Books were a major part of Italian artist and designer Bruno Munari’s seven-decade career, and now one of his elegant publications is available in a new English edition. First released in 1956 as Nella notte buia, the translated In the Darkness of the Night is published by Princeton Architectural Press, with all its mixed media details in place.
The 60 pages of the slim hardcover take readers on a journey through three stages, from night to morning to a liminal cave space. Princeton Architectural Press also recently released a compilation of Munari’s Square, Circle, and Triangle books, which explore the visual history of shapes, and In the Darkness of the Night likewise respects his original design. A variety of paper stocks, as well as cut-outs and a careful selection of color, add to the mood of each stage.
First there is a blue cat leaping across a black page, and a pinhole to a yellow hue accompanied with the words “a little light.” Then, after following the cat, and people attempting to reach the mysterious canary orb with a ladder, a series of translucent pages transport the narrative to a meadow at dawn. There, grasshoppers, snails, a rhinoceros beetle, and centipede make their way over the green grass, before the serene scene is interrupted with a dead bird swarmed with ants. The final section burrows into a cave filled with ancient bones and stalactites, the thicker gray paper bored through with cut outs. Finally, the pages turn again to night.
Munari, who died in 1998, created books for both adults and children, and In the Darkness of the Night could fit either audience. As he told Notiziario Arte Contemporanea in 1971, “When you talk to somebody — either a child or an adult — you have to start with the world they know. Then you can take them somewhere else using their imagination.”