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Plantin-Moretus Museum

The Plantin-Moretus Museum is linked with the spreading of ideas of European humanism via its printing business Officina Plantiniana.

The museum is housed in the former residence and printing establishment of famous printers Christoffel Plantijn and Jan Moretus. Plantijn (Plantin) set himself up as a printer in 1555, founding his publishing house 'De Gulden Passer' (The Golden Compasses). In 1576 he moved his printing business to the Vrijdagmarkt square. That building is now the oldest part of the Plantin-Moretus Museum.

Plantin's business instinct turned his company into a thriving enterprise. In six years' time the number of presses tripled from five to sixteen. By 1575 he was running a printing empire with seventy employees.

His son-in-law, Jan Moretus, inherited the business after Plantin's death in 1589. He and his successors printed far less humanist and scientific publications. They were mainly oriented towards religious documents (promoting the catholic Counter-Reformation).

The archives of this museum were already on another Unesco list since 2001: the Memory of the World.

Map

Visit July 2005

This museum is located in a patrician's house on a quiet square in the center of Antwerp. It really shouldn't be missed by anybody interested in history (or WHS). There's much more to see and tell than can be said on this one page.

The whole museum is excellent. I spent about two hours there doing the rounds with an audioguide. Its special attractions are threefold: a great building with period furniture, the introduction to the 16th and 17th century printing business and the priceless collection of books and prints. The Plantin-Moretus family was very wealthy and collected many original pieces (like a Gutenberg Bible).

There are about 30 rooms you can enter, ranging from libraries to the family bedroom. The craftmanship of the printing industry is detailed in a video. After that, you can amaze yourself at the collection of materials and instruments that is still there and looks like it could be working again any minute. They were printing in French, Greek, Latin, Hebrew and even Ethiopian. Mistakes were spotted by editors and then corrected before the final prints were made.

Community Reviews


Gary Arndt - March 2017

I visited here in January of 2017.

The Plantin-Moretus House was more interesting than I thought it would be. What made is so interesting is that a single family lived in the same house for several centuries, running a printing business in the same facility. Because of the continuity, they preserved some of the oldest printing presses and printing material in the world.

The house also contains several original paintings by Rubens, which you would otherwise have to go to an art museum to see.

The site is located in the heart of Antwerp and is easy walking distance from the Cathedral and other attractions.

Read more about the Plantin-Moretus House-Workshops-Museum Complex on my website.


Michael Turtle - November 2016

When you visit the Platin-Moretus Museum, there are a few different elements to explore. The first is the building itself, which is architecturally significant. Inside, you’ll also find the living quarters of the family – grand rooms filled with collectables and less lavish areas for the staff.

It’s worth taking note of a small room on one side of the house which looks like a quaint old bookstore. In fact, it is, and the company sold books from here directly to people on the street.

A highlight is stepping into the Great Library. This was designed like a private humanist library of the 17th century with busts, globes and paintings decorating the areas not taken up with books. Although the collection of books here has been expanded since the library was created, it’s still an authentic representation.

Read more from Michael Turtle here.


Klaus Freisinger - August 2015

This museum is really a hidden treasure that the crowds that flock to Antwerp's cathedral and market square, which are really just a few steps away, often overlook. It has been described in detail on this page already, and I can certainly say that it would be a big mistake to leave this great city without visiting the Plantin-Moretus Museum and learn more about printing, books, atlases, libraries, history, philosophy, geography - the beginning of the modern world, really. On a side note, just around the corner (almost) is the entrance to the St. Anna Tunnel, where pedestrians and cyclists can cross the Schelde River underwater to admire the city's skyline from the opposite bank.


Clyde - September 2012

I had visited Antwerp twice and didn't know that this WHS museum was there! It is really interesting and well worth a visit although quite expensive.


Philipp Peterer - April 2010

I strongly agree with Ian. I visited the museum this April and loved it. Incomprehensible why in some Antwerp travel guides the museum isn’t even mentioned as a highlight. The museum is definitely a must to see in Belgium. It’s really easy to reach, as it’s in the centre of Antwerp, a few minutes walking distance from the main square. I think everything about the museum is already told by Ian. I just can ad that apart from the museum, Antwerp itself is well worth a visit (the small Belfry is also Unesco listed). The main square can compete with those from Bruges or Brussels, there is a gigantic cathedral and the train station is more kind of a palace. Further it seems that there is a restaurant for every kitchen of this planet. If you go to Belgium it would be a big mistake not to visit Antwerp and the Plantin-Moretus Museum.


Ian Cade - October 2005

This is a truly fantastic site, sometimes I wonder about the merits of later and more esoteric additions to the list; however this place fully warrants its inclusion.

The building itself is pretty impressive and the level of decoration throughout is striking, especially the guilt leather wall coverings. The courtyard is also very nice and many of the rooms look out onto it.

The exhibits themselves are world class, notable are; the two oldest printing presses in the world, original works of many important Humanist philosophers (of whom Justus Lipsius once worked in the house), masses of typographical matrices including originals by Garamond (it is almost certainly in your font collection on your computer still), many book decorations by family friend Rubens with their original printing plates and a 36 line Gutenberg Bible! On top of this are the entire accounts of the Officina Plantiniana starting from 1555, which are included on the UNESCO Memory of the World list in their own right. There is so much more but not enough time to list all on display.

The highlight for me was the Geographical room featuring several globes masses of maps and what is regarded as the first printed Atlas.

The thing that makes this such a special site; and a main reason ICOMOS sighted for its inclusion, is that it is all in situ. These were where most of the items displayed were conceived/ created/ printed, all in Antwerp which was a key centre of early printing.

The free audioguide was exceptional; it did a fantastic job of weaving the philosophical and practical aspects of the Renaissance and Counter Reformation together and illustrating their progression and contemporary relevance.

A world class site and should not be missed, it was the site with which I "completed" Belgium and stands out as a highlight for me. A personal favourite WHS.


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Site Info

Full name: Plantin-Moretus Museum

Site History

Locations

The site has 1 locations.

  • Plantin-Moretus Museum

Connections

The site has 14 connections.

Architecture

Constructions

Damaged

Human Activity

Individual People

  • Peter Paul Rubens He was a friend of the family and made several paintings/bookcovers for them

Timeline

  • Built in the 16th century Christoffel Plantin set himself up as a printer in 1555, founding his publishing house 'De Gulden Passer' (The Golden Compasses). In 1576 he moved his printing business to the Vrijdagmarkt square.

Trivia

WHS Hotspots

WHS on Other Lists

World Heritage Process