We are Medievale: An Ode to Paper

“We are medievale… how do I say it? From another time.” Mr. Lorenzo said with an almost apologetic smile. I could have hugged him.

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I love paper.  When I travel, I collect metro tickets, concert flyers, paper maps and postcards. So many, many postcards. Of all the things I like to shop for, paper products features somewhere around the top. There is a small drawer in my childhood desk which contains empty notebooks and notepads. Bought with much hope and anticipation with the stories and poems I would fill them with. That drawer also contains fountain pens, ink cartridges and an inkpot. One of those pens was an expensive present by the love of my life. Under my bed, are stowed away hundreds of wedding invitation cards, classified by size and quality of paper. We are indeed medievale.

I wanted to buy a bookmark yesterday, and my friend told me no longer needs one, since he does most of his reading on the Kindle. I steadfastly and sentimentally continue to be a paper book girl, despite how economic and convenient an E-Book reader is. I can’t bring myself to convert somehow. For the past couple of weeks, I have been on the lookout for the perfect daily planner for 2017. While Google Calendar is great to have clean synced records of my schedule, I tend to rely on my diary to keep me organised. It so happens that I am currently travelling through Italy. This afternoon, as we walked off a fantastic pasta meal, we chanced across a tiny shop display with dozens of pretty notebooks. If I wanted to be cliched, I would generously use the word ‘quaint’ to describe it. We entered an arched high-ceilinged room where a middle aged gentleman was hard at work at binding the spine of a diary. There were piles of breathtaking notebooks, planners and photo albums with colourfully patterned covers in various sizes.

Deep inside one of the rows of “Agende” or diaries, I found mine. Covered in a beige cloth with floral lotus embroidery. Smelling of fresh thick paper and dried glue. I struck up a conversation with the gentleman at the desk. I told how thankful I was for finding his store, and finding my perfect diary. He introduced himself as Mr. Lorenzo and told us how his father started the store fifty years ago and now he runs it with his brother Marco. They make all the books by hand in that very store. They also reside in the room behind teh workshop. The display and sale area was a very small fraction, and the majority of the shop contained shelves full of paper, and fabric. I loved the whole setup so much I decided to buy another planner, for my boss. Mr. Lorenzo said about how much he loved working with paper, and that they were medievale. In that moment, I connected with him, a complete stranger, an unspoken moment of acknowledgment and understanding.

His brother gave us a bunch of lovely antique Florence postcards, a beautiful calendar containing artwork of bird species, and an antique map of Florence, for free, just because.

When I got back to my room tonight, I opened my diary, and the bookmark was placed naturally and eerily enough on the page of my birthday. My friend was positively shocked at this. I don’t believe in omens usually, but by God, this is a sign.

Thank you Mr. Lorenzo, for this afternoon, and your work, and for painstakingly keeping the art of paper alive in this LCD world.

If you’re in Florence, please visit Legatoria Ridi. 🙂

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