Press in Exile: Mazzini’s Journalism and His Intellectual Legacy. Printing and Circulating Italian Periodicals in Victorian London (1840-1859)

[Le texte qui suit est la présentation de la communication présentée par Andrea Del Cornò (The London Library) au colloque “Presse et exil” (Rome, 23-25 septembre 2013)]

This paper examines nineteenth-century British-Italian intellectual relations and the cultural output of the extensive network of Italian political émigrés through the editorial activities of Giuseppe Mazzini (1805-1872) during his exile in London. The findings of this study are largely drawn from the analysis of primary documents. Four periodicals, established and produced almost single-handedly by the Genovese revolutionary, were printed in London in the years 1840-1859. In chronological order: Apostolato Popolare, Il Pellegrino, L’Educatore and Pensiero ed Azione. The question of their circulation, dissemination and political significance is scrutinised against the background of Italian and, more widely, foreign-language printed material diffusion and demand in Victorian London.

Mazzini’s journalism has been the subject of intensive study.  Its content, aims and political message are crucial sources to understanding Mazzini’s thought.  By contrast, circumstances surrounding the production of the London-printed journals, their distribution and readership have not been fully investigated, leaving a significant gap in the assessment of how Mazzini’s political ideas were disseminated and received. This paper focusses particularly on what is certainly a rare, if not unique, print-run of Il Pellegrino, of which, until recently, no copies were known to be extant.

Foreign-language printing and booksellers were a significant, albeit minor, part of the London book trade during the nineteenth-century. The English capital was already a truly cosmopolitan city, offering a receptive audience and a fertile market for non-English language material. The activities of the Libreria Italiana, a Soho-based bookshop and a Gabinetto di Lettura, a successful commercial venture and a vibrant centre of cultural and political debate, are also considered. Set up in 1816 by two Italian émigrés – the Rolandi Brothers – the Libreria Italiana rapidly became a rendez-vous point for Italian political exiles.        In addition, this paper discusses the fleeting partnership between Giuseppe Mazzini and Pietro Rolandi, owner of the Libreria Italiana, which led to the publication of Dante’s Divine Comedy with commentary by Ugo Foscolo, bringing together the two pre-eminent Italian poets, both political exiles and both precursors of the idea of Italian nationhood.

To the Genovese patriot the press represented a powerful vehicle of proselytism and, crucially, an effective pedagogical and educational tool, apt to disseminate his political agenda and moral gospel. All Mazzinian journals produced in London were short-lived and, though aimed at a wider target audience than the Italian community, included articles solely in the Italian language. Inspired by heartfelt political and educational purpose, the journals struggled owing to financial difficulty, adverse circumstances and outright political hostility. Mazzini’s patriotic journalism and its legacy represent, however, an outstanding and unique example of Italian exile culture and foreign-language publication in nineteenth-century London.



Selected Bibliography




Apostolato Popolare, 1840-1843


Il Pellegrino: giornale istruttivo, morale e piacevole ad uso della Scuola Italiana Gratuita di Grenville Street, Hatton Garden, 1842-1843


L’Educatore, 1843-1844


Pensiero ed Azione, 1858-1860



Primary sources


Mazzini, Giuseppe, Edizione Nazionale. Scritti editi ed inediti, 106 vols (Imola: Cooperativa Tipografico-Editrice Paolo Galeati, 1906-1943)


Scritti editi e inediti, ed. by the Regia Commissione per l’edizione nazionale degli scritti di Giuseppe Mazzini, 18 vols. (Milan: G. Daelli, 1861-1891)



Secondary sources


Aspinall, Arthur, Politics and the Press, c. 1780-1850 (London: Home & Van Thal, 1946)


Balestrieri, Leonida, ‘Dati sulla tiratura e la diffusione dei giornali mazziniani’, Rassegna storica del Risorgimento, 37 (1950), 46-54


Bistarelli, Agostino, Gli esuli del Risorgimento (Bologna: Il Mulino, 2011)


Cironi, Piero, La stampa nazionale italiana (1828-1860) (Prato: Alberghetti, 1862)


Del Cornò, Andrea, ‘Un ritrovato giornale mazziniano: «Il Pellegrino»’, in Le Fusa del gatto: libri, librai e molto altro (Siena: Società Bibliografica Toscana, 2013), pp. 191-208


Della Peruta, Franco, Il giornalismo italiano del Risorgimento (Milan: Franco Angeli, 2011)


Duggan, Christopher, ‘Giuseppe Mazzini in Britain and Italy. Divergent Legacies, 1837-1915’, Italianist, 27 (2007), 263-81


Finelli, Michele, Il prezioso elemento: Giuseppe Mazzini e gli emigrati italiani nell’esperienza della Scuola italiana di Londra (Verrucchio: Pazzini, 1999)


Isabella, Maurizio, Risorgimento in Exile: Italian Émigrés and the Liberal International in the Post-Napoleonic Era (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009)


Mack Smith, Denis, Mazzini (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994)


Morelli, Emilia, L’Inghilterra di Mazzini (Rome: Istituto per la storia del Risorgimento italiano, 1956)


Parkin, Stephen, ‘Italian Printing in London 1553-1900’, in Foreign-language Printing in London, ed. by Barry Taylor (London: The British Library, 2002), pp. 133-74


Ravenna, Leona, Il giornalismo mazziniano (Florence: Le Monnier, 1967)


Todeas Twattle-Basket (De Angelis, Tommaso), Note di cronaca, ossia i giornali, gli istituti e gli uomini illustri italiani a Londra durante l’età vittoriana (Bergamo: s.n., 1897)


White Mario, Jessie, Della vita di Giuseppe Mazzini (Milan: Sonzogno, 1886)


Wicks, Margaret Campbell Walker, The Italian Exiles in London, 1816-1848 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1937)

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