks, a Mechanism to smell artificial flowers, an automatic Gauge of cooking time of boiled eggs, a Device to foresee the aurora, and an Apparatus to make hiccup music.

Bruno Munari is one of the most successful and prolific twentieth century Italian artists and designers. With his fundamental contributions to the visual arts in painting, sculpture, film, and industrial and graphic design (in modernism, futurism, and concrete art), as well as to non-visual arts with his ground-breaking research into games, didactic methods, tactile and kinaesthetic learning, and creativity, Munari became known worldwide as a true design legend. Called by Picasso 'the Leonardo of our time', Munari considered the book the best medium to communicate his visual ideas, showcase his art, and convey his creative spirit: he produced over sixty publications, ranging from design manuals and manifestos to visionary tactile children's books.

Munari's Le macchine appeared in the Einaudis' series “Libri per l'infanzia e la gioventù”, the press run for which is unknown. This copy was given as a gift by the author to the architect and friend Carlo Paccagnini, who was one of the participants to the Movimento per l'Arte Concreta (Concrete Art Movement) or MAC, the artistic movement formed in Milan in 1948 by, among others, Munari and the critic Gillo Dorfles.

G. Maffei, Munari: i libri, Mantova 2007, p. 56; Philobiblon, One Thousand Years of Bibliophily, no. 284.