A tale of friendship and co-operation
Museum Plantin-Moretus, Antwerp, Belgium Showing from: 28 September 2018 – 6 January 2019
There is so much going on in Flanders at the moment as part of the Flemish Masters programme and the Rubens Inspires in Antwerp programme, that you could be forgiven for thinking that you should take up residence in the area for the next three years.
And for book and art lovers there is a wonderful new exhibition that starts in the Autumn. The Plantin-Moretus Museum’s exhibition Baroque Book Design, A tale
of friendship and co-operation reveals the publishers’ love for their trade, and how they have motivated artists, printers and designers in the past and present to create top-quality products.
The 16th century saw the emergence of many new types of book. This was due in large part to publishers such as the Plantin-Moretus family. They sought ways of recording and arranging new knowledge and ideas on paper. They thought about how texts could be typeset more effectively, the relationship between image and text, what a title page is and other questions. This was how the book originated largely in the form that we know it today.
Balthasar I Moretus (1574 - 1641) took the next major step in the development of book architecture: he started using leading artists for book designs. He commissioned Peter Paul Rubens to provide the illustrations for his new prayer books, and Erasmus Quellinus, Karel de Mallery, Peeter de Jode and Abraham Van Diepenbeeck also supplied Balthasar Moretus with designs for title pages and illustrations.
Today, publishers continue to orchestrate the overhauling of book architecture. In this exhibition, the Plantin-Moretus Museum reveals the similarities between Balthasar Moretus’ approach and a contemporary publishing project. They also explore how a leading contemporary publisher looks at the book and collaborates with artists to continuously reinvent it.
With a lecture series, workshops, and collection and workshop visits, the museum will convey its passion for books to its visitors. As Balthasar Moretus once said: "I don’t print for the same price as other printers, as Rubens doesn’t paint for the same price as other painters."
The Plantin-Moretus Museum was the home and workshop of Christophe Plantin, described as a visionary publisher, businessman, printer and family man. He
was the founder of a printing dynasty that operated from the same location for 300 years (the Vrijdagmarkt (Friday Market) in Antwerp) and in 2005 it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The museum is home to a wealth of documents about Plantin's life, and that of his family and descendants. It is also filled with many of the beautiful books that he printed. Plantin's printing company, OffiCinA
Plantiniana, was founded in the 16th century and was reputed to be one of the finest in Europe. The Plantin label was associated with printing of the highest quality and his first work was printed in 1555 entitled La institutione di una fanciulla nata nobilente by Italian author Gi0vanni Michele Bruto with a French translation. From 1568-1572 he published his first masterpiece: an eight-volume, multi-language Polyglot Bible with Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek and Syriac texts, one of the most complex publications to be produced and which brought international fame to Plantin.
He also secured the contract to supply revised liturgical works and prayer books for the Catholic Church as well as printing the first atlas of Abraham Ortelius in 1587. Ortelius was the first person to collect all the known maps of the world into one book and nearly 40 editions of the atlas were published in seven languages.
Plantin's son-in-law Jan Moretus took over the business in 1589 after Plantin's death and continued to expand it, and his wealth, along with his descendants.
In 1876 Edward Moretus sold the company to the city of Antwerp and one year later it became a museum. Today, you can still view the printing presses, the typefaces and the beautiful house that belonged to the family.
The exhibition...reveals the publishers’ love for their trade, and how they have motivated artists, printers and designers in the past and present to create top-quality products
Far left: Typesetting in situ at the Plantin-Moretus Museum Left, top to bottom: Sketch of the title page of the Breviarium Romanum, 1614 by Balthasar I Moretus; A room at the Plantin-Moretus Museum; A posthumous painting of Christophe Plantin by Rubens. Above: Rubens's design for the printer's mark for the title page OfficinaPlantiniana of Lipsius's Opera Omnia, 1637