by Lina Vergara Huilcamán

A tridimensional bookseller,
Heritage of the city of Bologna.

photo by Lina Vergara Huilcamán

photo by Lina Vergara Huilcamán

photo by Lina Vergara Huilcamán photo by Lina Vergara Huilcamán

In via Fondazza, Bologna, a side street of strada Maggiore that ends in via Santo Stefano, there is a small antique bookshop specialized in illustrated books, specifically animated and pop-up books. The shop has been managed by its owner, Pietro Franchi, for many years.
He discovered this passion at the age of fifteen, without a particular reason: “I really couldn’t explain why” he says “I was a hairdresser for ladies, but I wanted to be a bookseller” he smiles, half-serious half-kidding, “then I became newsagent, but I wanted to be a bookseller”. He finally managed to open the bookshop at the street number 13/2°a and his dream came true. His fascination with books was born together with his passion for mechanics, automatons and androids. He gave me the precise definition for everything, then illustrated the birth of the first automaton, the industrial revolution, the Jacquard loom and the first textile looms and, finally, androids. He opened the door of a storeroom with a shelf unit of wonders. He took a small linen box containing an amazing book entitled ANDROIDS, the Mechanic Wonders of the Famous Jaquet-Drozs, and led me towards a new world that was absolutely worth exploring. During this amazing journey he leaft through the book – that in the end I couldn’t help buying – and illustrated the mechanics, story and wonders of these three androids: the Writer, the Draftsman and the Pianist, that Jaquet-Droz created at the end of the eighteenth century. He told me about the travels and adventures that finally guided them to a Swiss museum where they are brought to life and put into operation once a month. The Pianist, the most impressive of the three automatons, owns the device of life: before she starts to play – moving each finger on the keyboard at the right pace for an hour and a half – this android breathes! As if she was trying to concentrate in front of the audience.
With a bookseller/personage like Pietro Franchi, one can’t help feeling the insane desire to leaf through all the books on the shelves, the desire of listening to his stories in order to discover new worlds. Amazing worlds that are very close to us but whose existence we ignored so far. We feel like taking paper and scissors to turn our fantasy into something tridimensional. Franchi described Neuchâtel, in Switzerland, as a Toyland with small towns dedicated to clocks. Such an ordinary object! But think of its mechanisms, all its minuscule or huge component parts – because in Switzerland they make clocks of every size and for all the world – and of their mechanics applied to automaton and androids! He described places where we can find all sort of things, including automatons entirely made of gold that are part of collections open to the public. As if the clock, like time itself, was limitless.  
Then he showed me, one after the other, the other treasures of his bookshop. The pop-up books of his creation about Invisible Cities and The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino, or Lucia nell’angolo (Lucia in the corner), an animated photo book and Il libro delle lattine schiacciate (The book of crushed cans), where for each can there is a caption explaining why it has been crushed, or the Marylin whose dress can be lifted by putting an euro in the slot provided, or the wooden box for carrier pigeons with a clock beside that stops when the pigeon comes back.
A man without borders, except for his passion for books, that he studies, reads, creates, narrates!  Thanks to him I have learnt about the existence of a competition of books never never seen that is held during the feast of pigs in Russi in the province of Ravenna, including an exhibition that takes place on Christmas.  
How many things there are in via Fondazza, Bologna, he even devised a tour: VIA FONDAZZA, THE STORY IN THE STREET. A GUIDED VISIT THROUGH TIME. SINCE THE ETRURIANS TO JOHN GRISHAM, where maybe we can’t see anything “it depends on whether they open the main door”, but for sure we are allowed to stop before every house front door and listen to the tale of what happened in that place (the shooting of a movie scene, a historical event, a chapter of a novel by Grisham etc.) But the most impressive story is the one of a tower that was moved by thirteen meters!
I wish I could spend hours looking at strange or rares books, or the collections of Pinocchios, that over time has been reduced to the best items, or listening to and discovering the stories hidden behind each door, each page, each word of this tridimensional bookseller. Pietro Franchi is extremely curious, eager to work and create, unable to keep his head still. An artist, a bookseller, a narrator. Sitting behind his table, he suddenly stands up and go and take a bottle of water. A drink for his guests, to welcome them and open by means of words the amazing pop-up book of his story.
So, if you want to discover the wonders of via Fondazza, or listen to the story of Franchi’s life before learning how to create a pop-up book; if you are in search for bizarre items such as a lacquered box containing seven different ivory puzzles; if you want to own a copy of the catalogue On the Matter of which Dreams are made – a list of books whose contents sometimes follow reality, sometimes leave it to its destiny, dealing with what is most essential to life written by our Franchi, that today I have appointed Heritage of the town of Bologna, now you know where you have to go.

LIBRI & Co. - Via Fondazza, 13/2°a - Bologna - Tel. +39 051 344820 -  pfranchi@tin.it
TOUR di VIA FONDAZZA, LA STORIA NELLA STRADA   ogni sabato alle 16.30 in via Fondazza n.13/2°a, si consiglia la prenotazione.
LIBRI MAI MAI VISTI: www.vaca.it/pagine/lmmv-n/lmmv-n-home.html