British Library buys Futurists' metal manifesto

The Tin Book, Italian Futurist art movement tome which called for destruction of libraries, bought for £83,000

It is known as The Tin Book and was co-authored by a fascist-sympathising Italian artist who, 100 years ago today, said all libraries should be destroyed. With wonderful irony, the British Library announced yesterday that it had bought an edition of the book, an artefact that is at once rare, unusual and significant.

The library has spent £83,000 on this pivotal work in the development of the Italian Futurist art movement. Entitled Parole in Libertá Futuriste Olfattive Tattili Termiche (Words in Futurist, Olfactory, Tactile, Thermal Freedom), it may not have the snappiest of titles, but the 27-page metal book is a thing of considerable beauty and exemplifies the mad dynamism and energy of the Futurists.

Stephen Bury, the head of the library's European and American collections, said the acquisition was important for the institution's collection of about 10,000 avant-garde printed materials.

"We now have the three most important Italian Futurist books and they can now be studied together. You wouldn't get them together anywhere else."

The book has poems by the artist Filippo Tommaso Marinetti and visual interpretations of them by his Futurist friend, Tullio D'Albisola.

The acquisition comes in the 100th anniversary year of the founding of Futurism. The movement was launched by the publication of a manifesto written by the Mussolini-supporting Marinetti, which Le Figaro newspaper printed on its front page.

The manifesto urged artists to look forward and embrace aggression, speed and technology. It glorified war as "the only true hygiene of the world" and promised to "destroy museums, libraries, and fight against moralism, feminism, and all utilitarian cowardice."

David Barrie, director of the Art Fund, said: "This metal book is an extraordinary invention, testifying to the revolutionary spirit of a movement that genuinely believed in the power of art to change the world. It also gives us an insight into the fascinating and complex relationship between Italy's creative elite and the forces of Fascism."

The sale came about after the library was approached by a dealer in Edinburgh on behalf of the Miami-based Sackner Archive of Visual and Concrete Poetry. The book is now on display in the British Library's Treasures gallery and is only the second copy in public hands in Europe.


Mark Brown, arts correspondent

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
British Library digs out decorative paintings to brighten up dark ages
Library will display treasures such as illuminated royal transcripts and a 13th century pilgrimage route map as part of new show

Mark Brown

24, Aug, 2011 @11:05 PM

Article image
British Library buys Kenneth Williams diaries
Library pays £220,000 for actor’s journals, which show waspish wit and barbs directed at Carry On peers and Doctor Zhivago

Mark Brown Arts correspondent

03, Dec, 2015 @2:09 PM

Article image
British Library explores changing attitudes to gay love in exhibition
Show includes original marks 50th anniversary of decriminalisation of homosexuality

Nadia Khomami

01, Jun, 2017 @2:58 PM

Article image
British Library stages UK's biggest comics exhibition

Superheroes feature but show focuses on the importance of British talent to what some perceive as a very American genre

Mark Brown, arts correspondent

01, May, 2014 @5:32 PM

Article image
Children's book illustrators celebrated at British Library

Paddington Bear, Peter Pan, The Hobbit, The Borrowers and The Iron Man among the works featured in Picture This exhibition

Maev Kennedy

03, Oct, 2013 @5:17 PM

Article image
British Library awarded Grade I-listed building status
Structure once called ‘one of the ugliest buildings in the world’ in parliament and denounced by Prince Charles now ‘one of England’s finest modern buildings’

Maev Kennedy

31, Jul, 2015 @11:01 PM

Article image
Green light given for huge British Library extension
Community-focused £500m scheme will build new galleries, a learning centre, green spaces and a home for the Alan Turing Institute of data science

Sarah Shaffi

03, Feb, 2023 @2:56 PM

Article image
British Library seeks £300,000 damages from book vandal

Iranian academic stole hundreds of items from libraries and major collections

Sandra Laville, crime correspondent

17, Jan, 2009 @12:01 AM

Article image
Living by the pen: British Library explores history of writing
Angry telegram by playwright John Osborne and 2,000-year-old homework among exhibits

Mark Brown Arts correspondent

24, Apr, 2019 @12:23 PM

Article image
Rare Leonardo da Vinci notebook to go on show at British Library
Bill Gates to lend notebook for 2019 show marking 500th anniversary of Leonardo’s death

Mark Brown Arts correspondent

04, Dec, 2018 @3:18 PM