Millelire by Stampa Alternativa

April 22 > May 21, 2023

Sala fontana
admission free
Curated by Roberto Iacobelli

With the participation of Marcello Baraghini and Daniela Piretti

The Palazzo delle Esposizioni presents the MILLELIRE BY STAMPA ALTERNATIVA exhibition in the Sala fontana, promoted by the Department of Culture of Roma Capitale and by the Azienda Speciale Palaexpo. The exhibition, curated by Roberto Iacobelli with the participation of Marcello Baraghini and Daniela Piretti, brings together more than 500 titles from the legendary Millelire book series.

In the late-1980s the publishing sector experienced a sharp decline in sales throughout Italy. Faced with the need to publish readymade, off-the-press books, the historical and cultural roots of works lost their priority, thereby sacrificing the revolutionary essence of literature itself – whose primary duty is surely to spread free and often dissonant thought. Rather than throwing in the towel, it was at this moment that Marcello Baraghini and his Stampa Alternativa publishing house cheekily decided to publish new books that went against the current, pared back to the essentials, with the full impact of their pure content. Up until that point, short texts – often more significant than longer ones – had been confined to literary anthologies and were therefore largely inaccessible to most. Baraghini’s idea was to give them a new lease of life with a new visibility, also in view of the fact that the entrepreneurial risk was practically nil. Quality works at a low cost, with the symbolic price tag equal to “a cup of coffee”. And so the Millelire book series came into being: small format books that could be sold on the street, unfettered from the constraints of the existing editorial market, whose logic was thus turned on its head. 

The editorial success was enormous. In the 1990s alone the series sold twenty million copies, of which between two and three million of Epicurus’ Letter on Happiness to Menoeceus, presented with a brief critical comment and the Ancient Greek text on the facing pages. In 1994 the series was awarded the Compasso d’oro prize for its communication and graphic layout.
This exhibition, which has been conceived to coincide with the release of the biography devoted to Marcello Baraghini, Balla coi libri, comprises the Millelire series’ most significant titles, numbering around 500. It provides a fascinating account of our recent history, seen through these brief texts that revolutionised the publishing market, as described in the 1993 edition of the Piccola Enciclopedia Garzanti under the entry Millelire.