Last weekend I was in Milan and was introduced to the most wonderful shop, Fratelli Bonvini. It has been established in the neighbourhood for many years. For the greater part of its history it was a neighbourhood stationer and printer and on their website https://www.bonvini1909.com/en/about-us/ you can see a lovely video about the previous owner Mr Cambieri, son-in-law of the founders, who talked about some of the history of the shop. Then, when that gentleman passed away it was taken over in 2014 by new owners with a love for its tradition and also for all aspects of graphic art.
They lovingly preserved the interior and the press room which includes a Heidelberg and foot-powered press which was second-hand when the shop opened in 1909, but is still operational and used for workshops.
The stock now, instead of everyday stationery, is an eclectic mix of art supplies for drawing and calligraphy, imaginatively designed goods from around the world, books on graphic art and vintage editions.
As an extra stroke of luck for us, they had just started up an exhibition about the shop. The exhibition, curated by Marta Sironi, is in three parts; first, to show some of the shop’s original stock of pencils that the new owners had come across when taking up the business. From these, the show takes its name “MATITE”. The stock is of the age when the items had to be treated not as merchandise, but as artefacts: the exhibition shows the graphic arts of the earlier 20th century, the pride taken by anonymous designers in making humble pencils , by their beautiful packaging, into objects of aesthetic pleasure. The second part recalls the lives of the two generations that ran the business, with the testimony of the Milanese writer Stefano Raimondi to how central the Bonvini services were to the community around them. The third part, in another room, describes the printing process by the unique means of pen and ink drawings by Simo Capecchi.
The exhibition is only open until 31 October sadly but the shop itself is a museum exhibit with its perfectly preserved interior. To look at the frontage and still more to enter into the shop is a window onto the Milan of the past.
Fratelli Bonvini is located in the south of the city near the church of San Luigi. A quiet local community, slightly away from the city centre but now becoming more known since the arrival nearby of the modern art institute Fondazione Prada.
Fratelli Bonvini, Via Tagliamento, 1, Milan. bonvini1909.com
The nearest metro is on Line 3(yellow) Brenta.