A Printing Pilgrimage

Blog, Ephemera, printing equipment

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A couple of weeks ago, whilst on a brief trip to Antwerp in Belgium, I visited the fantastic Plantin-Moretus Museum. Arriving by train at the ludicrously impressive Antwerpen-Centraal station, the city itself has a long history of being a focus for art and culture, both with it’s school of painting which included Rubens and Van Dyck among others, and for the emerging world of printing in the 16th Century.

The Plantin-Moretus Museum is located in the former home of Christophe Plantin; A French humanist, intellectual, polyglot who had traveled to Antwerp to set-up what has been described as the first industrial print works, in the early 16th Century. There he became a prolific printer, publisher and entrepreneur, producing some 2450 titles in his lifetime, including the Plantin Polyglot; his 8-volume Bible set in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek and Syriac, as well as the Dictionarium Tetraglotton which was a dictionary in Greek, Latin, French and Flemish.

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After his death, the business was continued by his son-in-law; Jan I Moretus, who carried on their traditions of high quality and diverse printing, issuing another 640 works over a broad range of subjects including religious texts, scientific manuscripts, botanical titles, atlases, anatomical works, mathematical and medical manuals.

In the 18th and 19th Centuries, as technology shifted and the business declined, the Plantin-Moretus company managed to keep the residence, which encompassed the print works, type foundry and bookshop, preserved exactly as it had been in the days of its founders. Finally in 1876, Edward Moretus sold the company to the city of Antwerp, whereupon it was converted into a museum, later being declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005.

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Wandering through the building, it starts off essentially as a series of townhouses, the family home looking onto the Vrijdagmarkt, but you quickly realise that the building includes a tranquil inner courtyard and then three more wings, each of which contain the type foundry, library, bookshop and the print-works itself. It’s their collection of books, printing blocks and other ephemera that really blew me away. The titles themselves are simply beautiful, especially the atlases from 1579, the botanical manuals with the original illustration woodblocks and the multilingual bibles. The type foundry was also a sight to behold, as it included items such as a set of original Garamond punches and matricies by Claude Garamont. Finally there was the print-works, with its racks of original type and lined up presses; five from the 17th – 18th Century and then two from around 1600; the oldest preserved printing presses in the world. The type collection itself was amazing, with a large number of fleurons, ornamentals as well as numerous trays of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek type too.

All in all, it was an amazing house and a fantastic place to visit, even if you’re not a type or print nerd, although if you are then it’s definitely worth the pilgrimage.

 

 

More Summer Workshop Sessions

Events & Competitions, Interactive Events, printing equipment, Work in Progress, Workshops

Following on from our initial workshop experiments, we’ve just listed a number of new sessions for August. We’re sticking with the small group size as it means that everyone gets to have a go and it’s not too crowded in our little studio. There are two evening sessions during the week and two daytime sessions on the Saturdays. If you are interested in taking part or are looking for more information, check out the previous blog posts, our main site or the external booking site for availability.

The dates and times for the new sessions are:

Thursday 21st of August: 6pm – 9pm

Friday 22nd of August: 6pm – 9pm

Saturday 23rd of August: 11am – 2pm

Saturday 23rd of August: 3pm – 6pm

Thursday 28th of August: 6pm – 9pm

Friday 29th of August: 6pm – 9pm

Saturday 30th of August: 11am – 2pm

Saturday 30th of August: 3pm – 6pm

In other news, we’re currently working on some new commission products with a client that we’ll hopefully be able to reveal soon, plus we’ve also recently acquired a thermographic machine. Tom’s been doing some tests with some metallic thermographic powders and the results are rather nice. Check out our Instagram feed for more insights into our printing experiments.

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Exclusive Products for Fortnum & Mason

Commission Projects, Events & Competitions, London Design Festival, printing equipment, Work in Progress

With one week to go, the preparations continue apace for our London Design Festival event. We are currently in a flurry of activity working to get everything ready, not least of which are the commissioned bespoke products that we are producing with Fortnum & Mason. We’ve designed a range of six greetings cards plus a new style A5 double notebook set all to celebrate the history of the store. We’re just putting the finishing touches to them now but here are some work in progress shots from last week:

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Test print detail of part of the notebook 2-colour design; gold ink onto Fortnum’s turquoise / eau de nil.

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Our press being inked up in a rather fetching, and not frequently seen from us, shade of pink for two of the colourways on the greetings cards. One is pink and grey, the other pink and purple.

All the finished products will be exclusively available through Fortnum & Mason and launched during the event. Additionally we’ll be producing some of them all week, live in store on our press so you can come see how they were made.

Adana Restoration Work

printing equipment

Last post I mentioned we’d been working on giving one of our 8×5” Adanas a decent going-over prior to it being used for our interactive demonstrations as part of the upcoming London Design Festival event. The original paintwork was badly chipped and flaking off in places so we decided to strip it and give it a fresh coat of paint and a shiny new base, as well as a bit of a servicing.

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We ended up going with a slightly more ‘firetruck / Routemaster bus’ shade of red than the original colour but we’re happy with the end result seeing as it will be very much on display and enticing the public to have a go.