Jan Moretus and the Continuation of the Plantin Press. A Bibliography of the Works Published and Printed by Jan Moretus I in Antwerp (1589–1610), written by Dirk Imhof

in Journal of Jesuit Studies

Bibliotheca Bibliographica Neerlandica Series Maior, Volume 3. Leiden: Brill | hes & De Graaf, 2015. Pp. lxxxv + 1011. Hb, 350 Euros/$453.

Between 1980 and 1983, Leon Voet published in six volumes the bibliography of the works printed and published by the famous Christopher Plantin (1520–1589) at Antwerp and Leiden (Amsterdam: Van Hoeve, 1980–1983). Now, more than thirty years later, a similar bibliography by Dirk Imhof is dedicated to Jan Moretus i (1543–1610), who ran the Plantin Press immediately following Plantin’s death.

The book opens with a thorough biography of Jan Moretus, whose family name originally was Moerentorf. Moretus, involved in the operation of the Officina Plantiniana from the very beginning (about 1558), knew Greek, Latin, Spanish, Italian, French, German, and Flemish. In 1570, he married Martine, Plantin’s second daughter. Both Plantin and his son-in-law took the radical Hendrik Jansen van Barrefelt as their spiritual guide. Many years later, Barrefelt helped to solve the conflict over the inheritance of Christopher Plantin, who wanted Jan Moretus to be the only heir of the press.

The Moretus family was on good terms with the Jesuits. As early as 1593, the Flemish provincial had decided that books should be published exclusively by Moretus i. The eldest son of Jan Moretus and Martine Plantin, Melchior, studied at the Jesuit college in Douai, and had plans to join the Society, which refused to accept him because of his allegedly troubled mind. Theodorus (1602–1667), son of Jan’s brother, Peter Moretus, and Plantin’s youngest daughter Henriette, did join the Society, and became a noted mathematician in Prague. Another relative with Jesuit connections was Jan’s cousin on the maternal side, Peter Gras, SJ (1555–1613), who was very helpful in personal matters as well as in the book business.

The biography is followed by a chapter on the characteristics of Jan Moretus’s editions. By the end of his life, he had raised the number of working presses to seven, far fewer than the sixteen of Plantin during his peak years, but nevertheless the largest in the Southern Netherlands, and one of the largest in the whole of Europe. Moretus produced 702 editions, an average of nearly thirty-two per year, along with 554 broadsheets of announcements by the city of Antwerp. Considered by subject, 49.15 % of Moretus’s editions concerned religion (345, among them 124 liturgical editions and prayer books); 11.68 % history (82); 10.68 % humanism and literature (75); 7.83 % government publications (55); 7.69 % classical authors (54); 7.41 % language studies (52); and so on.

Jan Moretus published a number of very popular devotional works by prominent Jesuits, which were often reprinted and translated into several languages. These included the Manuale catholicorum by Peter Canisius (published three times in Latin, five times in French, and five times in Dutch), and the Libellus sodalitatis by Franciscus Costerus (published four times in Latin, once in French, and twice in Dutch). Jan David was the first of a long series of Jesuits to have an emblem book (with many engravings) printed in Antwerp. David was also the author of a literary work in the vernacular, Lot van wiisheyd ende goed geluck (1606). Since some Jesuits found Moretus’s editions too costly and too slow to appear, Moretus lost his monopoly for the printing of books for the Society’s schools to his Antwerp colleague Joachim Trognesius. There are many more books by Jesuit authors that Jan Moretus published over the years, e.g. catalogues for the Jesuit colleges of Antwerp, Bruges, Ghent, and Courtrai, of which no copies seem to have survived. The press also produced the works of such prominent members of the Society as (in chronological order) Robert Bellarmine, Luis Frois, Thomas Sailly, Manuel Álvares, Martin Delrio, Carlo Scribani, Jerónimo Nadal, Heribert Rosweyde, and Pedro de Ribadeneyra.

The bibliography presents authors in alphabetical order; each description follows the pattern established by Voet in his Plantin volumes: a biographical note, a short title, a transcription of the title page, the collation of the text, its contents, illustrations (when present), copies, references, and very valuable notes from the Plantin archives. The bibliography is followed by several appendices, such as references to archival documents from the Plantin-Moretus Museum; printer’s devices; an index of names; an alphabetical list of titles (in the headline called “List of anonymous titles”); a chronological list of the editions; editions by language; editions printed for or by others; and editions by subject.

This is an important book, but could have been better had certain data been more complete. First of all, the headlines of the bibliography proper should have given the names of the authors presented on a particular page, instead of mentioning only “BIBLIOGRAPHY” on all 878 pages. When Imhof mentions copies of a publication, he does not provide all shelf numbers, an addition that would have helped researchers considerably. Finally, the important bibliography on Jesuit publications by Alsatian Jesuit Carlos Sommervogel (5) should not be presented as “dbs” (De Backer & Sommervogel), a mistake made very often in bibliographical and historical works; it is the work of Sommervogel alone.

DOI 10.1163/22141332-00204008-08

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Jan Moretus and the Continuation of the Plantin Press. A Bibliography of the Works Published and Printed by Jan Moretus I in Antwerp (1589–1610), written by Dirk Imhof

in Journal of Jesuit Studies

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