Newsletter of the Centro

New Series,  no. 2 –  March 5, 2003

   Edited by Dario Manfredi and Rossana Piccioli                            Translated by John Black


News from Mulazzo

ª    The Municipal Council of Mulazzo has approved its budget for 2003. Cultural initiatives include an ambitious plan for restructuring and expanding the Centro di Studi Malaspiniani - with additional funding from the Provincial administration of Massa-Carrara and of the Comunità Montana of Lunigiana - that will be completed in 2004. On this matter there were no objections raised even by the opposition councillors. All of this is warmly welcomed: it is a clear sign that our job is well understood and that culture doesn't divide but rather unites.  

ª  The municipal administration of Mulazzo has granted honorary citizenship to the illustrious wine connoisseur Luigi Veronelli. During the presentation the Director of the Centro di Studi Malaspiniani reminded everyone of the interest developed by Alexandro Malaspina in the wine of San Lucar (to which in the 18th century antiscorbutic properties were attributed) and in Pajarete (wine that the Navigator had sent from Spain up to the last months of his life). Dr. Veronelli has asked to us to send him more information and materials, that he will put to use in revealing this undocumented aspect of “Alexandro Malaspina, Wine Connoisseur.”

World News 

    Gijón (Cantabria, Spain). Juan Castanedo informs us that the city of Gijón plans to commemorate, by way of a publication, the ideas of Jovellanos concerning the development of that port.

Considering that the Count of Revillagigedo (Viceroy of New Spain from 1789 to 1794) was also from Gijón, and in addition that both Jovellanos and Revillagigedo were proposed as ministers by Malaspina in his 1795 reform project, it would be a good idea if the mutual relationships of these figures were also investigated.

Activities of the Centro Malaspina

    For those who are reading our newsletter for the first time, our Centro deals not only with Alexandro Malaspina and his scientific expedition, but also with the history in general of the Malaspina family and therefore, by implication, with Lunigiana in its various aspects: historical, prehistoric, folkloric and ethnographic.

This fact explains why the Centro is engaged in a series of initiatives that do not concern Alexandro Malaspina or even his family, but only, in general, the cultural patrimony of Lunigiana.

Dante Celebration   

    Mulazzo is preparing to celebrate the seventh centennial (1306-2006) of Dante's refuge in Lunigiana. In 2003 the Centro will put together the second edition of Livio Galanti's book Il soggiorno di Dante in Lunigiana.

In the book, originally published in 1985 and for a long time out-of print, the well-known Dante scholar from Mulazzo examines, carefully and with rigorous philological exactitude, some aspects of the Lunigianese "season" of Dante: when he arrived, by whom he was entertained, what rôle was played by Brother Ilaro of the Monastery of Corvo.

The volume will be published by the Centro Malaspina and the Centro Aullese di Ricerche e Studi Lunigianesi, under the patronage of the Società Dante Alighieri.

 Survey of the “Lyric May” of Tuscany, Liguria and Emilia

    In Montereggio (in the Comune di Mulazzo) there remains alive a very ancient tradition in which one can still hear the echoes of the most archaic spring fertility rites: the “Song of May.” Montereggio is not the only village where such a tradition is maintained; there are several others distributed across the Tuscan, Ligurian and Emilian slopes of our mountains. But in every district the “May” is sung in its own way, unique in comparison to the others. From this was born the idea of organizing a survey of Mays, so that we would be able to compare them and to study their similarities and differences.

The initiative, conceived by the Centro Studi Montereggio-Lunigiana, will be organized by Pro Loco.

In August the Centro Malaspina will organize a study day on the meaning of the “May” in Lunigianese folklore.


On Sunday March 16, at 4 pm, as part of the series Among Meridians & Parallels. Voyages, Distant Lands, Diverse Cultures,  Luisa Rossi, Lecturer in the History of Exploration at the University of Parma, will give a lecture entitled:

A painter of butterflies among the Indians.  Maria Sibylla Merian (1699-1701)

At about the same time, at the Morgan Library in New York, a show will open devoted to manuscripts, prints, books, and natural history sketches, in which Merian's original plates will also be exhibited.

Publications Received

   Pierangelo Campodonico, I Velieri di Domenico Gavarrone, Un pittore di navi a Genova nella seconda metà dell’Ottocento, Tormena, Genoa, 2000, 144 pp.; ill.

   Cecilia Tasca, Titoli e privilegi dell’antica città di Bosa, Cagliari, La Memoria, 1999, 398 pp.

   Enrico Basso, Alessandro Soddu, L’Anglona negli atti del notaio Francesco da Silva (1320-1326), Perfugas, Comunità Montana, 2001, 272 pp.

    Sandro Bertelli, Elisabetta Caldelli, Giuliana De Francesco, Silvia Fiaschi, Gabriella Pomaro (eds.), I manoscritti medievali delle province di Grosseto, Livorno, Massa Carrara, Florence, Region of Tuscany, 2002, ill.

    Julio Retamal Ávila (ed.), Estudios coloniales. I, Santiago de Chile, Universidad Andrés Bello, 2000, 350 pp.

This book collects together the papers given during the Primer Encuentro de Historia Colonial, organized by the Andrés Bello University.

    Rafael Sagredo Baeza, Las expediciones científicas del siglo XVIII y la Independencia de América.


“La Berio. Rivista semestrale di storia locale e di informazioni bibliografiche”, Genoa, XLII (2002), n. 2

                   We draw your attention to the following articles in this edition:

-  Danilo Bonanno, Emanuela Ferro, Laura Malfatto, L’Inferno in una stanza: La collezione dantesca di Evan Mackenzie alla Biblioteca Berio.

                  -   Orietta Leone, Itinerari di lettura alla scoperta della Liguria: Viaggiatori illustri nel Golfo dei Poeti.

   -      Emanuela Ferro, Il primo atlante moderno: il Theatrum orbis terrarum di Abramo Ortelio.

Il Polo. Rivista trimestrale dell’Istituto Geografico Polare Silvio Zavatti”, Fermo, LVII (2002), 1-2.

                   We draw your attention to the following articles in this edition:

                  -  Gianluca Frinchillucci, Silvio Zavatti e l’esplorazione dell’isola Bouvet

  -   Santiago M. Comerci, Giacomo Bove, precursor antártico en Italia y en Argentina.


    In Parma on February 13 and 14 there took place an interesting seminar, which was organized by Luisa Rossi, and in which researchers and teachers from the Universities of Parma, Rome, Genoa, Pavia, Siena, Milan, Trieste, Macerata, Florence, Bologna and Grenoble participated, entitled “At the End of the Voyage….”

The presentation that aroused the most lively debate was surely that of Claudio Cerreti and Nadia Fusco: “The silencing of the unruly. Voyages and repressed stories of black sheep.”

By the word “unruly” the presenters intended to refer to the more than a few "troublesome" voyagers (and "troublesome" would seem perhaps to be a more appropriate word) to whom historiographers have “given the silent treatment.”

The presenters argued that, generally, the reason for these acts of ostracism must be sought in the “environmental incompatibility” of certain voyagers (incompatibility with the financer of the voyage) or in their cultural limitations. But other researchers objected that their character, the historical circumstances and the political climate could also have resulted in their being overlooked in a way which today appears unjust. A presentation, in short, that has provoked much reflection.

And we also have reflected on this, feeling that it touches us closely. In fact the one “notable by his absence” from the seminar was really Alexandro Malaspina, although his enterprise offers clues which can be analyzed from a variety of points of view. An absence that is duly noted by Ilaria Luzzana Caraci. And we ask oursleves if Malaspina too ought to be classified among the voyagers who are “unruly”, or troublesome, cumbersome, unpresentable, inopportune or inconvenient: in a word, “black sheep.”   

Certainly Malaspina was “troublesome” in 1795, when, in the Spain of Godoy, he dared to direct the Crown towards the "anarchic" and "seditious" ideas he held (even if in the end they suggested nothing more than what today we call devolution…), and it is well understood that he was “silenced.” It is also well known that the same attitude was maintained a century later, when the Spain of Alfonso XIII oversaw the final dissolution of the immense empire of Charles V, the empire whose downfall Malaspina had feared.

But after that? Why the silence?

For many decades this could be explained by difficulties of documentation, since the manuscripts are kept primarily in foreign archives. But for the last decade all the most important journals and many memorials produced by the Malaspina expedition have been published, and this excuse can no longer be maintained. Furthermore, it is now possible to search library catalogues online, so that one can easily know how to find the relevant books.

Someone might suggest that Malaspina «lleva mala sombra» [has fallen under the shadow of bad luck] (as our Spanish friends nicely put it), but even those who hint at this do not really believe it ...

     There remains only one possible reason to explain the persistent silence about Malaspina: the belief that, in this more and more frantic world, one can only just find the time to write, and certainly not the time to read the mountains of things that are written every day.

There could perhaps be another, which we ourselves cannot accept, namely that it is not that Malaspina is “troublesome” but… that researchers prefer what is convenient and familiar, or rather avoid the trouble of beating new paths. But we don't want to believe this: our country has too bright an historiographic tradition.

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