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Collecting Nobel Laureates: Luigi Pirandello and Salvatore Quasimodo

By Leah Dobrinska. Apr 11, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, Nobel Prize Winners

Today, we’d like to continue our efforts to compile collector’s resources for those interested in acquiring the works of Nobel laureates. As we’ve argued before, collecting Nobel Prize in Literature winners makes sense: there is a list to follow; a different person is picked each year from around the world, allowing for an eclectic reach; and the books in your collection will be written by the best-of-the-best. In this case, we keep our focus on past Italian winners. For those who may be interested in collecting the works of Italian Nobel Prize in Literature winners—there have been six Italian authors awarded the prize—we spotlight and present book collecting information on Luigi Pirandello and Salvatore Quasimodo.

Luigi Pirandello

LuigiPirandello_PDLuigi Pirandello won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1934. He was the first Italian playwright to win the Award, and another Italian playwright was not selected until 1997. The Nobel Committee cited his “bold and brilliant renovation of the drama and the stage” as reason for the award; however, Pirandello not only wrote plays but also novels, short stories, and poetry. He wrote during the time of Fascist rule in Italy. Pirandello had to play his political cards right in order to continue to create his art, so his relationship with Fascist leaders is interesting to study, to say the least.

Pirandello’s first major play was titled Liolà. The title character is a single father by choice who is a sort of drifter. Pirandello wrote it in Sicilian dialect. First edition copies from 1917 with the Sicilian text printed opposite of the Italian translation were published by Formiggini in Rome. Depending on the condition of the book, first edition copies can sell for anywhere between $200 and $1,000.

Another title of particular note is L'uomo, la bestia e la virtù which translates to The Man, the Beast and the Virtue. First performed in 1919, collectors can find first edition copies of the text which was published in 1922 by Bemporad & Figlio in Florence for upwards of $2,000. This title is of particular significance because it was the basis for the successful Italian comedy film of the same name which came out in 1953. Likewise, Enrico IV or Henry IV may also be of particular interest to collectors of the theatre. First performed in 1922 in Milan, Tom Stoppard translated the play, though according to the Internet Broadway Database, it was the Stephen Rich translation that was used during the play’s 1973 Broadway run.

Other interesting collectibles are scripts from the different productions. Inclusions of stage directions and the association of the script with a particular actor or actress make these truly unique finds.

Pirandello’s first novel, Il turno (The Turn) was published in 1902, and his second novel, Il fu Mattia Pascal (The Late Mattia Pascal) was published in 1904 in Nuova Antologia or New Anthology, an Italian magazine of arts, sciences, and letters. Pirandello published his final novel in 1926. It was titled Uno, nessuno e centomilla (One, No one and One Hundred Thousand).

Association or signed copies of Pirandello’s novels and plays are rare, but not impossible to find.

Salvatore Quasimodo

Salvatore_Quasimodo_1959_PDSalvatore Quasimodo won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1959. The Nobel committee cited Quasimodo’s lyrical poetry and the way in which he was able to express “the tragic experience of life in our own times” as reasoning for the award. Indeed, Quasimodo worked for the government as an engineer, lived through the World Wars, edited the weekly magazine Tempo, wrote his own works, and translated numerous other authors including Shakespeare and Pablo Neruda, to name a few.

The course of Quasimodo’s life and beliefs can be traced through his own work. For a time he was entirely devoted to the Hermetic movement of poetry and his writing seemed focused on the individual; however, following World War II, it seems his desire was to feel connected with the people of his time, using his poetry and his voice to shed light on the struggles of the day. A glance at a complete Quasimodo library is fascinating, then, not only because it proves his gift as a writer, but also because of the track that we can trace through his works.

One of Quasimodo’s earliest collections titled Poesie was published in 1938 by Primi Piani in Milan. In it, collectors will find the collected works of Quasimodo to this point. In the 1930s, Quasimodo was writing in the hermetic style, so for those interested in that type of poetry, this may be a worthwhile collection to look into. First edition copies of Poesie will sell for around $500 depending on the condition of the book.

Another particular item of note for the Quasimodo collector is Il falso e vero verde which was first published in 1954 by Schwarz in Milan. A limited first edition print run of 193 copies was completed. First edition copies include illustrations by Giacomo Manzù. The numbered copies were signed by both Quasimodo and Manzù. A first edition copy of Il falso e vero verde is an incredibly valuable addition to one’s collection. In fine condition, such a book can cost between $3,000 and $5,000.

In pristine condition, another valuable Quasimodo collectible is a first edition copy of Nove Poesie, a sort of follow up to the aforementioned Poesie. Published in Verona in 1963, the first print run was limited to 150 copies. It included two etchings signed by illustrator Domencio Cantatore. We like several of the poems in this collection including Lettera alla madre (Letter to his mother) and Il mio paese è l'Italia (My country is Italy). The theme of Italy and, more specifically, Sicily, is a common one in Quasimodo’s works. First editions of Nove Poesie can cost over $500 if the softcover book is in near fine condition.

If you find yourself looking for translations to add to your collection, we’d highly recommend looking into Quasimodo’s Italian translation of Homer’s The Iliad. And for our Neruda fans, don’t miss Quasimodo’s efforts to translate the great Chilean poet.

Browse the Nobel Laureate Collection

Leah Dobrinska
Writer, editor, and lover of a good sentence, a happy ending, and the smell of books, both old and new. Enjoys reading children's lit to her daughters, home-improvement magazines with her husband, and Shakespeare by herself.


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