MUSEOWEB dell'economia varesina

Galli & C. Srl

Historical Profile







An historic Varese press, between publishing and printing



The name of the press, the origins of which date to the end of the eighteenth century, is owing to Eugenio Galli, who bought the business from Andrea Ubicini in 1874. Before them, the press, which for more than a half century was the only press in Varese, had been run by the Motta and Pedemonti and by Giuseppe Rainoldi. Regarding Eugenio Galli, born in 1849, we know that he was the son of Santino and that at a tender age he took part in a few patriotic uprisings, between 1859 and 1861. Under the new management, the business kept the name Ubicini for a few years and in 1879 received a mention at the Mostra industriale tipografica e delle arti affini in Milan. A piece of letterhead from the 1880s details the activities of the business: "Prize-winning Company Ubicini di Galli Eugenio in Varese, with Printery, Bookbindery, Bookshop and Representation in Lithography, Chalcography and Engraving". Between the 1870s and 80s, Galli opened a branch in Arona, abandoning the name of his predecessor and replacing it with his own.


First with Ubicini's types and then with Galli's, volumes were published on the tourist attractions of the city of Varese and environs, theatrical books, scientific and technical treatises, primers and other schoolbooks.

The printery was one of the largest in the city and according to the data of the Ministero di agricoltura, industria e commercio, in 1900 it was equipped with a two-horse gas motor, three printing machines, a hand press and seven workers. The business still has a press dating to the second half of the nineteenth century on its premises.

Eugenio Galli's activity continued until the early twentieth century and through it he became renowned as a good editor and harsh boss.

Michele Baioni, born in Azzate in 1872, worked at Galli as a typographer.

In February 1929, he established, with his partners Gino Nicora (Sant'Ambrogio Olona, 1905) and Luigi Ciotti (Comerio) the limited partnership Ditta Galli & C. di Baioni, Nicora & C., which took over the activity of the previous owner.


The contribution of the three partners was differentiated: Baioni had extensive experience in the printing industry and knew the company from the inside. The twenty-four-year-old Nicora was an accountant at the time of the founding of the business and became a public accountant a few years later.

About Luigi Ciotti, we have less information: at the founding he was named a "shopkeeper", he was a limited partner and his contribution to the business was limited to capital.

The two full partners were from different generations and in the articles of incorporation they indicated as their heirs, atypically, Baioni's son Attilio and Nicora's father Giovanni.

The premises of the printery, which included a ground floor and a basement, were in the centre of Varese, at Piazza Giovine Italia 3.

The business, under Baioni's leadership and with Nicora's administrative supervision, grew quickly and production, which under Galli was focused on the printing of tourist guides and theatrical texts, became centred on medical and administrative publications.


Some examples are the protocols of the Regolamento organico per la condotta medico-chirurgica and those of the Regolamento per la condotta ostetrica, both published in the 1930s and used by health workers in the province.

In 1942, Michele Baioni gave his company shares to his thirty-two-year-old son Attilio, who was a typographer like his father. Attilio's initiatory training followed a difficult path through various war duties that would lead him to combat in Africa and Spain after his military service; in 1943 he was in Sicily and during his difficult return to Varese he stopped for a few months to work as a typographer in Rome. It was only in 1946 that Attilio succeeded in returning to Varese, where he dedicated himself to the family business. Gino Nicora, a few years older than the new partner, served during the war as a member of the Alpine troops and, once returned to Varese, continued his own independent professional activity, maintaining administrative responsibility for the company.







From the post-war period to the 1970s



The production of printed volumes for public administrations and local organisations, already begun in the 1930s, became one of the areas of greatest development for the printery in the years after the war. For the editing of these volumes, the printery used an external consultant, the secretary of a provincial municipality, who was always well-informed about bureaucratic changes and helped the company to supply, in a timely fashion, materials that were always up-to-date. Attilio Baioni was the commercial contact for the printery and this was his main activity. When he had the time, his worked in the shop, but where however, due to his only occasional presence, he did not take responsibility for specific operations, preferring to assist where he could be most useful at the time. Due to his speed in manual work he often set himself to disassembling the compositions and putting the letters back in order. The management and coordination of daily production was entrusted to the expert Angelo Buzzi, the so-called "chief composer".


Baioni's relationship with his assistants was marked by sincere friendship and he often spent holidays and vacations with them and their respective families. The limited partner, Luigi Ciotti, died in 1955, and his shares were inherited by his three children, Alessandro, Battista and Carla, without their direct operational involvement. One of Luigi's grandchildren, Giorgio Ciotti, instead worked for a few years as a worker at the printery. Nicora and Baioni's children worked doing small jobs at their parents' business doing school vacations: Giuseppe Nicora at the end of the 1950s and Michele Baioni starting from the middle of the 1960s. The latter continued the collaboration as an adult, travelling around the province of Varese by car to deliver printed volumes to local organisations. In the 1950s, typographic composition was still done entirely by hand.

The lead letters were taken out of small drawers and placed in order on surfaces used to impress the page on paper. A large part of the work involved concerned these operations.


For the printing of images, a plate technique was used instead, where an engraved wooden panel was covered with ink in the colour desired. Starting from the 1960s, Ditta Galli began to abandon the technique of hand composition and entrusted mechanical composition to external suppliers, such as the historic Linotipia Conti in Varese.

In 1962, the business premises were transferred from Piazza Giovine Italia to Via Magenta 30. The internal handling of paper became less problematic since the new premises, unlike the original site, comprised a single, ground-level floor.

In these years, the personnel of the printery numbered about ten people in addition to the owners and was equipped with one of the few machines in Varese capable of printing large format 70x100 cm posters. This ensured a considerable flow of orders, in particular during electoral campaigns. During administrative elections, Galli also handled the printing of electoral ballots on various occasions.


In 1977, Gino Nicora died, leaving his shares to his children Giuseppe and Maria Grazia and his widow, Agata Cardaci. The three heirs became limited partners while Attilio Baioni was joined in the role of full partner by his wife Maria Miglierina, who took over administration and preparation of the financial statements. The transformation was sanctioned by a new company statute and the name Nicora was removed from the business name, which then became "Ditta Galli & C. di Baioni e C. sas". At the end of the 1970s, the Baioni-Nicora management began to come to an end: the death of the founder, Nicora, and the advanced age of Baioni, who passed away in 1981, might have led to the closing of the business, since their children had undertaken different professional paths.







The Vanoli, from suppliers to owners



The event that caused a new turning point it the history of Tipografia Galli was the entrance of brothers Marco and Renato Vanoli into the business in the early 1980s. Both were already active in the industry: Marco, born in 1955, had worked from a young age in the bookbinding department of the Varese business Tipografia Mori and with his brother Renato (1961) founded Grafica Miralago, a small bookbinding business that also involved the collaboration of Filippo Melchiorre, one of Marco's colleagues at Mori. The Miralago premises were near the Vanoli residence, and they worked there most of all in the evenings, since in those years Marco, Renato and Filippo were employees elsewhere. Their productive flexibility and capacity to develop in-house technical solutions – thanks in part to the involvement of their father Giulio, a mechanic, and the predisposition for mechanics of their friend Pino Biccari, who helped them to build machines that, although rudimentary, were also extremely useful for increasing productivity – are among the reasons for their success.


Over the years, Pino maintained close ties with Marco and Renato, and in 2000 was hired as an employee at the printery, where he still works today.

Among Miralago's earliest and most loyal customers was Tipografia Galli, where Renato was hired in 1978 and where Marco's abilities were highly appreciated, so much so that on Baioni's death, he was offered the post of director of the printery. Vanoli responded to this offer expressing his interest in immediately becoming a partner and in taking over the whole business in the future. In 1981, the shares of the Ciotti family were bought and divided equally between Marco and Renato Vanoli and Filippo Melchiorre. Marco Vanoli became full partner while the heirs of Baioni and Nicora became limited partners. Three years later, Vanoli bought Melchiorre's partnership share, who maintained a solid relationship with the Vanoli in the years that followed, and additional shares from the Baioni and Nicora families. Over the course of these acquisitions, the name Tipografia Galli was kept; only the names of the full partners were changed: "di Baioni e C." until 1981, "di Baioni, Nicora, Vanoli e C." until 1984, "di Vanoli Marco e C." after 1984.


When the phase of transferring ownership concluded with the Nicora family's definitive exit, in 1990 the business became a limited liability company under the full control of the Vanoli brothers, shareholders and administrators: Marco as president and managing customers and administration, Renato as advisor and technical and productive director of the facility.

The personnel of the printery at the time of the first handovers was numbered at five or six employees, who stayed on for years under the Vanoli management as well.

A further element of continuity was the presence of Maria Miglierina, the widow of Baioni, who continued working at the printery as accountant for a few years after the transfer of shares.

Sales in 1981 were around 150 million liras and the production plant included four typographic machines and one foot-operated platen press for small print runs. There was no bookbinding department, since the printery worked seldom with the publishing industry and up to then this operation was entrusted to outside suppliers like Miralago.


Vanoli, with his strong experience in the area, invested heavily in the bookbinding department, which could then not only satisfy internal needs but also work for third parties. And so Grafica Miralago, its management entrusted for years to the wives of the Vanoli brothers, no longer had a reason for existence and its activity was absorbed by Galli during the 1990s.


From the 1990s to the present The new management

Under the Vanoli management, the internalisation of as many functions as possible was a constant in the development strategy for the printery, even at the price of seeing an increase in the weight of fixed costs in the annual accounts.

The flexible organisation that had made the Miralago fortune was continued at Galli: every order brought work and contributed to cover the fixed costs of the business, even low print runs and partially-artisan processes.

The necessary conditions for this kind of management are strong capacity for planning and coordination and the creative and versatile availability of personnel, made possible by solid ties with expert collaborators like Melchiorre and by the involvement of family members.

Out of Marco's four children, three decided to work with their father: Luca and Paolo, born in1980 and 1981, are responsible, respectively, for the printing and binding departments, while Giulia, born in 1987, works in graphics and layout.

One of Renato's three daughters, Claudia, born in 1990, decided to join the staff and works in the binding department. Another focus of the Vanoli management has been the return to book production and other products for the publishing industry. This type of work, done for third parties, permits the installation in the typography department of a few machines that although previously used are of tremendous use, supplied by such major customers as La Tipografica Varese. Between the 1980s and 90s, the whole industry got caught up in the transition to digital tools. Linotype composition was replaced by computers, lead made way for film and the typographic technique was substituted by offset lithography. In 1996, Tipografia Galli left Via Magenta and moved to its current premises on Via Rosmini. The available space allowed the reorganisation of the departments and installation of more modern, less bulky machines for printing and binding. Another advantage of the new premises is that they permitted future expansion, which was in fact necessary in recent years in order to increase storage and office space.

The latest technological innovations, in chronological order, are digital printing, pre-printing and binding: Tipografia Galli recently purchased a new computer to plate (CTP) that makes it possible to engrave plates directly by computer, eliminating film, disposed of as special waste, and to also internalise the external costs of photolithography.

Also recently acquired, a high-tech, 82x160 format folding machine, which makes any type of fold possible, including maps. The public customer base, a strong point of Baioni and Nicora's commercial network, has gradually been diminished by the municipalities, whereas there have been increases in hospital and local health authority orders, currently comprising a sizable fraction of sales. In the thirty years of Vanoli management, the business has increased its employees from 5 to 33, while sales, with the exception of a couple years, have increased regularly, year after year, expanding the radius of work done and area served.

Marco Vanoli is also active as an industry representative: he is a member of the Api Varese committee as provincial president of the association of Uniceg printers, of which he is also national vice president.

In 2011, the company was enrolled in the Register of historic enterprises, which was created by Unioncamere as a way to honour the various centuries-old companies present throughout the Italian territory.