Alessandro Soave established the Soave Antiquarian Bookshop in 1937 at the close of a long and diversified experience which began in the office of his well-known Turin stock-broker father. Then, after the Great War, in which he served as the commanding officer of mountain artillery battery, he was a barrister at the Turin Bar. In 1921, Alessandro left Italy and, thanks to the considerable independent means provided by his family, he embarked on a successful artistic career as a sculptor; first, in the “roaring twenties”, with a studio, in Berlin, and in the Thirties he moved on to Montparnasse. These periods were interspersed with spells in Turin for exhibitions with his friends and famous Italian artists Menzio and Spazzapan.
Alessandro Soave passed away in 1957. The bookshop closed its activity for a while but was reopened by his wife, Elena Médail, a literature teacher in Turin Lyceums. Elena was the daughter of Turin Prefect Enrico Médail, the nephew of Giuseppe Francesco Médail, the man who conceived the Frejus Railway Tunnel under the French-Italian Alps.
Emilio Soave, Alessandro’s son, while still an arts undergraduate at Turin University, began helping his mother in the bookshop. Under the guiding hand of mentor Marino Parenti, the well-known Florentine bibliophile and bibliographer, Emilio started the publication of a series of small but refined catalogues of antiquarian books, which, over the years, began appearing more regularly.
Emilio’s copious and well-documented dissertation entitled The Typographic Industry in Piedmont from the beginning of the 18th century to King Charles Albert’s Statute was later published in a large volume by Gribaudi. This dissertation was then followed by a series of essays and research papers in the field of contemporary history and a spell as a lecturer at Turin University. In the early-1970s Emilio’s elder brother joined the bookshop. Vittorio had worked in the engineering industry for a number of local companies. Vittorio then moved on to London, where he married and worked as a civil servant. He then moved to Paris to work for a French bank. On his return to Italy he worked as a translator for the leading publishers, Einaudi, and also taught civil law and economics in an Accountancy School. With Vittorio’s arrival, the bookshop slowly changed from a part-time hobby of the founder into a solid commercial concern, which enjoyed a good reputation for the reliability and scholarship of its owners and the publication of a series of catalogues in the fields of economics and social sciences, mathematics and physics, and on such monographic works as The History of the Waldenses, Piedmont between the French Revolution and Napoleonic Rule, The 1821 Piedmontese Revolution, The Jacobite Period in the Kingdom of Sardinia, De Occulta Philosophia, De Societate Jesu, and so on.
Vittorio Soave was appointed for two four-year terms as President of ALAI (the Italian Booksellers’ Association) which he boosted by providing it with a proper administrative frame and furthering its national and international visibility through the 1986 ILAB Congress and Book Fair in Venice. Whilst Vittorio was in office, ALAI joined the first Turin Salone del Libro (Book Fair) and in 1995 the first Antiquarian Book Fair in Florence. Vittorio Soave also served on the Board of the ILAB Committee from 1988 to 1992.
Emilio Soave, after intense political activity in his youth and after holding various posts within the municipal and regional councils, is now a leading member of local environmental movements.
Despite being in their 70s, both brothers are still active sportsmen: Emilio jogs (not so long ago he ran the Turin Marathon in 2 hrs 53 mins and the Lyon Marathon in 2 hrs 48 mins) and is a keen mountaineer; Vittorio is a rower (in 1959 he was a finalist in the Italian sculling championship), cyclist and skier. In 2007 the Soave Bookshop celebrated its 70th anniversary, but its activity will shortly come to an end as the brothers’ heirs have taken other professional career paths and will not be continuing the business.