Arriving in Antwerp, we visited for a few minutes with the helpful local at the Visitor Information Center at Antwerpen Centraal. He highlighted a number of things we could go see and do. I was especially keen to see the Museum Plantin-Moretus.
The family home was also the printing company and the bookselling shop. And after three centuries of family living in the same place, and keeping copious records along the way, the decision was taken a century ago to turn the estate into a museum.
The family records are a remarkably intact look at Dutch culture over the centuries. But the priceless artifacts are the real thrill at this museum. Walking through room after room of books on display, one finds not one but two original Gutenberg bibles, the first-ever book to use the word ‘atlas’ (and edited by Mercator, he of the famous map of the world), two of the oldest moveable-type printing presses still in existence, drawers and drawers of centuries-old moveable type pieces, dies used to cast that very moveable type, paintings of the original family members (painted by Rubens, after all), and enough gilt wallpaper to make a thief a wealthy man. I saw diagrams in books sitting right next to the plates used to print those diagrams. And woodcuts in books, with the very reverse-image wood block sitting right by the book. Thanks to one particular bookcase, I understand now more of the early history of music engraving and printing.
At the museum shop, I purchased little take-home gifts for my students, and I could have gone crazy with more spending.
This was a delightful stop indeed, and one that I hope I can make again!
This place is a bibliophile’s dream!
For more info, visit http://www.museumplantinmoretus.be/Museum_PlantinMoretus_EN.