|Facade of the Plantin-Moretus Museum|
It was not an easy climb to success. Spanish forces raided Antwerp in November of 1576, (Sack of Antwerp, or the Spanish Fury) just when Plantin was establishing his business. The violent attack claimed over 7000 lives and destroyed the Antwerp cloth trade. "Nine times did I have to pay ransom to save my property from destruction," Plantin wrote. "It would have been cheaper to have abandoned it."
He persevered, expanded distribution and produced editions of Latin classics, botanical studies, anatomy charts, dictionaries and textbooks. Though he was not a Catholic, Plantin managed to secure an exclusive contract for printing all liturgical books for Spain and its colonies. His greatest achievement was the printing of the Antwerp Polyglot Bible, an eight-volume work translated into five languages: Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Aramaic and Syriac. The project was partially financed by King Philip II of Spain, but in the end almost drove Plantin to bankruptcy.
|"Biblia Polyglotta" printed by Plantin Press 1568-1573|
The extensive collection includes printing presses, engraved copper plates and typefaces dating from the late 16th to early 19th century, artifacts of a family business that operated for 200 years. In addition to preserving much of the original equipment, the museum holds an archive of meticulous accounting books, correspondence and inventory records. When Plantin died in 1589 leaving five daughters but no male heir, his estate was willed to his son-in-law, Jan Moretus. An injunction specified that Moretus, in turn, would leave the business to one of his sons chosen as the most capable manager. The clause was followed by successive generations, until the last book was printed at Plantin Press in 1866. A decade later, Eduardus Josephus Moretus sold the house and its contents to the city of Antwerp for use as a museum.
|A frotton made from dove skin, a leather which did not absorb ink|
|An engraving showing how the frotton was used to apply ink|
|Musical notation for printing scores|
|Botanical illustrations printed from woodcuts|
|Case of movable type|
|A page of poetry printed on an old press - crisp and flawless|
|Cases of type, many sets still in the original packages|
A rich resource for any historian, the Plantin-Moretus Museum details the technology and the beauty of a dying art. Kindle may be very efficient, but text on screen is no match for the perfectly printed page.
|Plantin's extensive library|
" I have more hope in posterity than in the current world population"
- Christophe Plantin