The Grifani-Donati printing house is located on corso Cavour, on the second floor of the so-called Fishmongers building, or covered market. The building was originally home to the San Paolo apostolo (XIII century) church, also known as San Paolo al Corso, on the Butchery, or on the Prisons. The printing house was founded in 1799 by printers Francesco Donati and Bartolomeo Carlucci from Assisi and it stood out immediately for its notable capabilities and for the production of high-quality books and publications that established its success. Upon Carlucci’s death the business was continued by Francesco Donati and subsequently by his son Biagio and from here was passed on to his grandson Giuseppe Grifani, hence the name “Grifani Donati”. The texts printed here belong in museums, archives and libraries. But throughout its history, Grifani Donati have also printed religious literature, manifestos regarding citizen events, periodicals, poetry collections and stories. Still in business today after more than two centuries, it is the only printing house in the world to have always been run by the founding family.
Inside the printing house the scents of the printing press, the light from the window which lights up the dark machines, the silence and the view of the rooftops of the city take us back to a time more than 200 years ago. The numerous machines that the printing house still preserves are testimony to this secular business: a sixteenth-century press for books identical to that used by Gutenberg, a paper shearer from the end of the eighteenth century, an 1864 Elia Dell’Orto printing press, a Bollito & Torchio star-shaped printing press from 1880, a 1903 Platina Tiegeldruk, a leveraged platina printing machine from the end of the eighteenth century manufactured in Leipzig at the renowned “O. Ronninger Nacht – H. Berger” firm for small sized prints, a foot-operated platina from the end of the nineteenth century, a Marinoni printing machine from the same period, a cylindrical plane from 1910 manufactured by “Werk Ausburg” and a 1960 Paolini printing press. In addition to the machinery, the typographic counters are also impressive and have a good 536 cases of characters (in alloy, wood and copper) and cliched decorations, rubbings and electrotype, all originals. The current owner, Giovanni Ottaviani, together with his wife Adriana, has continued the family tradition by adding lithography to the printing and chalcographic production, exclusively in stone, as well as the rebinding and restoration of books.
Besides being an actual museum dedicated to the art of printing, the typographers is an indispensable benchmark for all the artists that still want to carry out the ancient techniques of engraving on woodcut or chalcographic plates and drawing on stone to produce lithographs, it also houses exhibitions, including for artists that have actually produced their work in the workshop with the original machinery, and it is home to cultural events that gravitate around the world of art and printing.
Since 2005 the Centro di documentazione delle arti grafiche “Grifani-Donati” 1799 has participated in the Sistema Museale dell’Umbria and is part of Aimsc – Associazione Italiana Musei della Stampa e della Carta [Italian Museum Association of Print and Paper].
Tipografi, librai, illustratori: uno sguardo alle arti editoriali, a cura di Giovanna Zaganelli, San Giustino – Selci 2014;
Alvaro Tacchini, Grifani-Donati 1799-1999. Duecento anni di una tipografia, Città di Castello 1999;
Alvaro Tacchini, La stampa a Città di Castello: tipografie e tipografi dal 1538 ad oggi, Città di Castello 1987;
Angelo Falchi e Angelo Marinelli, La stampa a Città di Castello dal “magister” Mazzocchi (1538) a Scipione Lapi (1875), Città di Castello, 1909.