Baroque Book Design

A tale of friendship and collaboration

How did the book evolve in the baroque period? Why did a publisher such as Balthasar Moretus work with leading artists? And what is the vision of contemporary innovators in the book trade? The Plantin-Moretus Museum’s exhibition BAROQUE BOOK DESIGN, A tale of friendship and collaboration reveals publishers’ love for their trade, and how they have motivated artists, printers and designers in the past and present to create top-quality products.


The baroque book: a happy joint creation of Balthasar Moretus and Peter Paul Rubens

The sixteenth century saw the emergence of many new types of book. This was due in large part to publishers such as the Plantin-Moretus family. They sought ways of recording and arranging new knowledge and ideas on paper.  They thought about how texts could be typeset more effectively, the relationship between image and text, what a title page is and other questions. This was how the book originated largely in the form that we know it today.

Balthasar I Moretus took the next major step in the development of book architecture: he started using leading artists for book design. For instance, he commissioned Peter Paul Rubens to provide the illustrations for his new prayer books. And the likes of Erasmus Quellinus, Karel de Mallery, Peeter de Jode and Abraham Van Diepenbeeck also supplied Balthasar Moretus with designs for title pages and illustrations.

The contemporary publisher as artistic director

Today, publishers continue to orchestrate the overhauling of book architecture. In this exhibition, the Plantin-Moretus Museum reveals the similarities between Balthasar Moretus’ approach and a contemporary publishing project. We discover how a leading contemporary publisher looks at the book and collaborates with artists to continuously reinvent it.

Imschoot Publishers was a pioneer in the field of artists' books in the Flemish publishing country. The format was the only limit. For the rest, artists went looking for the boundaries of the book and Imschoot took up the challenge to translate the wishes of the artists as precisely as possible. More than 100 unique artistic projects saw the light of day, each executed at an extremely high technical level.

London Visual Editions is a high-profile company founded by two women. Their main goal is to create experiences for their audience through stories that traverse beyond the pages of a book. That is why they work together with like-minded people at the crossroads between publishing, design, culture and technology.

Gaspereau Press is one of the most respected publishers of literary work in Canada. Thanks to their unique philosophy for book publishing, their books are a true cultural enrichment. They maintain a high standard by opting for an integrated publishing-design-production process. Boutique and refined with great in quality. Co-founder Andrew Steeves is therefore a man with an opinion on reading, writing, editing, designing, typography, printing, binding, marketing and sales and embodies these opinions in publications and lectures convincingly.

A tale of friendship and cooperation

The exhibition reveals publishers’ love for their trade, and how they have motivated artists, printers and designers in the past and present to create top-quality products. With a lecture series, workshops, and collection and workshop visits, the museum conveys this passion to its visitors. During Kunstendag voor Kinderen (Art Day for Children) and Dag van de wetenschap (Science Day), we invite designers and printers to work with the public.

29.09 and 30.09.2018: Opening weekend
Visit the exhibition with a guide during the festive opening weekend. The museum organises print workshops for children and adults: print your own text and design the title page of your own book. The Baroque ensemble Oltra Montana will contribute its heavenly music to the afternoon. On Sunday, Redopapers, the Antwerp start-up 2018, will create real paperbacks with scrap paper.

21.10.2018: Designer’s Day
Marc Mombaerts, author of ‘Verlies je lezer niet’ (Don't lose your reader), teaches everyone what he/she should pay attention to when publishing a text, brochure or book. In the afternoon, designers, including Gert Dooreman and Stéphanie Jacobs, take a closer look at the collection of Baroque books and present their own work. Follow a guided tour or workshop. Make your own book with Coptic binding with Redopapers, design your own title page or print using the photographic 'cyanitype' process.

18.11.2018: Author’s Day
On 18 November, the authors of the exhibition catalogue Dirk Imhof, Goran Proot and Paul van Capelleveen will provide additional text and explanations for various facets in the exhibition.
Simultaneously, we will be celebrating the Week of Taste with tasty printing techniques. We print with a pasta machine and make old-fashioned snacks for the Gezond-Tijd (Healthy-Time)! Those who want to make their end-of-year cards themselves can get started with paint and gelatine!
Redopapers treats everyone to unique folding sheets on this Art Day for Children, and young and old can get creative with self-created stories. Everyone is an author today.

6.12.2018: Collector’s Day
On 16 December, the museum will organise a day for lovers of rare books. Rare book collectors and sellers tell the unique stories of each book they bring. Follow a short first aid course on how to best manipulate, store and/or gently clean rare books or learn starter tricks for framing engravings or drawings. There are guided tours or you can fold books with Redopapers, compile a complete book with text and images and print things using a photographic process. There's something for everyone.

Curators: Dr Dirk Imhof, Dr Goran Proot and Dr Geoffrey Brussato

Dirk Imhof is curator of libraries and archives of the Plantin-Moretus Museum. He has a degree in classical philology and obtained a doctorate in history at the University of Antwerp on the publisher’s collection of the Antwerp printer Jan I Moretus. Together with Karen Bowen, he has written a monograph on illustrated works published by Plantin: Christopher Plantin and Engraved Book Illustrations in Sixteenth Century Europe (Cambridge, 2008). In 2014 his bibliography of the editions of Jan I Moretus appeared: Jan Moretus and the Continuation of the Plantin Press (1589-1610).

Dr Goran Proot (born 1972) studied language and literature, philosophy and information and library science. He has worked as a curator of historical collections in Antwerp, Washington, DC, and Paris. He studies the bibliography, the development of layout and typography, and the economic aspects of the hand-printed book during the ancien régime. He is chairman of the non-profit association Flemish Working Group on Book History (Vlaamse Werkgroep Boekgeschiedenis) and a board member of the non-profit association Association of Antwerp Bibliophiles (Vereniging van Antwerpse Bibliofielen).

Geoffrey Brusatto (°1979) started working freelance on different graphic projects in 2004 and opened his graphic studio BRUSATTO, located in Hasselt, in 2007. Besides working for a mostly cultural clientele he teaches graphic design at the Hasselt MAD faculty. His passion for books (design) culminated in a PhD research project about the formal aspect of the book and its place in current (digital) society.

More information about Antwerp Baroque 2018. Rubens inspires:

The cultural city festival Antwerp Baroque 2018. Rubens inspires pays homage to Peter Paul Rubens and his Baroque, cultural heritage. During the festival, the spotlight will be on Peter Paul Rubens, one of the most influential artists ever and the most famous inhabitant of Antwerp. He personifies the Baroque period and is an important source of inspiration for contemporary artists and the atypical lifestyle of the city and its inhabitants. Antwerp Baroque 2018. Rubens inspires tells a story about the Baroque, in the past and the present, and creates a dialogue between historic Baroque and the work of contemporary artists. With the city of Antwerp and the world as its décor. Antwerp Baroque 2018. Rubens inspires is a key event in VisitFlanders' Flemish Masters programme. It promises to be explicitly extroverted and to combine artistic originality with authentic hospitality. From June 2018 to January 2019 in Antwerp.

Practical information

Museum Plantin-Moretus
Vrijdagmarkt 22
2000 Antwerpen


Balthasar I Moretus - publisherofthebaroque.docx

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Peter Paul Rubens and the Plantin House.docx

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GB_catalogus_Balthasar Moretus_BaroqueBookDesign.pdf

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Anneleen Decraene

Verantwoordelijke Marketing & Communicatie Museum Plantin-Moretus, Stad Antwerpen

Nadia De Vree

Perscoördinator Musea en Erfgoed Antwerpen, Stad Antwerpen

About Museum Plantin-Moretus

The Museum Plantin-Moretus is the residential house of the Plantin-Moretus family which contains the publishing house – printing press. The oldest printing presses in the world are here. They bear witness to the first industrial distribution of knowledge and image. The rich art collection is located in the historical residence, including paintings from family friend Peter Paul Rubens. The residence as well as the printing establishment is on UNESCO’s prestigious World Heritage list.

The museum in images