Christophe Plantin

Christophe Plantin

[plahn-tan]
Plantin, Christophe, 1514-89, printer. Plantin left his native France for Belgium because of religious persecution. In Antwerp his work, at first as a bookbinder, began in 1549. He began the production and publishing of books in 1555. His establishment continued to work until 1867 and is now preserved as the Plantin-Moretus Museum. Plantin was the leading printer of the second half of the 16th cent., and his books are admired for their accuracy and their typography. His equipment included types designed by Garamond and Granjon. The most famous work from his press is the Polyglot Bible (Bible regia) in eight volumes. In the center of his printer's mark is a pair of compasses.

Christophe Plantin (in Dutch Christoffel Plantijn) (c. 1520 - 1589) was an influential Renaissance humanist and book printer and publisher

Life

Plantin was born in France, probably in Touraine or Saint-Avertin, near the city of Tours). He learned bookbinding and bookselling in Caen. Having married someone from Antwerp, he settled there in 1549 as a bookbinder and soon became a leader of his profession.

In 1555, he opened his own printing establishment. The first known book he is known to have printed was La Institutione di una fanciulla nata nobilmente, by J. M. Bruto, with a French translation. This was soon followed by many other works in French and Latin, which in point of execution rivalled the best printing of his time. The masters in the art of engraving, then flourishing in the Netherlands, illustrated many of his editions. A bad wound in the arm seems to have led him (about 1555) to apply himself to typography.

In 1562, while Plantin was absent in Paris, his workmen printed a heretical pamphlet, which resulted in his goods being seized and sold. It seems, however, that he eventually recovered much of the value that was taken from him. In 1563, he associated himself with some friends to carry on his business on a larger scale. Among these friends were two grand-nephews of Daniel Bomberg, who furnished him with the fine Hebrew typefaces of that renowned Venetian printer.

In November 1576, Antwerp was plundered and in part burnt by the Spaniards, and Plantin had to pay an exorbitant ransom. He established a branch of his office in Paris. When in 1583 the states of Holland sought a typographer for the newly erected university at Leiden in the Netherlands, he moved there after leaving his much reduced business in Antwerp to his sons-in-law John Moerentorf (Jan Moretus) and Francis van Ravelinghen (Raphelengius). After Antwerp became more settled subsequent to its conquest by the prince of Parma in 1585, Plantin left his Leiden office to Raphelengius and returned to Antwerp, where he laboured until his death on 1 July, 1589.

Printing work

His most important work is the Biblia Regia, published between 1568 and 1572.

His editions of the Bible in Hebrew, Latin and Dutch, his Corpus juris, Latin and Greek classics, and many other works produced at this period are renowned for their beautiful execution and accuracy. A much greater enterprise was planned by him in those years—the publication of a Biblia polyglotta, which would fix the original text of Old and New Testaments on a scientific basis. In spite of clerical opposition he was supported by King Philip II of Spain, who sent him the learned Benito Arias Montano to lead the editorship. With Montano's zealous help, the work was finished in five years (1569-1573, 8 vols, folio). This work earned Plantin little profit, but resulted in Philip's granting him the privilege of printing all Roman Catholic liturgical books (missals, breviaries, etc.) for the states ruled by Philip, and the office of prototypo-graphus regius.

Besides the polyglot Bible, Plantin published many other works of note, such as editions of St. Augustine and St. Jerome, the botanical works of Dodonaeus, Clusius and Lobelius, and the description of the Netherlands by Guicciardini. In 1575, his printing office reckoned more than 20 presses and 73 workmen, besides a similar number that worked for the office at home.

Though outwardly a faithful son of the church, he was a lifelong supporter of a mystical sect of heretics. It is now proved that many of their books published without the name of a printer came from his presses.

Legacy

After his death, his firm was taken over by his son-in-law, Jan Moretus. Today, the building that housed the firm is called the Plantin-Moretus Museum. Moretus and his descendants continued to print many works of note in officina Plantiniana, but the firm began to decline in the second half of the 17th century. It remained, however, in the possession of the Moretus family, which left everything in the office untouched, and when the city of Antwerp acquired (for 1.2 million francs) the old buildings with all their contents, the authorities created, with little trouble, the Musee Plantin, which opened on 19 August, 1877.

See also

Bibliography

  • De Backer, A., and Ruelens, C., Annales plantiniennes depuis la fondation de l'imprimerie plantinienne (Brussels, 1866).
  • Degeorge, Léon, La Maison Plantin à Anvers, 2nd ed. (Brussels, 1878).
  • Rooses, Max, Christophe Plantin, imprimeur anversois (Antwerp, 1882).
  • Voet, L., and Voet-Grisolle, J., The Plantin Press (1555-1589) (6 vols., Amsterdam 1980-1983).

External links

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