New Life for Italy’s Baldini & Castoldi: La Nave di Teseo’s Latest Acquisition

In News by Porter Anderson

‘Joy for this difficult job of being a publisher’ is what La Nave di Teseo’s Elisabetta Sgarbi in Milan promises to ‘authors and books’ in her new stewardship of Baldini & Castoldi.

Cover art from titles currently being promoted on the home page of Elisabetta Sgarbi’s La Nave di Teseo.

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘The Energy Wants To Be Contagious’

Elisabetta Sgarbi, publisher of La Nave di Taseo—which translates to The Ship of Theseus—has announced the acquisition of a 95-percent stake in Baldini & Castoldi.

La Nave di Teseo was established in 2015 and the venerable Baldini Castoldi Dalai Editore was founded in 1897, eventually known as the publishing home to authors including Antonio Pennacchi, Enrico Brizzi, Fabio Geda, and others.

Noting that Baldini’s Filippo Vannuccini retains the minority five percent in his company, Sgarbi’s announcement goes on to dismiss Baldini partner Michele Dalai, thanking him “for his commitment to the publishing house during these years, and wishing him the best of luck for coming ventures.”

Sgarbi is the former editorial director of Bompiani, and left that role after another merger — the Mondadori and RCS Libri merger that created what some call “Mondazzoli.”

Her concept for La Nave sees the new acquisition as a step in what she terms a “pluralization” of the house’s offer for readers, in line with a previous partnership she has arranged with the graphic novel publisher Oblomov, which is directed by the Italian illustrator known as Igort.

In a prepared statement provided to the news media, Sgarbi is quoted speaking of the importance of perpetuating the legacy of the influential Baldini & Castoldi, saying:

Elisabetta Sgarbi

“The energy of La Nave di Teseo wants to be contagious.”I’m particularly glad that La Nave di Teseo and its shareholders have taken on the challenge of giving [a new] full publishing life [to the older house], such an important actor–for history, catalogue, authors, Linus–as Baldini & Castoldi is.

“In the spirit that has led La Nave di Teseo here, authors and books will be the focus, and they will find in the new Baldini & Castoldi attention, care, and joy for this difficult job of being a publisher.

“A thought goes inevitably to Umberto Eco, who in 1965 baptized the first issue of Linus with these words: “Today we are discussing a thing that we believe to be extremely serious and important, even if apparently frivolous: Charlie Brown’s comics.”

Her reference there, of course, is to Baldini & Castoldi’s Linus comics magazine, published almost continually since 1965.

Notes provided to journalists indicate that Sgarbi and La Nave have funded the acquisition without outside investment, under the guidance of Milan’s Birds & Birds law firm.

And a short mission statement for La Nave di Teseo from Sgarbi captures the personality-driven, determinedly humanist energy behind the company’s expansion:

“The ship of Theseus is a publishing house of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, Italian and foreign, careful exploitation of the classics. The ship of Theseus looks to the future and gives the future to the past. The ship of Theseus considers the authors and publishers of its assets. The ship of Theseus expresses its identity through its authors [and] the quality of the books” it produces.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.