The Plantin Moretus Museum

The Plantin Moretus Museum

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.

Museum Entrance
Balthasar II Moretus overlooking the Inner Court
Balthasar II Moretus overlooking the Inner Court

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.

The Moretus Room
The 36-Line Gutenberg Bible

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.

Portrait of Christophe Plantin by Rubens
Portrait of Christophe Plantin by Rubens

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.

The Printing Room
print
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20 thoughts on “The Plantin Moretus Museum

  1. Toonsarah

    My sort of museum for sure, given my library roots 😉 I would love to see that Gutenberg bible, even though I have of course seen the one at the BL (have you visited the Treasures there?) I also love the old printing presses!

    On a related post, I think you would love the paper museum in Fabriano which Ingrid (Trekki) took me to. It was in that town that the watermark was invented and the story behind it is fascinating. I must write it up for my own blog one day …

    Reply
    1. Easymalc Post author

      Yes, I have seen the BL Treasures Sarah. Absolutely fascinating, and The Lindisfarne Gospels are there too aren’t they?

      I’ve not been to Fabriano, so it’ll be good for me if you wrote a post about it. As you can imagine I’ve been to several paper mills from historic to modern – or at least they were modern at the time I visited them 🙂

      Reply
  2. TheRamblingWombat

    My sort of museum for sure. I feel compelled to say though that I would not feel as duty bound to visit an accounting museum ( if such a thing exists) as you did to visit this one.

    Reply
    1. Easymalc Post author

      LOL. Mind you, the Bank of England Museum is worth visiting if you haven’t already done so

      Reply
  3. Nemorino

    This looks great. I well remember the Vrijdagmarkt, but I got there too late in the day to visit the museum.

    Reply
      1. Nemorino

        Yes, I’m sure I would have, because I liked the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz (and the printing museum in Groningen, though is it mainly about the late 19th/early 20th century).

        Reply
  4. Alli Templeton

    Oh my word, Malc, this really does look a gem of a museum! As a lover of medieval manuscripts I’d give anything to see that early printed copy of the Gutenberg Bible! The museum would also be of great interest to me as, in an earlier life, I used to work as a freelance typographer/artworker, sadly only on Apple Macs rather than the real thing, but anyone who has worked in the print or publishing industry is going to be fascinated by this place. Another great attraction of Antwerp.

    Reply
    1. Easymalc Post author

      Well I never. So you worked as a typographer/artworker as well. Is there no end to your talents? I reckon people who are not necessarily interested in printing and publishing might like this museum as well somehow.

      Thanks for continuing to follow my posts Alli. I always value your input as you know. 🙂

      Reply
      1. Alli Templeton

        It was quite a while ago – before I had Maddie – that I was an artworker/typographer, so I think that particular talent faded a long time ago. Thanks anyway for your kind praise though, Malc. I’m sure anyone who likes reading and books is likely to enjoy the museum. I certainly would. 🙂

        Reply
  5. John

    I’m a 9 to 5 person these days Malc, working in Torquay. So if you fancy a Hole in the Wall beer just after 5 on any weekday I’m pretty much good for that. The Hole is pretty organised with its one-way system and sign in.

    Reply

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