FAQs Answered by James J. Periconi
Here are some basic questions about the website that you may be asking yourself.
James J. Periconi
How did you manage to put this website together? What does "Durante" denote? Why note "q.v."? Why do you have facsimiles as part of the collection? Why does the collection contain some works published in English? Why does the collection include books published in Italy?
How did you manage to put this website together?
I didn't do it by myself, to be sure. I've been fortunate enough to have two brilliant and accomplished young librarians, Julie Carlsen and Simone Best, who work at the Berg Collection at the New York Public Library. These magnificent colleagues in the book world made it happen - I mostly went along for the ride. Thank you, Julie and Simi! As of 2022 the website is additionally maintained by Special Collections and Archives, Queens College, CUNY.
What does the tag or note of "Durante" mean?
You will see this a lot. This denotes that there is an excerpt of the writer under discussion, or of that particular work, in English, in Francesco Durante's Italoamericana: the Literature of the Great Migration, 1880-1943 (the English language edition)(New York: Fordham U. Press, 2014), General Editor of the American Edition: Robert Viscusi; Translations Editor: Anthony Julian Tamburri; Bibliographical Editor: James J. Periconi.
With that one volume, the website visitor can go way beyond just seeing what the book looks like, and my description, without ever personally visiting the Collection.
Why do you use "q.v."?
That's Latin, "quod vide," or "which see," for shorthand in referring, in the description of one work, to another work that is in the collection. In some places I say, instead of "q.v.", rather, "which is in the collection."
Why do you include works whose authors and/or subjects never came to the U.S.?
Those are cases in which publication took place in the U.S. I'm particularly (though not exclusively) interested in book publication in the United States. Conversely, I'm interested in U.S. subject matter, even if publication took place in Italy, France or elsewhere.
The answer is, I am interested in presenting a body of work, kept in proximity to each other, that is useful for scholars of Italian writing and publishing in the U.S.
Such a collection perforce includes facsimiles of books for which second-hand copies cannot be had for love or money. Most of the facsimiles in the collection are not available even on Google Books, but are from one or another of the facsimile publishers.
A scholar working with authentic works with an interest both in the text of the work and also a bibliographic or book-history interest may have a need (or even just a desire) to have available the text of a related work, or the work of an author for whom no or few copies of their works exist, even if some of the bibliographic details - the look and feel, the quality of the paper, or other information in the preliminaries - may not be reproduced in the facsimile edition.
An example is Italo Stanco (Ettore Moffa), considered by scholars to be an important writer but in 25 years of collecting I have never been able to find a real copy of any his work. But his perhaps most important work - Il diavolo biondo - does exist in reprint, so I have it. (An excerpt is also in Durannte.) Anyone working with my collection should have an opportunity to look at the full text of Stanco.
Or take Menotti Pellegriofno's I misteri di New York. The facsimile copy of this work contains all the advertisements with which the book as published was chock full. It tells us much about how one rather interesting writer financed the writing and publication of his fictional work that the text alone of the novel would not.
Why does the Collection include books published in Italy?
Those are not U.S. imprints, you say, so why are they part of a collection of U.S. imprints, which could be a good point. But in some cases, these are works published both in the U.S. and in Italy, which holds one kind of interest. More typically, the work was only published in Italy but by an immigrant to the U.S. who spent the better part of her or his life in the U.S. but had contacts in Italy or who otherwise found it easier to publish there.
That alone tells us something important culturally or about that writer's relation to the world of American publishing in Italian.
Finally, perhaps least obvious as deserving a place in the Collection are those works by Italians who spent very little time in America, remained in Italy for most of their working careers, and offer their observations about their short time in America.
Again, the differences in observations about Italians in America (or about America more broadly) among those Italians who spent only a few years here, versus those who moved to the U.S. and died here, can also tell us something important about the quality of their observations. Time is not the only criterion: Dario Papa and Ferdinando Fontana spent little time in the U.S. but wrote a brilliant work called, simply, New-York.
I'm glad you have photos of the covers and title pages of all the works, but I wish I could see them 'up close.'
Well, actually, you can see cover, title page and any other page that's photographed "up close," and get a feeling for the type of paper used, its quality and texture and other characteristics, and make sense often of some scribble of a dedication or signature better than if you saw the actual work.
How? Simple. Just run your cursor over the photo; tap once (a close-up); then tap a second time (greater close-up) and photo will show itself much enlarged (with a magnifying glass). You can see the object several times its life size.
Why are there works in English in the Collection?
These are surely the least obvious candidates for the collection: there are a handful of works in English. In the case of the Italian Book Company-Società Libraria Italiana, the most important of the non-radical publishers, that company produced a very small number of works in English, but we can't make complete sense of their publishing enterprise without knowing everything about them, including their English language publications.
So, e.g., we have a work published in English by the SLI authored by a youthful Benito Mussolini, John Hus the Veracious, not for its literary content (it's of course not about immigration or the life of Italian immigrants, but about Jan Hus, a 14th-15th century martyr to the Church's orthodoxy), but for the fact that it shows (in its preface by the publisher, the only Italian language part of the book) the publisher's admiration for Mussolini; and that tells us something, therefore, about the choice of works - beginning with the pre-fascist period nationalistic, "patriotic" works about Italy's wars abroad - this publisher made. For someone studying the history of Italian-language book publishing in general, or the IBC, in particular, or the culture and politics of Italians in the U.S., this is useful. And it tells you when the IBC wanted to be sure of its reach into the English-language only part of its constituency.
And there are other reasons for including some books published in English: e.g., many of the immigrant guides were published first in English before being translated into Italian, Yiddish, Polish, etc. We can tell much about point of view of the English language writers, their social and political attitudes towards immigrants (e.g., see the DAR publication that warns immigrants to not speak too loudly, etc.). Or on a completely different note, when a work written and published initially in English is believed to be important enough to be translated into Italian (and other non-English languages), that tells us something about how the larger culture was attempting to reach immigrants who hadn't yet learned English; and that sheds light on the condition of immigrants.
Finally, some grammar books teaching readers to learn how to speak, read and write Italian were written in English, sometimes by the same teachers who also wrote grammars for Italians to learn how to speak, read and write English. Comparing these tells us something about language acquisition by Italians in America, one of my greatest interests.