A stylish pocket-sized tribute

It was interesting to notice the 1000th volume in the series “La memoria” published by Sellerio editore. Entitled, La memoria di Elvira, it celebrates the series, honouring the woman behind it, Elvira Giorgianni Sellerio (1936-2010).

Cover of the 1000th volume

Cover of the 1000th volume

Elvira Giorgianni and her husband Enzo Sellerio, a renowned photographer, founded the publishing firm of Sellerio editore in 1969 in Palermo, very much with the support and collaboration of the writer Leonardo Sciascia and the anthropologist Antonino Buttitta. In 1979 the series “La memoria” was born, its very title making the reader aware of how memorable these selected authors and texts are. Known as “la Signora”, Elvira was passionate about stories, and became an expert at identifying and gathering stories that she judged right for her series, whether by Italian authors or authors in translation. In 1981 “Diceria dell’untore” by Giovanni Bufalino (741:35.d.95.244) won the prestigious Premio Campiello. When in 1983 the business was divided between Elvira and husband, he took over the art and photography side of the business, while she was left in charge of the narrative side (fiction and essays). Important writers continued to be featured in the series, such as Andrea Camilleri, with his numerous short stories and novels.

A series of little blue books, the “La memoria” series signalled a change in book design. The characteristic deep blue of the covers with a picture in the centre was revolutionary and elegant. The books were small and stylish, designed to fit easily in a jacket pocket.

A selection of volumes from the UL collections.

A selection of volumes from the UL’s collections.

“La memoria di Elvira” (C204.d.1412), with as a centrepiece a photo taken in the late fifties of Elvira working at her desk, is made up of texts by twenty-three authors who contributed to the series over the years: Luisa Adorno, Maria Attanasio, Attilio Brilli, Antonino Buttitta, Andrea Camilleri, Vincenzo Campo, Luciano Canfora, Francesco M. Cataluccio, Remo Ceserani, Masolino d’Amico, Gianfranco Dioguardi, Daria Galateria, Alicia Giménez-Bartlett, Maria José de Lancastre, Alessandra Lavagnino, Salvatore Silvano Nigro, Santo Piazzese, Gianni Puglisi, Francesco Recami, Giuseppe Scaraffia, Adriano Sofri, Sergio Valzania and Piero Violante. It is a fitting tribute to a remarkable woman.

Bettina Rex

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