Your next must-see museum: The Plantin Moretus Museum
By uczcbsv, on 12 March 2014
Written by Meg Tobin-O’Drowsky
Ok, so the museum itself might be a bit of a trek (it being located in Antwerp), but believe me, it’s worth the trip. I recently visited the museum on a holiday that spanned four cities and what seems like hundreds of museums, but the Plantin Moretus Museum stood out miles beyond the rest.
The museum is located at Officina Plantiniana, which was both the home and the workshop of Christophe Plantin, and later the Moretus family, who inherited Officina Plantiniana from Christophe Plantin. The museum touts Plantin as the most important printer-publisher of humanism and the sciences in the second half of the 16th century and the first industrial printer in history. It houses a variety of old printing presses, including the two oldest working ones left in the world. It is a UNESCO world-heritage site not only because of the printing house and family residences, but because it holds so many company and family archives, which UNESCO’s Memory of the World considers to be an “integral part of European history.” (http://www.museumplantinmoretus.be/Museum_PlantinMoretus_EN/PlantinMoretusEN/PlantinMoretusEN-UNESCO.html)
When I walked into the first room, I was a little confused. The museum starts off in the residence’s salon, and is followed by other rooms containing original furniture. It was interesting and beautiful, but it was missing anything related to printing.
After taking in the beauty of the living spaces and bedrooms, a quick trip through the garden leads to the part of the museum that sprawls with publishing and printing paraphernalia. The museum is seemingly a massive collection of everything Plantin and the Moretuses ever touched.
Plantin ran a bookshop out of the front of the publishing house:
The bookshop / Type / Seven printing presses and workshop tables
The two oldest working printing presses in the world today
First Dutch dictionary, commissioned by Plantin in 1573 / The Gutenberg Room with the 36-line Bible (before 1461) / The first atlas, 1570
Discussing Plantin’s presence at the Frankfurt Book Fair in the 16th and 17th centuries.
As you can see, the museum is filled with type (many of it unopened and unused), libraries, books going back as far as the 1400s, printing presses, workshops, and so much more. It’s a veritable time capsule. Of course, I’m biased: being a publishing student made the Plantin Moretus Museum all the more interesting to me. But if you have any interest in the development of humanity, the dissemination of information, or the evolution of reading, writing, and printing, you will fall in love with the Plantin Moretus Museum, just as I did.