Plinio Martins Filho

Mette-Sofie D. Ambeck, Six Degrees of Separation, 2000


Commentary on the book by Ulisses Capozzoli, an account of the editor's life

“Empty hinterland is a kingdom without a king\ Your name I will shout for the city to hear.\ The big cities have agriculture\ And no one holds your back.\ Dear hinterland, powerful root\ Without you, my country cannot stand.”
(Tião Carreiro, Toninho and Arlindo Rosa, Empty wilderness).


Imagine a country boy's son leaving the depths of the old state of Goiás to live in São Paulo in the 1970s. It was the national situation demarcating a man's destiny. But there was a reason that would lead him to reside in Pauliceia after having lived in Pium and other cities in Goiás, Tocantins and in the administrative region of the federal capital.

A passerby par excellence, even though the trip to the Brazilian metropolis had the clear purpose of rescuing a brother for family ties. This is the cause alleged in his biography, but perhaps he was looking for a place in the world. Not even the effects of the trip were present in his dreams. The fact is that one of his brothers was the origin of a new plow in his personal and professional life, as well as the letter F that marked the Pau Ferrado farm with the cattle branding iron.

There was born the offspring who became an editor and university professor. In the liquid and uncertain memory of Plinio Martins Filho, the typology of the letter F became embedded in the story of the young man who arrived in the capital of São Paulo and began his experience in the world of books by working in the warehouse of the publisher Perspectiva.

He started at the bottom, packing books, and along the way he took greater heights not only out of material necessity, but also out of a slow and zealous passion for books. In the early years, he survived in precarious conditions, carrying the backlands on his back and the story of his itinerant life, similar to the trajectory of thousands of Brazilians at that time.

The movement from the countryside to the city sanctioned the country's urbanization, even at the price of leaving land at the mercy of landowner speculation. Thousands of families wanted the big city as a bridge to the future, but they could never imagine that it was a stepping stone to poverty. Happiness and competence were decisive in our character’s path. He was the penultimate of the seven children of the couple Plinio Martins Oliveira and Maria da Costa Oliveira. His mother was a firm, resilient and resolute housewife like mastic, while his father was a peaceful farmer, with little prose and a great admirer of the art of writing in the sand with a stick. With the exception of the son who became a prestigious editor, none of the family members pursued a professional career in the world of books.

Plinio Martins Filho

Plinio Martins Filho arrived at Perspectiva through his brother Olívio Martins, who worked in the company's warehouse. Olívio returned to the cerrado and Plinio stayed in São Paulo. During the eighteen years he worked at the publishing house of the renowned intellectual Jacó Guinsburg, he worked his way from depository to book reviewing, until becoming editorial production manager.

It was because of his work at Perspectiva that João Alexandre Barbosa invited him to join the staff of the Editora da Universidade de São Paulo, in 1989, to be the helmsman of the editorial department. A rise that led him to assume the presidency of Edusp in 2000, until he was dismissed from the position in 2018. And it was during his period as head of the university press that he decided to found Ateliê Editorial, in 1994, a label that would become his editorial project copyright.


The saga of the country boy to become an unavoidable character in the history of books in Brazil is in progress Plinio Martins Filho, editor of his time, written by Ulisses Capozzoli. This is the biography of someone who was determined to succeed in life. And books were his ally during the arid journey to become president of the largest university publishing house in the country and one of those responsible for publishing 3.500 works since the beginning of his activity as an editor.

A craft practiced by the biographer with respect and attention to readers. A significant part of the reading public is unaware of the editorial work that went into publishing a work. If it is well edited, almost no one questions who the publisher and publisher of that book were. But if it is poorly edited, readers generally seek to know who is responsible for the defective work. The difference between good and bad editing lies in the editor's ability and competence to take care of the material aspects of the book with mastery.

The format of the work, the paper used in the interior and on the cover, the composition, the selection of fonts, the typographic stain, the images duly treated and highlighted, the careful review, the design creative and at the same time elegant, as well as the quality of the printing, shape the production of a title in which beauty and pleasurable reading are integral parts of the book.

It is for these reasons that Plinio Martins Filho's biography is included in the list of carefully thought out and edited works. Nothing is by chance in the material aspects of the book, whose format is 15,7 centimeters wide by 23 centimeters long. This configuration allows for a balanced composition between the margins and the typographic spot, elements that make reading and understanding the text more pleasant. Freight and Mercury are the fonts used that provide better readability of the text – the first used on the cover, the eye and the title page, while the second is used in the paratexts and chapters of the book. The paper selected for the cover was a robust 120 gsm Offset2, while the 80 g/m Avena2 integrates the core, promoting softness and tactile experience.

These material characteristics were skillfully employed by the talented Gustavo Piqueira, writer and graphic artist responsible for the designer from the book. His work expresses unity and asymmetry in the reproduction of photographs, graphic blurs and illustrations projected in the work. The editor's photos at the USP Bookstore are consistently used on the cover and flyleaf of a biographical work. And the notebook of photographs presented at the beginning of the text sets the tone for the stories that the reader will find at the heart of the book. The photographs of family, friends and colleagues dialogue with the images of the farm and disrupt Plinio's personal library, exploring the emotional and professional dimensions of the subject.

The materiality of the book embraces Capozzoli's text with refinement and sobriety. It was up to the author to establish the strategies of his narrative. He does not hide the reverential tone of his work. There is clear sympathy for the story of Plinio Martins Filho. The frankness is worthy of merit, and the way in which the biographer narrates the life of the subject is even more admirable, contextualizing it with the social, political and cultural situation of Brazil in the middle of the last century.

But the highlight of the work are the first three chapters that narrate the family origins, meetings and goodbyes of Plinio Martins Filho until he landed in São Paulo. I suppose that given such a statement, you must be wondering why you should read a book where the best is at the beginning. And one of the possible answers lies in the work itself: the eleven subsequent chapters present and unravel the journey of the man who became a great Brazilian editor.

In order not to leave a point unresolved, the fifth and sixth chapters of the biography explain the motivations that led Plinio Martins Filho from Perspectiva to Edusp. When he was an apprentice to Jacó Guinsburg, he assimilated all the steps involved in making a book. He took pains to publish editorial collections, such as Debates, which was the flagship of the house, where he interacted with the finest Brazilian intellectuals. Some were authors of the Perspective, others were friends of Guinsburg. That's how he met Antonio Candido, Décio de Almeida Prado, Paulo Emílio Sales Gomes, Celso Lafer, Haroldo de Campos, Davi Arrigucci Jr., José Mindlin, João Alexandre Barbosa, among other luminaries.

The biographer took advantage of his experience at Perspectiva to put into practice a series of collections at Edusp, some of which were awarded the Jabuti prize granted by the Brazilian Book Chamber (CBL). It is in the seventh chapter that the reader is faced with the frenzy of the publisher's new phase. These were years in which they designed an editorial line and adopted changes not only in the house's identity, but also in the administration, distribution and marketing of books. In the meantime, Plinio Martins Filho created the famous USP Book Festival and allowed students from the ECA Publishing course to intern at Edusp, which improved the design graphic of works.


Another facet of the biography was his university teaching. Plinio Martins Filho was a professor of the Publishing course at Anhembi Morumbi in São Paulo, between 1986 and 1990, and taught, as a guest professor, in the Publishing course at USP, between 1987 and 2007, when he was hired as a professor of the course after having been approved in a public competition. And professor and essayist Jerusa Pires Ferreira was largely responsible for encouraging Plinio to pursue a teaching career, claiming that the course lacked experienced professionals in the publishing field.

But he’s not just been teaching the course for over thirty years. During this period, he was one of the figures who consolidated Com-Arte – Editora Laboratório do Curso de Editoração. Currently coordinated by Marisa Midori Deaecto, Thiago Mio Salla and Plinio Martins Filho, the publisher was founded in 1981 and has more than 200 titles in its catalog.

But before becoming a professor, the biographer completed a master's and doctorate at the University of São Paulo. The curious thing about this stage of his life were the reasons that led him to pursue postgraduate studies. As he graduated in psychology, the biographer was suspicious of his success in pursuing a career in an area in which he had neither the experience nor the financial means to open a clinic. His passion for books was decisive for him to persevere in the publishing field. Plinio Martins Filho intended to take another university course, and his master, Jacó Guinsburg, dissuaded him from the idea, suggesting that a postgraduate degree in the area of ​​communication would be the bet that would promote a lasting result.

Your master's degree journey is worth a short story by Chekhov or a chronicle by Rubem Braga. There is no point in anticipating Plinio's adventures to obtain the title of master. But it is worth mentioning that he took advantage of the work he had been putting into practice at the university publishing house to write and defend his dissertation, later published in the book Edusp – An Editorial Project, co-authored with journalist Marcelo Rollemberg and published by the Official Press of the State of São Paulo.

If the course of the master's degree represents the spirit of that time, the doctorate proceeded without any major setbacks, even though the thesis defended in 2007 took a decade to be published in a book. Obsessive with details, the Editorial and Style Manual it was matured to be later published in partnership between publishers from USP, Unicamp and UFMG. The work is a portrait of Plinio Martins Filho's experience in taking care of all stages of the art of editing and preparing a book. It was no coincidence that the author of the Manual received the Jabuti award in 2017 in the area of ​​communication.

The following year was one of disappointment and reunion. Ulisses Cappozoli talks about the dismissal of Plinio Martins Filho from the presidency of Edusp and the way in which the editor converted the dismissal into work. It was in the wake of these events that the biographer was invited to take over BBM Publications (Biblioteca Brasiliana Guita and José Mindlin).

But nothing compares to the editions of Ateliê Editorial. As correctly pointed out by Ulisses Capozzoli, the books of the company run by Plinio Martins Filho and his wife, Vera Lúcia Bolognani, manifest the family presence in Brazilian publishing history and the biographee's authorial project. Ateliê is the maximum expression of the publisher’s brand. The titles published by the house reflect all its talent for making books, identifying the artisan behind the works it publishes, which are developed taking into account the best formats, materials and structure to accommodate the book's content.


Ulisses Capozzoli states that Plinio Martins Filho's Ateliê and personal Library reveal his autobiography. The declaration occurs in the final chapters, representing the conclusion of the work that celebrates an editor of his time. And the author expresses his opinion after placing Plinio Martins Filho in the pantheon of great national publishers. For specialized readers, the mention of famous characters from the Brazilian edition of the 19th and 20th centuries can cause noise for a biographical work that has no intention of becoming a canon.

But there seems to be a double intention on the part of the author when exploring the trajectories of these editors. One of them is to present to all readers the cultural relevance of the work performed by these characters. And the author also seeks to pay homage to those who formed the biography. At the national level, there are Paula Brito, Garnier, Monteiro Lobato, José Olympio, Octalles Marcondes Ferreira, José Martins Fontes, Jorge Zahar, Ênio Silveira, Jacó Guinsburg, among other renowned foreign editors who were also mentioned in the biography, such as Aldo Manuzio, Roberto Calasso and Giambattista Feltrinelli. All, to a greater or lesser extent, were effective in training and educating readers, offering carefully edited works to disseminate content that expanded the horizons of human knowledge.

Ulisses Capozzoli wrote, without a doubt, a relevant work for the history of books in Brazil, whose subtlety was, precisely, to encompass several nuances of the biography's trajectory even without going into the behind-the-scenes of some episodes.

The structure of the book encompasses the different facets of Plinio Martins Filho. To write the first three chapters, the author traveled to Pium and visited other cities with the aim of getting to know the editor's roots, interviewing friends and family, and understanding the biographee's winding educational background. In the fourth chapter, the reader follows our character's path until arriving in São Paulo, the thousands of challenges he faced in the metropolis, his entry into Perspectiva and the relevance of Geraldo Gerson de Souza and Jacó Guinsburg at the beginning of his training as editor.

While the sixth and seventh chapters discuss the hurdles he crossed to form, consolidate and establish an innovative program for Edusp, the eighth explores the nuances of the editor and the relevance of this professional to the society and culture of a country. .

Both the ninth and tenth chapters contain the path and legacy of national and foreign publishers in the history of the book, in order to identify how editorial work involves political, economic and technological issues. In the eleventh and twelfth chapters, the author not only reconfigures aspects of the Brazilian publishing market, but also interviews professors and editors who worked or lived with the biographer in order to situate Plinio Martins Filho as a university professor, author and professional responsible for conducting different editorial projects. And in the final chapters, the reader learns about other experiences that were crucial to the construction of the editor's profile.

The subdivisions present in each chapter are an invitation to enjoy reading even in times when people are in a hurry to work and live. The book can be read between daily meals, before bedtime, during leisure time or even while readers are commuting to work. It's a book that talks about books, the art of making books and one of the main publishers working in the country.

But the icing on the cake is at the beginning and end of the work. First, let the reader enjoy what is in the soul of the book. Go through the stories briefly told throughout the chapters and then read the beginning and end of the biography in the order that seems most convenient to you.

The afterword is signed by Rodrigo Lacerda, author of Ateliê Editorial's first book, a title that received the Jabuti award. The preface is written by Marisa Midori Deaecto, professor of the Publishing course at ECA-USP. Marisa and Plinio edit the magazine Book, a delicacy of the best in research related to the history of books, publishing and reading. If the first relates the coincidences that led him to meet the editor who published his award-winning work, the second models a preface as tall as Great Sertão: Veredas, describing a soft and sweet account from a friend who knows all of our character's deeds very well.

And speaking of Guimarães Rosa, we return to the son of a countryman who explored the roads of the mid-west, was diagnosed with malnutrition in São Paulo and persevered in the world of books, always with the letter F carved in his memory. Eager for knowledge, the biographer left the corners of Goiás to demonstrate to the barons of the big city that men from the backlands promote and transform the culture of this country.

*Hugo Quinta He is a postdoctoral student in Publishing at the USP School of Communications and Arts. Author of The trajectory of a Libertarian: Pietro Gori in South America (1898-1902) (Edunila).


Ulysses Capozzoli. Plinio Martins Filho, editor of his time. São Paulo, WMF Martins Fontes, 2023, 352 pages. []

the earth is round there is thanks
to our readers and supporters.
Help us keep this idea going.

See this link for all articles