Antwerp may be famous for its diamonds but this museum really is a gem. The Plantin Moretus Museum is about a successful family printing and publishing business, and having been involved in printing all my working life, I was duty bound to go and check out what was so special about a man who has a typeface named after him.
The museum, which is located at Vrijdagmarkt (Friday Market), was the former home and workplace of Christophe Plantin, a Frenchman who arrived here in 1576. On his death in 1589 he passed the business down to his son-in-law, Jan Moretus, and it remained in the same family until 1876 when everything was sold lock, stock, and barrel to the city of Antwerp: A year later it was opened up as a museum.
The museum has several libraries (see featured image at the top of the page) with manuscripts, maps and rare books including a 36-Line Gutenberg Bible. In fact, there is so much of historical significance here that UNESCO has put it on the World Heritage list.
Like everybody else who comes to Antwerp I paid a visit to the Rubenshuis, the home and workplace of the artist Paul Rubens, but I have to admit that I much preferred coming here. It’s more relaxed for a start, and I felt that this handsome home and historical workshop was far more authentic, and it even has its own collection of paintings by the great man, who just happened to be a close family friend.
The workshop is a veritable treasure trove with its own foundry, type store, correctors room, bookshop and Master’s Office – all preserved as they were from the time they were in use, but the room that excited me the most was the print room with its still-working 18th century presses, and two from the late 16th century – the oldest presses in the world – and to think I nearly missed coming here. Make sure you don’t either.