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Visiting the Plantin-Moretus Museum of Printing in Antwerp, Belgium

Tour a World of Printing, Starting in 1543, at the Plantin-Moretus Museum

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Printing Press picture old antique

A 14th Century Printing Press in the Plantin-Moretus Museum in Antwerp, Belgium

James Martin
I've always been interested in the art of printing, and the Plantin-Moretus Museum didn't disappoint. Even if you're not interested in printing, or typography, the museum is fascinating in that it chronicles the architecture of a home and business in 14th century Belgium. Besides, Rubens' paintings hang on the walls.

Visiting the Plantin Moretus Museum

The museum is open every day from 10 am to 5 pm. A visit takes a minimum of an hour--you might want to stay longer. You'll find yourself in quite a mansion--there are 33 rooms in all, serving as bookstores, a type foundry, shops, waiting rooms, libraries and more.

Highlights

  • You'll see two of the earliest printing presses in the world, dating from the days of Jan I Moretus (1543 - 1610).
  • The museum preserves the only complete set of Garamond's letter dies. You know Garamond's work if you use Microsoft Word, the typeface is included in the program. The typographical collection of the Plantin-Moretus Museum is often called upon when old type fonts are digitized.
  • You'll see rooms devoted to the master of the Flemish baroque, Peter Paul Rubens, a good friend of Balthasar Moretus. Besides painting many of the pictures on the walls, Rubens illustrated several volumes on display at the museum.
  • The Polyglot Bible or Biblia Polyglotta (Bible in five languages)is displayed, Plantin's masterpiece.
  • There are over 25,000 old texts displayed in the Library. Yes, there's even a Gutenberg Bible.

The Plantin-Moretus Museum Bottom Line

Plantin-Moretus Courtyard museum picture

The Courtyard of the Plantin-Moretus Museum

James Martin
I really enjoyed this museum. Maybe it was because the museum offered so many different windows into the past--from the architecture, and the architectural changes that took place over the years, to the many rooms and their multiple uses.

Imagine the Justus Lipsius Room, with its walls hung in 16th century Spanish gilt leather (guadamacil)--and on one of them is hung Rubens' portrait of Roman philosopher Seneca. It's as if you expect Justus to show up at any moment to tell you Rubens has been held up at the barber shop and will be along shortly.

So it's not all just about noisy presses and big blocks of type and messy smears of ink, the Plantin-Moretus tells the story of the early days of commerce in words and ideas. I encourage you to go.

The Plantin-Moretus Museum: Practical Stuff

The museum is in an interesting corner of Antwerp at Vrijdagmarkt 22-23
Telephone: 32 3 221 14 50 -- Fax: 32 3 221 14 71

It'll cost an adult 4 Euros to get in, half that for 13 - 18 year olds, students, and groups of 20 persons minimum. The first floor is accessable by wheelchair.

Audio tours and guides are available. There is lots of information on the Plantin-Moretus web site.

You can also read some of the ancient texts there, as long as you notify them in advance so they can pull the books. See the web site link above.

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