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The essence of a Typographer

Niclaes Mollijns: Antwerp-Riga

This guest exhibition by the National Library of Latvia brings together books printed by the first publisher to print books in Riga (Latvia): Niclaes Mollijns (c. 1550–1625). He was born in Antwerp as the son of Jan I Mollijns, an established woodcutter and publisher. Before he moved to Riga in the 1580s, Niclaes worked as an apprentice in the printing office of Christophe Plantin.  


Did you know that the first printer of Riga (Latvia) was born in Antwerp? Niclaes Mollijns started his career as an apprentice at the printing office of Christophe Plantin. He then went on to introduce the long-awaited printing press to the region of Livonia, today’s Latvia.  

The guest exhibition by the National Library of Latvia showcases the works that Niclaes Mollijns printed in Antwerp and Riga. The selection from the National Library of Latvia and the Museum Plantin-Moretus offers a glimpse into Mollijns’ world, his work and typographical preferences. It provides a deeper insight into the woodcuts he took with him from Antwerp to Riga. 

In 2023, for the first time, Niclaes Mollijns’ work in Antwerp and Riga is exhibited side by side. The exhibition is therefore a true homecoming for his printed oeuvre. For decades, scholars believed that Niclaes Mollijns must have originated from somewhere in the German lands before he moved to Riga. It took until the 1920s for book historians to discover that the Niclaes Mollijns based in Riga was the same printer who was active in Antwerp. 

Even though our knowledge of Mollijns’ career and life is fragmented, the surviving books from his printing office allow us to unveil the essence of his work as a typographer. 


This exhibition was made possible with support from the State Culture Capital Foundation of Latvia (SCCF), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia, the Embassy of the Republic of Latvia to the Kingdom of Belgium, and the Riga City Council. 


Side programme

De Antwerpse oorsprong van de stadsdrukkerij in Riga. De levens en nalevens van Niclaes Mollijns


Beate Orlova vertelt over haar onderzoek naar de in Antwerpen geboren drukker Niclaes Mollijns (ca. 1550-1625). Mollijns neemt met zijn verhuis naar Riga (Letland) ook zijn kennis over het drukkersvak mee.

Museum Plantin-Moretus

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