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SLAVIC PRINTING IN FASCIST ITALY: Veliki Tomaž [Thomas the Great].



A first edition of a novel by France Bevk was published under difficult circumstances by one of the last Slavic publishing houses persisting on the Italian Fascist territories. The cover was designed by a futurist painter Julče Božič.

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This is a first edition of a novel Veliki Tomaž, written by one of the most esteemed Slovenian authors of the 20thcentury, France Bevk. 

France Bevk was born in the western part of today‘s Slovenia, which was at the time under Austria-Hungary. Bevk received his education in Koper (Capodistria) and Gorizia, where he remained working as an author and editor.

After the area was annexed to the Fascist Italy in 1918, Bevk continued publishing in his native Slovenian language. In 1920 and 1930, after the language became systematically supressed by the Fascists, France Bevk took the leadership in publishing Slavic prints in the area. Among others he was a director of a publishing house Goriška matica, where, under a severe Fascist censorship, he published most of his pre WWII works, including this novel Veliki Tomaž, where he again touches a subject of a common country person being supressed by uncontrolled political situation. The subject was, obviously, much disfavoured by the contemporary Fascist government.   

When Italy entered the war, in 1940, Bevk was sent to a prison camp as a political prisoner. He remained there until the capitulation of Italy in 1943, after which he joined the Partisans. After the war France Bevk remained an active writer and is today known as an author of numberless popular works, especially stories for children.   


Julče Božič – Slovenian artist in the Fascist Italy

The cover was designed by a relatively unknown Slovenian artist Julče Božič (1907-1945), who was active in the Slavic circles under Fascist Italy for only a short time before his premature death in 1945. After being schooled at the academies in Florence and Bologna in 1920s, he returned to his native town Spodnja Idrija, which was after WWI annexed to Italy.

Beside being active as a painter, Božič, was making illustrations and book designs for one of the last persisting Slavic publishing houses in the area Goriška matica, run by his friend France Bevk. During the 1930s, when Matica was already strictly supervised by the Fascist censorship and had to Italianise its name, Julče Božič designed a series of book covers for Bevk’s publications.

Characteristic for Božič’es covers is a mixture of the contemporary Italian futurism, mixed with his technique of expressionistic pointillism, catching the spirit of grim times under the Fascist.

In 1940, the publishing house was forced to close down, and Julče Božič together with France Bevk were sent to an Italian prison camp. After the capitulation of Italy in 1943, Bevk joined the Partisans as Božič, ill with malaria, returned home. He was soon prosecuted by the Germans and again sent to a prison camp. Week from illnesses, he died at the age of 38 soon after the end of WWII. 


Goriška Matica Publishing House

Goriška matica was a publishing house, founded in Gorizia (today Italy) on a newly Italian controlled territory after WWI, in 1919. It was specialised in publishing Slavic, mostly Slovenian books.

Until the war, the territory with a major Slavic population, belonged to the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. After the territory was annexed to Italy, exposing the Slavic inhabitants to growing Fascist power, which during the 1920s started supressing the Slovenian and Croatian language.

Matica in Goricia, run by the Slovenian intellectuals from the region and with a printing press Edinost (Unity) in Trieste, was one of the last Slavic publishing companies, fighting to keep the native language. By the late 1920s all the publications of the press had to undergo a Fascist censorship and hundreds of thousands of books were destroyed. In 1933 the publishing house had to Italianise its name to Unione editoriale Goriziana, and was eventually closed in 1940.

The publications of Goriška matica in the 1920s and 1930s were known for good quality texts of the contemporary Slavic authors from the region of Gorizia, Trieste and Karst, and well designed modern covers, made by academic artists and modern designers.


References: Brecelj, Marijan: Božič, Julče (1907–1945). Slovenska biografija. Slovenska akademija znanosti in umetnosti, Znanstvenoraziskovalni center SAZU, 2013. http://www.slovenska-biografija.si/oseba/sbi1002850/#primorski-slovenski-biografski-leksikon (14. januar 2018). Izvirna objava v: Primorski slovenski biografski leksikon: 3. snopič Bor – Čopič, 1. knjiga. Uredniški odbor Gorica, Goriška Mohorjeva družba, 1976; Brecelj, Marijan: Bevk, France, akademik (1890–1970). Slovenska biografija. Slovenska akademija znanosti in umetnosti, Znanstvenoraziskovalni center SAZU, 2013. http://www.slovenska-biografija.si/oseba/sbi140529/#primorski-slovenski-biografski-leksikon (14. januar 2018). Izvirna objava v: Primorski slovenski biografski leksikon: 2. snopič Bartol – Bor, 1. knjiga. Uredniški odbor Gorica, Goriška Mohorjeva družba, 1975.

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