Who on earth was Plantin?

Christophe Plantin was an intellectual with a flair for business. Shortly before 1550 he moved from France to Antwerp. Five years later he started his own printing press, which he built into the largest in the world.

Christophe Plantin as the founder of a dynasty

  • Plantin founded a dynasty that lived and worked in the house and printing press for nine generations.
  • He married Jeanne Rivière, and together they had six daughters and a son. Five of the daughters reached adulthood.
  • Plantin’s daughters learnt to read and write from a very young age, and were helping to correct texts in the print shop from the age of five.
  • Three of his sons-in-law worked for the business.

Christophe Plantin as a businessman

  • The Frenchman Christophe Plantin moved to Antwerp around 1550 to develop his printing business there.
  • By 1570, his publishing house was the largest in the world.
  • In its heyday, the printing works had 22 presses and more than 80 employees.
  • His publishing house, ‘Officina Plantiniana’ on Antwerp’s Vrijdagmarkt, had branches in Leiden and Paris.
  • But Plantin was not just a printer and publisher: he also sold maps, prints and globes, and had a lucrative line in lace.

Christophe Plantin as a pioneering business leader

  • Plantin was the favoured publisher of scientists and humanists.
  • He introduced typefaces that are still in use today, such as Garamond.
  • Plantin printed works in Latin, Dutch, French, Greek, Spanish, Hebrew, German, Italian, Syriac and Armenian.

Christophe Plantin as a printer

  • The works Plantin printed were religious, liturgical, humanistic, scientific, botanical, linguistic, medical, cartographic and musical in nature.
  • He attracted the best artists to illustrate the books of herbs of Dodoens, Clusius and Lobelius. These books still inspire plant lovers all over the world today.
  • One of Plantin’s masterpieces was a Bible weighing 48 kg and containing 1,788 sheets. It was the product of four years’ work.
  • Printers delighted in outdoing one another with luxury editions and minuscule books the size of an eraser. Plantin printed a tiny calendar measuring 22 by 35 millimetres.
  • In his shop, he sold atlases and maps by the leading geographers of his time, which were useful and often very beautiful too.

Museum Plantin-Moretus
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