September 19, 2011

Small correction to previous mesage: deadline for calls for papers is 1 December 2011

In my previous post, a Calls for papers for "The Illustrated Book in Belgium 1800-1865" (conference in late Fall 2012), I said that the deadline for submitting papers was 1 October 2011. Luckily this isn't so, as it is 1 December 2011. This gives you, researcher, much more time for proposals.

September 12, 2011

Calls for papers: The illustrated book in Belgium (1800-1865) (Conference, Royal Library of Belgium, 19-20 November 2012)

As there is a rather pressing deadline for papers (October 15, 2011), I'm copying the following calls for papers on the illustrated book in Belgium completely.

Before I do, I want to refer to Le livre et l'estampe LV : 2009, n° 171. Le livre is the journal of the Société des Bibliophiles et Iconophiles de Belgique (=the Brussels Bibliophile Society), with the conference contributions for The illustrated book in Belgium more or less after 1865, so for the late 19th and the 20th centuries: Peintres de l'encrier - Le livre illustré en Belgique (XIXe-XXe siècle), edited by Denis Laoureux (Brussels, ULB, international conference in 2009). Recommended reading.

Call for papers

Colloquium: The illustrated book in Belgium (1800-1865).

Royal Library of Belgium, 19 and 20 November 2012.

Organisation: Royal Library of Belgium, in collaboration with Vlaamse Werkgroep Boekgeschiedenis en Groupe de contact FNRS ‘Documents rares et précieux’.

Scientific committee: Pierre Delsaerdt (Univ. of Antwerp), Alain Jacobs, Denis Laoureux (ULB), Jan Pauwels (KBR), Claude Sorgeloos (KBR), René Plisnier (Univ. of Mons, ULB), Stijn van Rossem (Univ. of Antwerp), Tom Verschaffel (KUL).

Organisation committee: Claude Sorgeloos (KBR), Leni Verbogen (KBR).

The illustrated book of the 19th century has been studied for the productions of the end of the century, a time when artists were renewing layout. The previous period is much lesser known, despite the works of J.H.M. Van der Marck on lithography, Tom Verschaffel on the meaning of romantic historiography and Remi Blachon on wood engraving. The colloquium wants to define this area of research and fine-tune our knowledge of this period. The works of the colloquium will have several approaches.

Techniques and forms

The 19th century gave birth to a plethora of techniques: lithography, chromolithography, wood engraving, etching, steel engraving, photography and photolithography, etc. The colloquium will address the history and evolution of these techniques, as they necessarily have incidences on the production of illustrated prints, their editorial aspects and layout. The industrial era of the 19th century saw prints change shape, with the illustrated cover being taken into account. This also goes for the romantic polychrome outer covers and outer covers of textile editors, adorned with golden plaques.


Another orientation will emphasize the works of artists like Jean-Baptiste Madou, Charles Onghena, Charles Baugniet, Adolphe-François Pannemaker, Paul Lauters, Henry Brown, artists from the l’École Royale de Gravure in Brussels and the students of Luigi Calamatta on the early works of Félicien Rops, as well as unknown artists. Their works will be put into perspective with the painting and engraving by examining the respective part of the engraver and that of the illustrator or painter, and its necessary relation with the text.


Another approach will help define a synthesis related to illustrated prints in certain editorial locations: Antwerp, Bruges, Ghent, Brussels, Liège, Mons or Tournai. The emphasis could be on certain enterprising editors, such as Vandecasteele-Werbrouck and Buffa in Bruges, Dominique Avanzo in Liège, Dewasme-Pletinckx in Tournai and Brussels, as well as certain institutions such as the Société des Beaux-Arts or the Société belge de Librairie de Hauman in Brussels.


Techniques and artists have close relationships with the genres practiced: religious publications, literary works, history books, commemorative publications, art books and facsimiles, illustrated press and magazines, almanacs, popular books, scientific books, atlases, topographical guides, publications linked to railroads, views of castles and picturesque sites, etc. This constitutes yet another approach.


The study of the commercial distribution of these illustrated publications in Belgium or abroad in particular forgeries will help address economical aspects. The distribution takes into account subscriptions, subscriptions to series and collections, printing on paper and different mediums according to target audiences, the geography of commercial networks, the use of these prints and their readership.


Finally, we would like to define the view of these illustrated publications of the 19th century, their continuity and study them by addressing the problem of collections, collectors, as well as certain funds of representative libraries of the genre.

The colloquium will take place at the Royal Library of Belgium on 19 and 20 November 2012. Registration is free. The acts of the colloquium will be edited.

We kindly ask you to send in a communication proposal and a working title before 15 October 2011, accompanied by a résumé of no more than a half page.


Claude Sorgeloos

Royal Library of Belgium

Old and Rare Books Section

Blvd. de l’Empereur, 4

1000 Brussels

Phone: 02.519.5731

Fax: 02.519.5735

March 24, 2011

Miraeus Lecture (Antwerp, 6 April 2011): David Shaw, "Poelman and Plantin. Publishing the Classics in Sixteenth-Century Antwerp"

In 2009 Vlaamse Werkgroep Boekgeschiedenis inaugurated a lecture series on themes in book history, to be held four times annually on Wednesday's in the Erfgoedbibliotheek's Nottebohmzaal. The initiative has recently turned into the Miraeus Lectures, with additional support of the Vereniging van Antwerpse Bibliofielen (=Association of Antwerp Bibliophiles).

Other venues potentially are not ruled out for the Miraeus Lectures. The first lecture this Spring is held in the Plantin-Moretus Museum, on Wednesday 6 April 2011 at 6 p.m. Lecturer is David Shaw, on "Poelman and Plantin. Publishing the Classics in Sixteenth-Century Antwerp".

The biggest studies written so far on printer Christophe Plantin are those by Leon Voet and Jenny Voet-Grisolle, the two-volume The Golden Compasses, A History and Evaluation of the Printing and Publishing Activities of the Officina Plantiniana (1969), and the classic 6-volume The Plantin Press (155-1589). A Bibliography of the works printed and published by Christopher Plantin at Antwerp and Leiden.

Another couple is walking in the footsteps of the Voets for Plantin with two studies on the use of printed illustration in Plantin editions, namely Karen L. Bowen's Christopher Plantin's Book of Hours: Illustration and Production (1997) and Karen L. Bowen and Dirk Imhof's Christopher Plantin and Engraved Book Illustrations in Sixteenth-Centry Europe (2008).

But all is not said and done yet on the Plantin-Moretus printing press, particularly because the business archive still awaits excavation and thorough examination from scholars. The museum has started a piecemeal digitization project - the Flemish government should actually turn this into its third prestigious project after ILE (the edition of the letters by Justus Lipsius in 20 volumes) and the STCV (the online Short Title Catalogus Vlaanderen).

So what are we to expect from David Shaw's talk? Antwerp in the sixteenth century was what Amsterdam became in the next: a vibrant, intensely international commercial hub experiencing its Golden Age. In that century it took the lead from Deventer with the hightest number of printing houses in the Old Netherlands. As the city did not house a university, school masters' schools -like that of Gabriel Meurier- or printing houses were the next best venues for languages and learning.

Greek had been introduced in the Old Netherlands by Dirk Martens and Joannes van Westfalen, and Leuven after 1517 with its Collegium Trilingue became an important center for the study of Greek, Latin and Hebrew. In his former assistant Rutger Rescius Dirk Martens would find a worthy successor to print many Greek and Latin college textbooks.

Decades later, Plantin easily was the richest owner of fonts and printing workshop material out of Antwerp. His abodes were often crowded with scholars pouring over the material to see it appear in print, on many topics. His crowning achievement in scholarship collaboration no doubt was the Polyglot Bible or Biblia Regia.

As to the classics, works in Greek and Latin, a great number of local scholars worked with him: Willem and Dirk Canter from Utrecht and Leuven on Aeschylos (1580), Janus Dousa on Catullus, Mekerkius on Greek pronunciation, the perennial Lipsius on Tacitus, Steewechius on Vegetius, Bonaventura Vulcanius on Callimachus, and so on.

Or Plantin selected from the book fairs at Paris and Frankfurt works first seen abroad, such as the emblemata editions by Joannes Sambucus, French and Italian endeavors on Virgil by Fulvius Ursinus, the cantankerous Joseph Scaliger and Marc Antoine Muret, and the often reprinted Catullus, Tibullus et Propertius that was first published by Aldus in 1511.

In his Annales de l'imprimerie des Alde (1834), Auguste Renouard wrote of the famous Aldus Manutius and his son Paul, who operated from Venice in the late 15th and at the cusp of the 16th century: Remplis d'une admiration enthousiaste pour les chefs-d'oeuvre littéraires de la Grèce et Rome, ils sacrifièrent les avantages de réputation et de fortune (..) et dévouèrent leur vie entière à tirer les écrivains anciens du chaos où huit siècles de barbarie les avaient plongés.

Although Renouard's admiration for the trendsetters the Alduses were for Greek and Latin texts is more than justified, his Winckelmannish hyperbole on how these works came to us somewhat obscures the work of editors and the many sources –in manuscript or printed form and often from earlier centuries- that lay at the basis of a new edition.

As an editor, Theodorus Pulmannus or Dirk Poelman (1512-1581) is expected to particularly stand out for the Plantin house, as his archives are presently part of the Plantin-Moretus Archives. He edited many authors: Avianus, Horatius, Lucanus, and Terentius Afer, to name a few. We eagerly await David Shaw's talk to zero in on some more detail.

Venue: Miraeus Lecture, Museum Plantin-Moretus, Vrijdagmarkt 22, 2000 Antwerpen, Wednesday 6 April, 2011, 6-7.30 p.m.

Illustration: woodcut initial and page from Novum Iesu Christi D.N. Testamentum, ascribed to Christophe Plantin (1566). Cultura Fonds Collection.

December 22, 2010

The privilege may be yours, but only with battle: Jan I Moretus and the Struggle for the Plantin Press (Antwerp, until 16 January, 2011)

Forget the snow, forget the glühwein at noisy Christmas markets. Museum Plantin-Moretus (MPM) at Antwerp awaits you for the final month of the exhibition Jan I Moretus and The Struggle for the Plantin Press (until January 16, 2011). According to museum director Iris Kockelbergh, the show, which marks the 400th anniversary of Moretus's death in 1610, so far has been quite succesful with the public.

The serene atmosphere in these historical premises, Christopher Plantin's former print shop, belies the quarrelsome content on display: a family of printers fighting over a will, a roster of competitors aspiring to obtain the Plantin-Moretus exclusive printing privileges.

The story that curator Dirk Imhof (Cambridge University - Munby Fellow) tells is that of a successor having to battle his way through, but who eventually, in the span of his own 20-year career, steers the family business with an able hand. And as with books, Museum Plantin-Moretus is able to illustrate some finer details of this story with its unique archive.

The first document to attract the visitor's eye is Plantin's will, drawn up in 1588. Not only stood Christopher Plantin (d. 1 July, 1589) at the helm of a large printing house that remained active from the mid 16th until the mid 19th century, he also had five daughters who all married future printers who in turn set up shop at Antwerp, Leiden and Paris. Jan I Moretus (pictured, courtesy of MPM) had been assisting his father-in-law at Antwerp.

Plantin's choice to bequeathe the printing business to his wife, and after her death, to Jan I Moretus, did not fall well with the other family members. Moretus first had to come to a financial settlement with the other daughters and sons-in-law, and a final agreement was not possible until after a few drafts, as seen on display.

The battle for printer privileges takes up most of the exhibition, and Dirk Imhof expanded on this theme during a short international symposium entitled The Letter of the Law: Regulation and Censorship of the Book Trade in Early Modern Europe, organized by MPM and Vlaamse Werkgroep Boekgeschiedenis on 20 December, 2010.

Together with the entire business, Jan I Moretus inherited every privilege that Plantin was ever granted by the authorities. A privilege secured a distribution and sales monopoly over each new title that a printer was able to produce.

As Imhof was able to see in the Plantin-Moretus archival material, Jan I Moretus's practices to secure privileges bordered the margins of legality. With one of the Antwerp authorities in this matter he was distantly related, and naturally, having the best of relations. Some civil servants even kept Moretus perfectly in the know about the 'schemes' of his colleagues to steal away some of his privileges.

In the Netherlands, the Plantin-Moretus house had long enjoyed an exclusive position in the very lucrative business of liturgical works and Bibles. As demand for these kinds of books remained very high, several printers in the Netherlands tried to get their share of the cake by petitioning for privileges or simply by printing unauthorized liturgical editions: often by copying Moretus in cheaper editions on lesser quality-paper.

As Imhof was also to show with examples, some of the problems with local or foreign editions were attributed to Jan I Moretus himself, who not always put much effort in securing a general privilege for new editions. Was this negligence? Overconfidence? Whenever foreign printers challenged Moretus with rival editions, he was forced to act and secure his business.

If you think family fended for family in this matter, think again. When Plantin's son-in-law Aegidius Beys in Paris sought to benefit from the same privileges as Jan I Moretus as coheir, he was shown the exact same cold shoulder as many non-family printers. Specifically Beys sought part of the business in liturgical works. Eventually the sons-in-law went to court before the Council of Brabant, and the matter was settled in favor of Moretus.

At the symposium on 20 December 2010, three other speakers presented cases. Angela Nuovo (University of Udine) showed that the privilege system in Venice in the 16th century developed from an anti-monopolistic system, one characterized by a fair chance for each printer to obtain privileges for a limited time for new works that they were able to produce, to a system that became more person-related that required printers to obtain favors from the papal authority at Rome. Rome in Italy was to become the second printing center largely due to the relocation of Venetian firms. Some Italian printers traded their privileges to third parties who gained access to the Italian market.

Natalia Maillard Alvarez (European University Institute, Florence) dwelled on Spanish booksellers' and printers' strategies versus the Inquisition in the 16th century that actually benefited the book trade. Often booksellers became familiares or collaborators of the Spanish Inquisition themselved, thus avoiding severe indictment for themselves and colleagues.

So far, as Maillard Alvarez points out, Spain still lacks a comprehensive study on book distribution, one that supersedes the cases of individual printer families. A very interesting study could be made of the connections between multi-lingual and often interconnected families such as Giunti, Portinari, Boyer and Bellerus and their commercial interests in both Spain and Portugal, the Americas and Europe.

And finally, Stijn Van Rossem (University of Antwerp) zoomed in on the Verdussen family of printers, active at Antwerp in the 17th century. As a printer family, it compares more or less to the Plantin-Moretus dynasty in success, in duration (a printing business of nearly 250 years), and definitely in rich extant archival material, which allows Van Rossem to show how these printers tried to negotiate the legal framework which made their business thrive.

August 25, 2010

Once in a Lifetime: Admiring the Anjou Bible at Leuven

This is a Going East (3): East of Brussels, at Leuven, is where on 16 September 2010 the exhibition Bijbel van Anjou, Napels 1340: Een koninklijk handschrift ontsluierd (Anjou Bible, Naples 1340: a royal manuscript unveiled) opens at Museum M, city of Leuven's recently overhauled municipal museum.

Some readers may know that one of the, if not the, savviest manager-slash-art historian resides in Leuven, more precisely at Illuminare, Study Centre of Medieval Art. Indeed, Jan van der Stock is the only person here to have ever pulled off a Named Chair in Arts & Humanities: the Rogier van der Weydenleerstoel - Paul & Dora Janssen. And one of few who does not mince words when it comes to defending this country's rich and precious heritage against ignorance.

If anything has to with Netherlandic Art, manuscripts and bindings in this city, or with princesses such as Mathilde and Maxima opening exhibitions, we can bet our head on it that Jan van der Stock is behind its marketing machinery.

Even if in the case of this precious manuscript, Illuminare does a home run - after years of careful restorating work, the Anjou Bible is ready to go back to its Leuven vault, but not before allowing the public to catch a glimpse and to gather more about how a Naples manuscript -Medieval manuscripts are wont to travel, as history always teaches- ended up here.

This restauration work is the credit of this exhibition's curator: Lieve Watteeuw, whose line of work merits a chair on its own. Lieve in recent years became a PhD with a thesis entitled De handdruk van Chronos - Zorgen voor het Middeleeuwse manuscript 1731-1937 (The handshake of Chronos: Care for the Medieval Manuscript 1731-1937), about restoration theory and practice pertaining to the Burgundy library - yet awaiting translation and publication in English.

We hope that princesses may hereby return many times to admire Low Countries' artefacts with their broods - incognito.

Museum M.
L.Vanderkelenstraat 28
3000 Leuven

The Anjou Bible runs until 5 December 2010.
Tue-Sunday 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.

August 23, 2010

Going East (2): 800 years of Crosier Art in Western Europe on show at Rheine (Germany)

A 3-hour drive away from Brussels lies the town of Rheine in Nordrhein-Westfalen: close to Holland and Belgium, and a bow's arrow from Niedersachsen. And adjacent to the German highway, but tucked away in greenery lies Kloster Bentlage, which the city of Rheine beautifully restored and which serves as municipal museum grounds.

This city museum now plays host to an exhibition highlighting 800 years of Crosier art in Western-Europe. Fittlingly, because in 1437 members of the order of the Holy Cross, Crosiers, settled in Rheine and built Kloster Bentlage. The order wasn't dissolved until 1803, when the monastery grounds came into the family Looz-Corswarem from Liège-Rhine territory.

The order of he Holy Cross was founded in the 13th century in Belgium in the city of Huy. From the river Meuse/Maas and other places in the Prince-Bishopric of Liège and the Rhineland, the order spread all over Europe, to places like Paris and London. St Agatha in Cuijk (Holland) for instance played an important role in the order's history in the 15th century.

Although the Crosier order of canons regular today is thriving on four continents, it must be very pleased to see that Rheine took the lead in an exhibition celebrating its origins and involving artefacts from at least three countries.

Our interest involves the many items on loan from places like Brussels, Liège, Denderleeuw and Cuijck for among others sculpture, manuscripts, and bindings, all handled and placed expertly by curators and conservators at Rheine.

The exhibition opened on 29 August 2010 with festivities and representation from the Crosier's Generalate. It remains on show until 27 February 2011.

Museum Kloster Bentlage
Bentlager Weg 130
48432 Rheine

Opening hours:
Wednesday-Sunday 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Going East (1): Bibliophily in Hasselt

Is the exhibition Liefde voor het boek. Een keuze bibliofiele boeken, kunstenaarsboeken & boekobjecten in Vlaanderen vanaf 1900 tot 2010 currently on display in the city of Hasselt, writing a new chapter in the history of Flemish bibliophily / bibliophily in Flanders?

Firstly, let's recall -from Pierre Wigny's introduction to La bibliothèque de l'honnête homme- what a bibliophile yearns for, in contrast to an ordinary reader: l'édition originale, le petit tirage, l'illustration rare, la reliure signée; il manie lui-même avec amour le volume que les amis peuvent seulement regarder sans y toucher.

In many respects, to limit an overview of bibliophily in Belgium to Flanders has.. well.. its limits. Flemish bibliophile owners may live in Brussels or Wallonia and for Walloon collectors vice versa. Several reforms of state have Brussels playing a role as third party. The books on display are hardly by Flemish authors/in Dutch only, which is the official language in Flanders and of the Flemish in Belgium, let alone made by strictly Flemish artisans.

But if one keeps these nuances -to which Belgians eternally seem condemned, in mind, this choice can also entirely be justified. A language is a language, a culture is a culture and two aren't always one. Each culture has its own history of coming into being and its own highlights in different times. Such is the case for the Dutch- and French- and even German-speaking communities in this country.

And to complicate matters more, whoever tackles bibliophily in Flanders, may want to peek over the northern borders into The Netherlands, and vice versa, as the Flemish share their language and some of their history and literary predilections with that country.

Whoever wants to document bibliophily pertaining specifically to Flanders, will have to hark back to 1980, to a seminal exhibition held at Brussels. It did not emanate from our Royal and National Library just yet, just as bibliophile societies in those days and before rarely operated in terms of binary oppositions such as Flemish/Walloon. Books were.. well, Belgian.

The 1980 exhibition, entitled Vlaamse bibliofiele uitgaven 1830-1980, was held courtesy of a private initiative: VEV-Komitee Brussel (present-day Voka, Flemish association of entrepreneurs). It took place only steps away from our National Library, but oh, what a landing - on Grote Markt/Grand Place 19 in Brussels.

Compilers of worthwhile data from 147 books from 25 collections back then were Hilda van Assche, Richard Baeyens and Elly Cockx-Indestege. Ludo Simons wrote the introduction about 150 years of bibliophile editions of Flemish authors.

Our Royal and National Library did follow suit with two similar exhibitions, in 1991 and in 2004. For Flemish production a follow-up since 1988, but for our National Library a covering of book production according to its mission: nationally.

The first exhibition at the National library was in 1991 with catalogue: Bibliofiele uitgaven in België 1985-1990. Tentoonstellingscatalogus - Editions bibliophiliques en Belgique 1985-1990. Catalogue d'exposition. Myriam Buyst and Jo Depuydt. Introduction by Elly Cockx-Indestege. Brussels, 1991 (ISBN 90-6637-053-X; 2-87093-056-9).

The follow-up exhibition at the National library from 1994 was documented in Belgische bibliofiele uitgevers - Éditeurs belges de bibliophilie 1991-2003. Brussels, 2004 (ISBN 2-87093-150-6).

And at the end of the 1990s let's not forget the role of DRUKsel, a small book fair held at the city of Ghent devoted to beautiful books, with a varying degree of artisan publishers and printers from this country and broad. In its approach it defied categorization - DRUKsel was not devoted to bibliophily only, certainly not to bibliophily in a narrow sense. Who knows, perhaps the fair's fraying margins also contributed to its demise some years later.

Curator of Liefde voor het boek is Ludo Raskin, a former arts director to the province of Limburg and the city of Hasselt. The occasion is the Virga Jesse Feast 2010, a procession with religious roots occurring every seven years in Hasselt. Raskin's aim is an ambitious one - to select highlights from one entire century, in this case the 20th.

The exhibition saiys to reserve room for the work of artists who are strongly linked to bibliophily: Henry van de Velde, Max Elskamp, Frans Masereel, Jozef Cantré, Henri Van Straten, Edgard Tytgat and Paul Van Ostayen. It also highlights artist books of Roger Raveel, Hugo Claus, Jan Vanriet, Paul Ibou, which came about courtesy of many Flemish private presses. The curator also chose to shed light on specifically regional output from Limburg.

Cultuurcentrum Hasselt
Kunstlaan 5
B-3500 Hasselt

Opening hours:
Tue-Fri 10 a.m. - 5 p.m, Sat-Sun 1-5 p.m.
Special opening hours:
Sat 14 / Sun 15 / Thu 19 / Sun 22 / Tue 24 / Sat 28 August: 7-10 p.m.

-A catalogue, “Liefde voor het boek” (22,5/22,5 cm, 120 p) illustrated, with books from 70 artists and an introduction by Ludo Raskin. Edition of 500 copies. Price: € 15.
-A bibliophile edition “De Laatste Weg – Via Crucis. Een kruisweg in beeld en woord” with sculpture by Vincent Van Den Meersch and poems selected by Piet Thomas. Edition of 50 numbered copies (29,7 x 42 cm, 76 p). Price: € 100.