Turning Pages

Reproduction of the Rotili collage

Piranesi inventively recycled paper fragments.

Single sheets of paper link together the many stages of Piranesi’s book production, and connect aspects of his complex world of art and commerce. Many of his sheets have traces of multiple uses: the pen and ink lines, washes, and rubbed chalk of his drawings share space with impressions from his and his associates’ printing presses. The first thoughts that he put down on paper appear alongside their eventual development in his book pages.

Piranesi lived surrounded by paper. His storeroom was filled with bales of white paper and parchment, according to the inventory of his house-museum. He also kept piles of scrap paper on hand, sheets that had been used by other printers or that he himself had used to make trial proofs of his prints. All this paper could be recycled as raw material to make new drawings. Sheets he used more than once reveal connections among various projects, and offer a window into Piranesi’s creative process over the long span of a book’s development.

Sheets used more than once reveal connections among various projects, and offer a window into Piranesi’s creative process over the long span of a book’s development.