Plantin Press  

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Adspectus Incauti Dispendium (1601), woodblock title page from the Veridicus Christianus.
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Adspectus Incauti Dispendium (1601), woodblock title page from the Veridicus Christianus.

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Plantin Press at Antwerp was one of the focal centers of the fine printed book in the 16th century.

Christophe Plantin (ca 1520 - 1589) of Touraine, trained as a bookbinder, fled from Paris, where at least one printer had recently been burned at the stake for heresy, for Antwerp, where he bound books became a citizen, and by 1555 began to print books, at first for distribution by other publishers. The city was already an established center of printing woodcuts, engravings and books. Plantin took on an assistant, Jan Moretus (Moerentorf), who read Latin and Greek, could write correspondence in several modern languages, became Plantin's business manager, son-in-law and eventually his successor in the Plantin printing press. For over two hundred years the Plantin press had a monopoly, granted by the papacy, for the printing of liturgical formularies, yet in 1562, suspected of heresy, Plantin fled to France for two years. At an auction of his press, friends bought up his equipment on his behalf.

After 1564, when Plantin set up again in a new shop at the sign of De Gulden Passer ("The Golden Compasses") the printers mark of the House of Plantin, which often appeared in a vignette on the title page of books from the press, depicts a compass, angels, and the motto Labore et Constancia ("By Labor and Constancy") which epitomizes the life of the publisher. From about 1570 Plantin employed the engravers Jan Wierix and his brother Hieronymus.

Plantin's successors continued the print at Antwerp until 1867. His Antwerp building is now a large museum holding examples of the tools of his trade and more than 30,000 volumes. The house is now the Plantin-Moretus Museum, which in 2005 was put by UNESCO on the World Heritage list as the oldest museum.

Like the printer Robert Estienne Plantin exposed galley proofs of his works in front of his establishment and promised a reward to anyone who could find faults. Later Plantins were friends of the painter Peter Paul Rubens who did drawings for illustrations and also some portraits of the Plantin-Moretus family. Plantin was also a member of the Family of Love. He was a close friend of cartographer Abraham Ortel (aka Ortelius), genre painter Brueghel the Elder, and calligraphy master Clement Perret.

Some outstanding books published by the Plantin Press, by year:

  • La Institutione di una Fanciulla Nata Nobilmente. L'Institution d'une Jeune Fille de Noble Maison. Traduuite de langue Tuscan en François. Plantin's first printed book, a Tuscan manual on the education of young girls of good family.
  • (an album of plates commemorating the funeral of the Emperor Charles V, 1559)
  • Dictionarium Tetraglotton 1562. a dictionary in Greek, Latin, French and Flemish
  • The Biblia Polyglotta, a Polyglot Bible, 1572. Plantin's most famous project, in preparation since 1567, a bible in eight folio volumes, in Hebrew, Latin, Greek, Syriac and Aramaic.
  • Abraham Ortelius, Theatrum orbis terrarum 1584 and 1598 (first published 1570)

Family tree

Plantin-Moretus family tree (successive heads of the main Plantin-Moretus firm in bold).

Christophe Plantin (1520–1589) married Joanna Riviere; they had five daughters and a son

  • Margaretha Plantin married Franciscus Raphelengius, who led the Leiden branch of the house. They stayed printers in Leiden for two more generations of Van Ravelinge, until 1619. A great-granddaughter of the last Van Ravelinge printer married in 1685 Jordaen Luchtmans, founder of what would become later the still existing Brill Publishers
  • Martina Plantijn, married Jan Moretus (Johann Moerentorf) (1543–1610) in 1570; they had 10 children
    • Balthasar I Moretus (1574–1641)
    • Jan II Moretus (1576–1618) married Maria De Sweert; they had 6 children
      • Balthazar II Moretus (1615–1674) married Anna Goos; they had 12 children
        • Balthazar III Moretus (1646–1696) married Anna Maria de Neuf; they had 9 children
          • Balthazar IV Moretus (1679–1730) married Isabella Jacoba De Mont (or De Brialmont); they had 8 children
          • Joannes Jacobus Moretus (1690–1757) married Theresia Mechtildis Schilder; they had 9 children
            • Franciscus Joannes Moretus (1717–1768) married Maria Theresia Josepha Borrekens, who led the office after his death until her death in 1797. They had 13 children
              • Jacobus Paulus Josephus Moretus (1756–1808)
              • Ludovicus Franciscus Xaverius Moretus (1758–1820)
              • Josephus Hyacinthus Moretus (1762–1810) married Maria Henrica Coleta Wellens; they had 8 children
                • Albertus Franciscus Hyacinthus Fredericus Moretus (1795–1865)
                • Eduardus Josephus Hyacinthus Moretus (1804–1880). He sold the office to the city of Antwerp in 1876, after having printed the last book in 1866.
  • Magdalena Plantin married Gilles Beys, who then ran the French branch of the Plantin office. This continued for one more generation.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Plantin Press" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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