October 2016 | Rebecca Rego Barry

Renovated Museum Celebrates a 400-Year-Old Publishing House

sigridspinnox-1.jpgThis past weekend, the Plantin-Moretus Museum, a UNESCO World Heritage site, reopened in Antwerp, Belgium. Once home to sixteenth-century printers, Christopher Plantin and his son-in-law Jan Moretus, the museum has welcomed visitors since the late nineteenth century, when descendant Edward Moretus sold the building and its contents to the city. Its recent renovation seeks to invigorate interest in Plantin and his famous print-works with "cinematic interventions, soundscapes, and hands-on activities."

Biblia-regia_-vol.-I_-p.-2-3-B-65.jpgBibliophiles need not despair over these newfangled additions. As noted in a press release, "Digital media will be present, but will play a subordinate role: the book is central ... Our goal in this authentic, UNESCO-protected setting is to bring to life the activities of the home and workshops. The visitor takes a time machine to the 16th century, meets Plantin as a family man, manager, printer, humanist and visionary publisher and experiences how a world-class entrepreneur developed his business."

letterkasten.jpgBorn in France and trained as a bookbinder, Plantin emigrated to Belgium around 1550 and founded a publishing house that would remain in the family for nine generations. Plantin's outfit was the largest in Western Europe and helped to define Antwerp as a city of printers and a center for cultural production. Famous books printed by the Plantin Press include Biblia Regia (aka, the Plantin Polyglot, 1569-1572), and Ortelius' comprehensive atlas, Theatrum orbis terrarum (first, 1570).

Images: Top: Museum interior, (c) Sigrid Spinnox. Middle: Biblia regia, de Koningsbijbel (c) Plantin-Moretusmuseum. Bottom: Museum Plantin-Moretus lettercases, (c) Joris Luyten.