Rotary International Fellowship – Old and Rare Antique Books and Prints
The Fellowship is open to:
Rotary � Rotaract � Interact � Inner Wheel
Its aims are:
� Promoting friendship and the exchange of information on a global scale among those Rotarians who share a common interest for antique books and prints;
� Transmitting the knowledge and love for old books to other Rotarians, especially the younger ones;
� Taking advantage of the latest means of communication, which allow an easy access to a heritage which, in our District, happens to be among the richest in the world.
Books are not meant to be just read, they should be well preserved too, so that the next generation and other people can read it too. These members come together to make this possible and ensure they put in the required efforts to share information about such rare books. Real book lovers, even if they are suffering from varicose veins, will use some Varikosette and continue flipping through the pages of such ancient books. This is something only a true book lover would understand.
During its initial stage, the Fellowship will operate thanks to the generous support of Biblioteca Queriniana di Brescia (one of the oldest and most famous libraries in the country). We shall benefit of its computer facilities and of the assistance of its Director Aldo Pirola, who is to be appointed Secretary of the new Fellowship.
As requested by International Regulations, the initiative has received the approval of three Governors of three different countries, and was approved by the Central Council of Rotary International in November2006.
It has therefore been enclosed in the list of the Rotary Fellowships and is, to all intents and purposes, already active on the website: rotaryoldbooks.org
Why this kind of fellowship:
� Because among Rotarians all over the world there are numerous keen connoisseurs of antique books and prints;
� Because our District and Italy in general are abundantly endowed with this kind of cultural heritage, which, being unique, deserves protecting;
� Because the present internet facilities permit such access and consultation as were unthinkable in the past.
But above all because –
� Culture is the one element that offers multiple opportunities for a harmonious dialogue with the different realities of our world and our society.
� Because the cultural advancement of mankind is as relevant as its economic and social progress.
We trust that our project will succeed in promoting both knowledge and love for old books, while creating a pool of information accessible to all Rotarian bibliophiles, among which we have the pleasure of mentioning the Present President Bill Boyd, who quite recently declared to belong to a family of book lovers. We also hope that the use of internet will help overcoming the well-known lending reluctance that affects most bibliophiles, a diffidence which was well expressed by a medieval bibliophile:
Librum meum non prestabo, si prestabo non habebo, si habebo
non tam cito, si tam cito non tam bonum, si tam bonum perdo
amicum: Ergo nolo praestare librum.
Culture in the Rotary Clubs to the advancement of society
�It behoves to culture to promote new ideas and needs less tied to material objects, to form a class of better educated and civically conscious citizens, to create the means by which foreign cultures might meet, to promote the knowledge of foreign languages for better communication, enhancing not so much what is local but what is common to all�.
These meaningful words are, in my opinion, a compendium of the role culture should play, becoming a source where a person, who accepts life both as a challenge and a responsibility, might find his/her proper spiritual nourishment. According to the most advanced interpretation in anthropological research, by �culture� one generally means the entirety of experience, learning, system of values, choice of ways of life and modes of behaviour, through which an individual may refine and express the peculiar spiritual talents and physical endowment that will permit him/her to attempt at gaining power over nature through the discovering of its laws, and at modifying some of its aspects by means of sustained effort, while striving to make life within society more acceptable, both at family and community levels promoting personal habits and institutions.
From a historical point of view, on the other hand, culture expresses, communicates and preserves works that transmit the great experiences and spiritual aspirations of mankind, thus putting itself at the service of its progress.
Thus perceived, culture is every nation�s special heritage, reflecting their spirit and initiative, creative powers, technical and practical abilities, thus embodying the very reasons that made that nation, through the endless running of the centuries, worthy of respect and consideration. It is therefore hard, not to say impossible, to imagine that culture, the very product of intelligence and will power, which expresses the peculiar identity of each human being, might be turned into an element of restriction, of subordination, and an obstacle to the growth and development of mankind. Culture can and must be the foundation of any true moral and civic advancement of a nation.
Unfortunately, in the course of the twentieth century,culture did not progress as one might have wished or indeed expected; on the contrary, it suffered from long periods of profound disorientation condemned, as it was, to secondary roles of subordination. The causes of what may correctly be defined a cultural crisis are to be found in the historical circumstances that characterised the century.
The whole world as well as our own country are overcome by the winds of insecurity, fear, mistrust, and anxiety about the future. But if we show the will, the energy, and the courage to restore life and voice to culture, there may be good reasons for hope.
In particular all of us Rotarians, in an effort to dispel this deep feeling of disorientation, ought to take upon ourselves the heaviest burden of responsibilities towards the community, the environment, and every single human being. Fulfilling this duty represents an indispensable basis to prove our awareness of the significance of the facts, when they relate to the fundamental meaning of life, of the environment, of solidarity, in short, of the individual as a person called by destiny to transcendence.
Not only do the study of humanities and culture restore our dignity as human beings, but they provide us with the correct choices whether political, economic or social. Moreover, culture gives a meaning to all daily events, both private and public, whereby a horizon of hope might open upon present and future history.
Welcome to culture, then, which has been scorned, forgotten, and often manipulated to achieve base ends.
It will offer us food for discussion, thought, and investigation upon issues that concern all of us, and would otherwise be in the hands of the few, let alone remain unresolved. What is needed are reference points that may prove firm and open to testing.
What is needed is going back to truth, to a culture free from conditioning, from ideologies, not enslaved by regimes or parties, as in the worst of tyrannies. Culture will prove to be our best instrument in rising from the dev� astation suffered by the moral values of our country and to restore us to the rank of nation. �The common glories of our past, the common will for the present, having accomplished great feats together, the desire to accomplish more, these are the fundamental conditions for the making of a nation. A heritage of glories and remorse for what concerns the past, a common project for the future: the existence of a nation may be considered a daily plebiscite.�
I had a telephone conversation with dear Prof. Tristano Bolelli, founder and long President of the Galileo Galilei Award. On that occasion he reminded me that words are the essential vehicle of culture, the voice through which some of the great Muses find expression. Obviously as we all know Prof. Bolelli was a great, illustrious glottologist. Nor am I less convinced of the fundamental importance of the �word�.
Accordingly, since its earliest days, Rotary was especially concerned with the transmission of science, culture, and information. And we Rotarians, Paul Harris�s distant heirs, cannot but share his concern, and we pledge to renew his commitment, convinced as we are that learning and knowledge mean understanding, and understanding will generate mutual respect and friendship, which are among the noblest Rotarian ideals. With a view of exalting the functions of intelligence, science, and culture, Rotary Italy created the Galileo Galilei Award, which grows yearly in importance and recognition, so as to be considered the Italian Nobel Prize.
Our District is proud to announce that a project has been recently established as a Rorary Fellowship (Old and Rare Books and Prints). It is a socially and culturally worthy initiative, aimed at promoting friendly global exchange of information among those Rotarians who share the love for antique books and prints. And since I am aware that a new mode of thinking is on the way among the best educated and attentive minds, a trend that somewhat looks back to a more balanced relation between the material and the spiritual, I feel entitled to express such attitude. If this idea is right, then it is up to us Rotarians to translate it into realistic terms by planning and promoting a number of specific cultural and educational projects, covering all possible levels especially destined to the younger generation since they represent our future.
Allow me to start a conversation on antique books with this self-evident truth:� None of us would be what we are had our forefathers not possessed the instrument that enabled them to hand down to us the knowledge of what they were and did!�
Generation after generation, even the most distant in time, have left their imprints on the planet. Prehistoric man was a person like any of us, complete with his own complex inner self; and yet he could but carry such �human� heritage to his grave, because, deprived as he was of a writing system, he was unable to give it permanence. Indeed, it is writing that marks the discrimination between documented fact and Prehistory The road to the development of writing was long and even now is partly undiscovered: probably the process involved the gradual representation of reality, together with all its relative concepts, in a more and more abstract manner, by means of pictograms and ideograms, following models employed in Egypt and in the modern Far East.
In time, such signs must have acquired a phonetic value to replace the conceptual one, becoming, within the Mediterranean area, proper alphabet letters, through the composition of which, it was discovered one could create an infinite number of words to cover the endless demands of factual life. In fact, the �invention� of our writing system is attributed to the Phoenicians, a nation given to commerce. Nevertheless, beside a durable mode of transmission of thought (the alphabet), it was imperative to find a solid material to imprint, i.e. writing material. Nature offered stone, and later metals. During an archaic stage, the inner part of bark was used, which in Latin was called �liber�. But it was undoubtedly the Egyptian papyrus that emerged as the writing material more apt to have a durable employment, not least due to the Rare Antique Books and Prints ductility and resistance provided by strips made by intertwining the fibres from the stems of this plant, which grew plentiful on the banks of the Nile. Such strips could easily be rolled on and off a wooden pivot, forming a scroll called �volumen� from the Latin verb �volvere�, meaning rolling.
The intensive exploitation of the papyrus plantations and the difficulties in procuring it promoted the usage of a different type of writing material, which had been invented and used for centuries in the town of Pergamum, i.e. parchment or vellum (pergamena). It consisted of the skin of a young animal (lamb, goat or calf), duly prepared, smoothed out and cut in sheets, which were then sewn together to produce a series of pages, thus representing the prototype of the modern book format. Out of each single animal one could obtain about four parchment sheets; consequently, in order to copy a Bible, it would have been necessary to sacrifice a whole herd. This also explains why books were, during the whole length of the Middle Ages, extremely precious and rare objects, mainly produced in monasteries, where flocks of sheep and herds of cattle were abundant. The rarity and preciousness of books demanded their being ornamented by polychrome decorations of considerable artistic level; hence, the art of miniature illumination, cultivated for centuries within the medieval scriptoria. In fact, following the fall of the Roman Empire, illumination was for centuries the only form of pictorial art cultivated in the Western world. Working conditions in a monastic scriptorium must have been dire. Freezing in winter, scorching in summer, tall and very hard desks, lack of any form of enlargement tools, and the necessity of self producing the ingredients needed for the job � colours made out of herbs and flowers, ink out of soot, or even gold and silver, brushes from the hair of animal hides and bird feathers to write with � all of which meant rigidly disciplined amanuenses, whose endeavours produced such great masterpieces.
For centuries, the making of books went on by these methods until, around the middle of the 15th century, something occurred that would change the destiny of mankind: the introduction of the printing press by Johann Gutenberg. In the region surrounding Mainz, presses had been used for centuries, both to press grapes and house-linen. What Gutenberg envisaged was the possibility of an innovative application of the press to his own true great invention: the movable types. By pouring an alloy of molten metals into special moulds, he was able to obtain the different letters of the alphabet, which would then be assembled and disassembled to form words. Later, by putting the stencils obtained by such process under the press, it became possible to print the text upon a sheet of paper or vellum. By then, paper made, according to the Chinese technique, out of rags had become of common usage in Europe. The impact of the new technique represented a true revolution, since it made it possible to produce books in large numbers � the new concept of edition � at much lower costs compared with the medieval manuscript. The greater circulation of books was the answer to the increased demand for education of the period, and was the vehicle of Humanism in Europe, together with Renaissance, the protestant Reformation and, along those lines of Enlightenment and of all the vast and articulated ideas which characterize the world we live in. The following centuries saw a growing and better development of the printing methods until mechanical printing machinery was replaced by digital computerized technology. Thus we come to our epoch, beyond the fateful year 1830, which is indicated by the world competent organizations (IFLA = International Federation of Librarian Association) as the discriminating date between antique and modern books.
The Rotarian Fellowship recently founded represents an instrument for knowledge and research into the reality of antique books. Thanks to it, it will be possible to circulate news and information regarding editions, publishers, bindings, illumination, particularly interesting copies from historical, scientific, and economic fields, opening new perspectives of discovery into a territory that has been so far lacking in adequate research and in-depth investigation. Aldo Pirola