concept to publication

Category: history

The Plantin-Moretus Museum, Antwerp

the plantin museum, antwerp, belgium

The Plantin-Moretus Museum, located at the Vrijdagmarkt in Antwerp, Belgium, is one of the prime pilgrimage sites for typeheads. It is is the only Renaissance printing office that has survived to the present. It houses some of he world’s oldest surviving printing presses as well as complete sets of early dies and matrices. And it houses an excellent library.

Christoffel Plantin (1520-1589) established himself in Antwerp around 1549 and soon set up a business as a printer. Among his famous projects was a Biblia Polyglotta (Bible in five languages. By 1575 the business had seventy employees. After his death the business passed to his son-in-law Jan I Moretus (1543-1610) and remained in the hands of the Moretus family for centuries. In 1876 the firm and its contents were sold to the city of Antwerp and the Plantin-Moretus Museum was born. In 2005, the museum became the first museum to be listed on the UNESCO World heritage site.

These images were taken in 2004. I’ve done what I can with the them but the camera I had with me at that time was not really up to the conditions in which these photographs were made.

the plantin museum, antwerp, belgium

Text decoration

Since posting is light while I’m traveling, I think it’s time to devote another link to Bibliodyssey, that great ongoing compendium of book arts through the ages. This link is to an anonymous early 16th century Spanish parchment manual featuring examples of text decoration.

early spanish parchment design manuscript

Recommended reading

At Frisco Vista I’ve told the story of the Belgum Sanitarium, which was located in Wildcat Canyon above Richmond on the San Francisco Bay. It’s a romantic little narrative, a bit like something out of Lafcadio Hearn. Usually I save references to my posts elsewhere for my end-of-month roundups, but I hope that some of my rightreading readers might enjoy this melancholy little tale.

Left Abe, Right Abe

left abe lincoln, right abe lincoln

Using life masks of Lincoln owned by the Chicago History Museum, scientists have determined that Abraham Lincoln had an unusually asymmetrical face. Lincoln had a condition called cranial facial microsomia — the left side of his face was much smaller than the right. The results of the study have been widely reported, including in The Independent, in which Leonard Doyle writes:

Lincoln’s contemporaries noted his left eye at times drifted upwards independently of his right eye, a condition now termed strabismus. Lincoln’s smaller, left eye socket may have had a displaced muscle controlling vertical movement, said Dr Ronald Fishman, who led the study published in the Archives of Ophthalmology.

Most people’s faces are asymmetrical, Dr Fishman said, but Lincoln’s case was extreme, with the bony ridge over his left eye rounder and thinner than the right, and set backwards.

So what did I think when I read that?

Right. Fodder for “Left Face, Right Face.”

A Short Guide to Iraq

In 1943 the U.S. War Department produced a book offering guidelines for our soldiers fighting in Iraq. It contained advice such as this:

The tall man in the flowing robe you are going to see soon, with the whiskers and the long hair, is a first-class fighting man, highly skilled in guerilla warfare. Few fighters in any country, in fact, excell him in that kind of situation. If he is your friend, he can be a staunch and valuable ally. If he should happen to be your enemy — look out!


There are also political differences in Iraq that have puzzled diplomats and statesmen. You won’t help matters any by getting mixed up in them.

A pdf version has been posted here.


15th-Century Type

A photoset on flickr (click image to visit). Look at the beautiful even color.

15th-century type

The Cult of the Talking Cross

the spring of the talking crossI’m starting to put up some images from my recent trip to the Yucatan. As part of the project I’m revamping the Maya World section of my site (making it a little more autonomous, on the theory that people who are interested in the Maya aren’t necessarily equally interested in typography or publishing or gardening in the Bay Area or others of my hobby horses). Anyway, the image at left is a picture of the little spring that sustained the rebel community of the Talking Cross, the Maya band that nearly drove the non-Maya from the peninsula during the Caste War in the second half of the 19th century. (The spring is located in present-day Felipe Carrillo Puerto.) The image is part of a page I’ve put up on the Cult of the Talking Cross (the Talking Cross revolt figures in the novel that I’m currently completing).

Boz’s London

Here‘s a cool web feature for lit types. Clicking the map (the image above is a detail) takes you to a section of an 1859 map of London. Once at the map detail you can get further information about that part of town. For example, you can click a “dictionary” button, which takes you to a description of that location taken from the 1879 Dickens’s Dictionary of London by Charles Dickens Jr. Or you can see an aerial photo of the area today, from Google maps.

The site is the brainchild of David Perdue. It’s a good illustration of how disparate data can be related to create, in effect, new content. Nice job!

(via Splodinvark)

Amy Arbus’s NYC in the 80s

amy arbus photoThe Morning News is showing some of Amy Arbus’s images of New York City fashion, 1980s style. You know, when the city actually had a sort of alternative scene. Or, as interviewer Rosecrans Baldwin says,

Now that Manhattan is only habitable for the rich, New Yorkers love to look back to the mad ‘80s, when the Bowery was dangerous and apartments were affordable…. Between 1980 and 1990, The Village Voice ran photographer Amy Arbus’s “On The Street” photo-column, a page documenting downtown’s most vibrant, creative dressers and personalities, and now the greatest hits have been published by Welcome Books.

Sample photos and interview here

Pardon me?

Okay, here’s the deal. I conned the country into electing me, but I’m a crook, and the feds have got the goods and are looking to lock me up. You’re a plodding pol who could never get elected to this job. I know you want it. So I’ll resign, and then you’ll give me a full and unconditional pardon for anything and everything I’ve done. I’ll go build myself a big library and work on repairing my reputation. You’ll take some heat, but you’ll get to be president. But you’ll have to move fast — I figure I can hold them off for maybe three or four weeks.

Your reputation? Hey, no worries. We’ll call it “healing the nation.”

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