Mondadori launches the Medusa series.

The international landing: Medusa

It was the period of cultural autarchy imposed by the fascist regime. A period when proposals to print foreign fiction were blocked by the continuous bans on translating English, American, French and even German (when anti-Nazi) writers.

Despite the publishing constraints, Mondadori succeeded in launching the Medusa series that published the works of great international contemporary authors. There was the stipulation that these editions had to be published simultaneously with the originals.

The first volume of the series Medusa to be published in 1933 was Il Grande Amico by Henri Alain-Fournier. It had an oblong format that was equally elegant and easy-to-handle. It was compact and had well-bordered pages as well as central page numbering in the lower part of the page. The choice to use Medusa as the emblem of the series was Enrico Piceni’s while Bruno Angoletta softened the iconic, monstrous creature who petrified anyone who looked at her. The small, stylised head with the wings rising from her hair from that moment on would symbolise hundreds of titles and became an integral part of the white and green book cover. Medusa was a graphical innovation, but not only. Above all it was the works published that made the difference. Ancella by the English writer Galsworthy, winner of the Nobel Prize, sold out the 5,000 copies of its first edition and would then have another four. Le storie di Giacobbe, first volume of the trilogy Giuseppe e i Suoi Fratelli by Thomas Mann, Narciso e Boccadoro by Herman Hesse and many more were published until 1971, the year the series ceased to exist.

In Medusa’s first two years of publication, 45 works were published with another 15 the year after. A decade of literary successes followed opening the way for some of the most famous Italian book series including Classici Italiani.

Medusa also created a market in Italy for new professional figures, in particular translators. Great writers such as Cesare Pavese and Corrado Alvaro also worked as translators. It was, and still is, a professional figure that requires a significant level of responsibility since it is up to the translators to decide if parts of the text should be eliminated or adapted.