The woodblocks used for scientific publications of the Plantin Press

Lezing op internationaal congres Cultures of the Book: Science, Technology and the Spread of Knowledge (Pescara, 6-7 November 2019)

The typographical collections of the Plantin-Moretus Museum (Antwerp, Belgium) are internationally incontournable because of their UNESCO World Heritage recognition. The Officina Plantiniana was widely renowned for its immaculate and splendidly illustrated print work. Consequently, woodblocks and copperplates deserve the same amount of attention as punches, matrices and lead type.

The collection of nearly 14,000 woodblocks has hitherto never been described in a systematic manner. In the early 1960’s the woodblocks were treated with a poisonous anti woodworm product, which makes consultation substantially difficult.

Thanks to government subsidies the Plantin-Moretus Museum has recently started a project to make the entire collection of woodblocks accessible. By putting online digital pictures, linked to descriptions in the collections registration system, this exceptional and unique collection becomes available for use by the international research community.

A substantial part of the collection comprises woodblocks cut to illustrate scientific books. The 4,000 botanical woodblocks are the jewel in the crown, but other sciences such as optics (500) and zoology (150) are also well represented. These intermediate tools can tell us more about the transmission of early modern knowledge than what we learn by simply looking at the printed images.

In addition to the woodblock project, the museum facilitates ongoing research into the preservation of the moulds, lead type and copperplates collections, using advanced technology.

Praktische info

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Museum Plantin-Moretus
Joost Depuydt, conservator typografische & technische collecties
Vrijdagmarkt 22
2000 Antwerpen
03 221 14 74

Subsidie 'Tussenkomst voor internationale uitwisseling' van de afdeling Cultureel erfgoed van het Departement Cultuur, Jeugd, Sport en Media van de Vlaamse Gemeenschap.

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