Museum Plantin-Moretus in Antwerp

Situated at the Vrijdagmarkt or Friday Market in Antwerp, the Museum Plantin-Moretus tells you the story of Christophe Plantin, his heir Jan Moretus and his descendants. The Officina Plantiniana printed books for several centuries. 

I visited the museum in March 2021. So there were coronavirus countermeasures. These included the removal of fun little activities like printing yourself. 

Museum Plantin-Moretus is a printing museum in which focuses on the work of the 16th-century printers Christophe Plantin and Jan Moretus. It is located in their former residence and printing establishment, the Plantin Press, and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2005.


The printing company was founded in the 16th century by Christophe Plantin (c. 1520 – 1 July 1589), who obtained type from the leading typefounders of the day in Paris. For instance, Plantin used the Garamont font, unlike his competitors in the Low Countries

Plantin and his wife Joanna Rivière moved from Saint-Avertin near Tours in France to Antwerp after he learnred his trade in Caen in Normandy and opened up shop in Paris. In Antwerp he became a free citizen. 

Plantin was a major figure in contemporary printing with interests in humanism; his eight-volume, multi-language ‘Plantin Polyglot Bible‘ with Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek and Syriac texts was one of the most complex productions of the period.

After Plantin’s death it was owned by his son-in-law Jan Moretus, Moerentorf (2 May 1543 – 22 September 1610). While most printing concerns disposed of their collections of older type in the eighteenth and nineteenth century in response to changing tastes, the Plantin-Moretus company did not.

Four women ran the family-owned Plantin-Moretus printing house: Martina Plantin, Anna Goos, Anna Maria de Neuf and Maria Theresia Borrekens.

In 1876 Edward Moretus sold the company to the City of Antwerp. One year later the public could visit the living areas and the printing presses.

The Plantin-Moretus Museum possesses an exceptional collection of typographical material. Not only does it house the two oldest surviving printing presses in the world  and complete sets of dies and matrices, it also has an extensive library, a richly decorated interior and the entire archives of the Plantin business, which were inscribed on UNESCO’s’Memory of the World Programme Register‘ in 2001 in recognition of their historical significance.

What is there to see?

  • Discover the work of the Plantin printing office.
  • The mansion.
  • The family.
  • Printing process.
  • Exhibitions.

Top works

The Officina Plantiniana published several top works which help define our Western history.

  • Latin classics by Justus Lipsius.
  • The first Dutch dictionary, by Cornelis Kiliaan: ‘Etymologicum teutonicae linguae‘.
  • De Thiende‘, counting in decimals, by Simon Stevin.
  • Pieter Coudenberg‘s and Valerius Cordus‘ medical handbook ‘Dispensatorium‘. 
  • Description de touts les Pais-Bas‘, an Italian view in the Netherlands (which included present-day Belgium), by Lodovico Guicciardini
  • Abraham Ortelius‘ atlas ‘Theatrum orbis terrarum‘. 
  • A luxury edition of the Bible, ‘Biblia sacra‘. 
  • Rembert Dodoens‘ illustrated book on flowers and plants, ‘Stirpium historiae pemtades sex‘.
  • Images of Emperor Charles V‘s funeral march. 
  • Arias Montanus‘ ‘Biblia regia‘ for Philip II of Spain, in five languages. 

Furthermore, the museum exhibits a myriad of prints. Because light doesn’t agree with old books and sheets of paper, the works are replaced once a year. Pages are turned every three months. 

The mansion

In 1576, Plantin relocated his printing works to the Vrijdagmarkt. His family lived and worked there for three hundred years. They converted the ‘Gulden Passer‘ (‘Golden Compass‘) into a beautiful mansion. The Moretus family cherished their printing works, which had become a part of Antwerp’s heritage. The last owner, Edward Moretus, sold the house to the City of Antwerp in 1876.

The Golden Compass is also Plantin’s coat of arms, with the motto ‘Labore et Constantia‘, ‘Work and Persistence’.

The mansion and its garden is part of the attraction. The tour takes you into the home and workshop.

Family portraits

A family? More like a dynasty. Pieter Paul Rubens painted several of their portraits. The family is on display at the beginning of the tour.


The Plantin-Moretus Museum keeps an extraordinary collection of 14,000 woodblocks. With these examples of true craftsmanship, book illustrations and other decorative elements were printed in the Plantin printing house.

Your visit

The museum isn’t huge, but Plantin’s works being so diverse – language, heraldry, history, medical science, geography, religion and more – there’s something for everyone.

Allow one to two hours. There’s obviously a shop and there’s also a reading room. 

Input from Wikipedia and the museum website. 

Art and museums in Antwerp

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