Plantin Moretus Museum (World Heritage)

By | August 27, 2021

According to payhelpcenter, the museum in Antwerp houses the only printing company in the world that has survived from the Renaissance or Baroque periods. Christoffel Plantin (1520 –1589) founded the company in 1555. The museum illustrates the life and work of Plantin and his successor Jan Moretus and offers an overview of the art of printing from the 15th to the 18th century.

Plantin-Moretus Museum: Facts

Official title: Plantin-Moretus Museum
Cultural monument: Former printing and publishing house from the Renaissance and Baroque periods, now a museum, a total of 35 rooms; Reception, dining room, studios, Gutenberg rooms, Max Horn rooms, workshop of the old printing works, central courtyard in the Flemish Renaissance style; large collection of typographic material, including the two oldest printing presses in the world; Book cover designs and paintings by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640); valuable book and manuscript holdings, including the 36-page Gutenberg Bible and the five-language »Biblia Polyglotta«; numerous cartographic works
Continent: Europe
Country: Belgium
Location: Antwerp
Appointment: 2005
Meaning: Valuable collection of old printing technology and an important archive with writings from great intellectuals

Plantin-Moretus Museum: History

1555 Founding of the publishing house “De Gulden Passer” by Christoffel Plantin (1520-1589)
1589 Takeover of the printing and publishing house by Platinum’s son-in-law Jan Moretus I (1543-1610)
1866 Printing of the last book “Horae Diarnae S. Francisci”
April 20, 1876 Sale of the house and inventory to the City of Antwerp
August 19, 1877 Opening of the Plantin-Moretus Museum
1951 Reopening of the museum after renovations (partially destroyed in World War II)
1951 Foundation of the Plantin company
1999 Construction of a new reception and a cloakroom based on designs by Stéphane Beel
2000 Restoration of the historic courtyard
2001 Inclusion of the museum’s archives in the UNESCO register “Memory of the World”

The art of artificially writing – Plantin-Moretus Museum in Antwerp

A meeting place for humanists and artists, an important place of activity for printers, publishers and booksellers, that is Antwerp in the middle of the 16th century. The book market is an excellent business area, the competition is manageable and the products are in demand and in short supply. The bookbinder Christoffel Plantin, who was drawn to this place at that time to found his printing and publishing house “De Gulden Passer”, also knows this. As a so-called printer-publisher, typesetting and printing are under one roof at Plantin; the publisher in today’s sense does not even exist. The art of printing was still a very young invention at that time and some of Plantin’s contemporaries even described the ability to write artificially as “black art”. Not because of the printer’s ink: A reproduction on this scale seems so monstrous to many that they are inclined to suspect black magic behind it. With the help of »black art«, Plantin quickly rose to become a respected businessman in cosmopolitan Antwerp. His resourceful business acumen turned the company into a flourishing business: he printed books by humanists and Catholics alike, published authors who wrote for the Reformation, but also those who represented the side of the counter-revolution. He strongly recommends the printing of the world-famous, five-language »Biblia Polyglotta« even to King Philip II of Spain, who is a believer in Catholicism. In this way he is able to emphasize his Catholic faith and at the same time keep his printing activities for the Protestant side hidden in the dark.

The exceptional typographical quality of the prints distinguishes “De Gulden Passer” from Plantin’s competition. His print products are created with enormous care and attention to detail in the printed work. He not only uses fonts that are generally available, but rather uses the possibilities of various font solutions that, for example, underline the content of a book. He made frequent trips to France and Frankfurt, Germany, to buy new letters and matrices, and in the mid-eighties of the 16th century had around ninety fonts available. One of his most important suppliers is the type cutter Claude Garamond, whose designs are regarded as the epitome of typographic aesthetics, elegance and legibility.

Numerous scientific books are produced under Plantin’s supervision, including major geographic works such as the famous first world atlas “Theatrum Orbis Terrarum” by Abraham Ortelius. Justus Lipsius – together with Erasmus one of the leading humanists of the time – entrusted Plantin with the editing of almost all of his work. Only after Plantin’s death did humanistic and scientific publications make up an increasingly less important part of the company’s printing activities. His son-in-law and successor Jan Moretus I published the so-called “Morentorf Bible”, which was reprinted as the official Catholic Bible edition until the 18th century. The artistic and typographical quality of the publications reached incomparable heights under the Moretus family. Some book illustrations even come from Peter Paul Rubens, a close friend of Balthasar Moretus I, who runs the company after the death of his father Jan. Today the work of the world-famous Flemish painter can be admired in the Rubens room of the museum, including paintings and some family portraits.

Only in the 19th century did the printing house’s financial situation deteriorate. The last book “Horae Diurnae S. Francisci” came out of the printing press of “De Gulden Passer” in 1866. Ten years later, Edward Moretus sold his family’s inheritance to the city of Antwerp. Plantin’s 300-year-old company becomes the Plantin-Moretus-Mueum, in which paper and printing ink still exude a fragrance that invites visitors to experience the impressive history of the former printing and publishing house for themselves.

Plantin Moretus Museum (World Heritage)