The Art and Business of Making Books

During our short stay in Antwerp we had a few hours to go to a museum before heading off to catch our train for The Hague. I was tempted to go to one of the art museums in town when I noticed in my guidebook a blurb for the Plantin-Moretus Museum.

Christopher Plantin (c. 1520-1589) was a French bookbinder who in 1546 came to Antwerp to set up his own printing workshop. It became one of the most influential publishing houses in Europe during the late Renaissance, producing Bibles, maps, scientific books and much else. The museum consists essentially of the printing workshop and home of Plantin and his heirs. It contains a large collecdtion of rare and precious books, and displays of their illustrations. The processes of hot-metal type setting and letterpress printing are also explained. Plantin gave his name to a typeface still widely used today.

I am so glad I stumbled across this paragraph and John agreed it sounded like a good idea to spend our last few hours there. Everything about it was interesting. The story of a family of book makers who were in business for over 300 years. The story of bookmaking during those same 300 years with a great audio guide explaining the whole process from typesetting to proofreading, to printing, to sales and distribution. It also showed how the hosue and workshop evolved over time. And of course there was an amazing collection of manuscripts and books on display aas well as big beautiful library rooms that would make any book lover a little weak in the knees. John took all the pictures shown here but  a Google image search comes up with some pretty great pictures.

It is not surprising that the house museum is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This one is not to be missed if you are in Antwerp, or even Belgium, it is a reason to put Antwerp on your itinerary.

3 thoughts on “The Art and Business of Making Books

  1. Margaret Evans Porter October 15, 2009 / 7:43 pm

    Thomas, your Antwerp photos and travelogue and recommendations are so timely!
    We've been to Brussels and Bruges, so this time will focus on the A-town. Thanks for posting this info!


  2. Melanie October 15, 2009 / 8:54 pm

    Oh my goodness. Now I really, really want to cross the pond.


  3. Thomas October 18, 2009 / 11:00 pm

    Of the places we visited in Belgium, Antwerp was the one I could live in.


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