“Such an establishment has never been seen in the whole of Europe,“ wrote the Italian travel writer Ludovico Guicciardini in his description of the Plantin Moretus Publishing House in Antwerp.
“With more presses, with more types of various kinds, with more moulds and other instruments, with more capable and competent printer’s assistants, earning higher wages by working, correcting and revising in all languages, strange as well as familiar, which are used throughout the whole of Christendom.”
Guicciardini included this description in his guidebook to the cities of the Low Countries, published in 1567. More than four centuries have passed, but the building has hardly changed.
It is now a beautiful museum and Unesco world heritage site where you can see almost every detail described by Guicciardini from the printing presses to the tables where the proof-readers worked.
The museum has marked the 500th anniversary of Guicciardini’s birth with an exhibition of books and prints titled An Italian in the Low Countries (until 6 March).
It includes some of Guicciardini’s comments on the people of the Low Countries, who had “striking bones and ankles” and lived in “handsome houses.” He also admired the status of women who were allowed to walk in the street unaccompanied and run their own businesses without their husbands interfering.”
Derek Blyth’s hidden secret of the day: Derek Blyth is the author of the bestselling “The 500 Hidden Secrets of Belgium”. He picks out one of his favourite hidden secrets for The Brussels Times every day.