K-NOW #4

Narratives & experiences of travel

The leading publishing house in Italy is here. On the top floor of a building dating back to the 30s in Via San Marco, in the Moscova district, in Milan: Humboldt Books is based in a historic apartment that belonged to Managing Editor Giovanna Silva’s grandmother. Giovanna refurbished this attic space beautifully so as to retain all its history while transforming the place into a minimalist shrine to design collections.

Modernist furniture

Humboldt books

The editor in chief Giovanna Silva (left) with Chiara Carpenter (editorial staff)

Established in 2012 as a publishing house specialising in narrative and travel experiences, all Humboldt publications are perfectly conceived down to the smallest detail, from the graphics through to the paper, not to mention the layout and the cross-disciplinary publishing projects. In a modern display of the publishing art, these latter blend together a wealth of disciplines, amongst which geography, literature, photography and art.

―The essence of travelling

Collaborators include international artists, writers, photographers, designers and architects “who bring to life travel stories that are real or imagined, narrating these experiences from a new and unconventional standpoint” (Giovanna Silva).

The editorial offices

The result is a combination of unexpected collections and the republishing of classic tales of bygone travels. Thus, new tales and old alternate, past and present adventures to tickle one’s delight here in the 21st century. Who buys your books? “We have a niche market somewhere between narrative, art and geography”, explains Giovanna, a photographer and architect, who not just runs Humboldt but is also its co-founder (alongside Alberto Saibene). “The goal is to accompany our reader before or during their trip, telling them a specific story”.

Humboldt, for the German explorer Alexander von Humboldt, a naturalist, geographer and botanist of the mid-18th to mid-19th centuries: “A benchmark: a formidably knowledgeable traveller. What interested us about his Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent was its cross-disciplinary nature. He was not just an explorer, he was a geographer, a botanist and, above all, a wonderful storyteller. What is more, he understood the importance of a canvas, travelling with Aimé Bonpland specifically to return to his homeland with ‘photographs’ of the places he had visited”.



And it is that approach, bringing together texts and photos of a memorable trip, rejigged in elegant modern graphic projects, that makes Humboldt stand out from the crowd. An absolute jewel worth promoting, particularly in a country like Italy where some 60% of the population will not read a single book in 2019 (cf. Sweden at 10% and Germany and the UK at 20%), where the number of readers has dropped by 4 million since 2010 and where 6 million Italians do not have any books at home. Long live Humboldt Books.

Alessandro Di Giacomo / Photo itm.srl x Kemon