Bruno Munari, the Picasso of Children’s Books

THE DAILY PIC: The great Italian designer started us young on Modernism.


THE DAILY PIC (#1351): This is a spread from a 1968 children’s book by the great Italian designer Bruno Munari Author Giorgio Maffei and Princeton Architectural Press have just released a stunning new study of his book design, almost all of which is great, but which is at its best in the many volumes that he made for kids.

I should know, because I had a bunch of them when I was a boy, including the one featured today. I knew it as The Circus in the Mist but Italians called it Nella nebbia di Milano (“In the Fogs of Milan”). Its pages had a brilliant series of die-cuts and translucent sheets that slowly led the reader block-by-block through a city half obscured by bad weather, until at the end a gorgeous circus was revealed in full color.

I still remember the reliable, repeatable thrill of paging through the book, which even a little kid could tell was different from other books and more exciting in how it came together.

I’m convinced that several generations of esthetes got their first and most lasting taste of modernism not from MoMA or their local museum, but from a well-curated bookshelf. That makes book designers like Munari almost as important, in sheer cultural weight, as our Picassos and Judds. (Mantua: Graziano Peruffo, 1968)

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