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oude drukpersen in Museum Plantin-Moretus foto: Ans Brys

The world's two oldest printing presses

Printing led to a huge increase in the speed of communication. The two oldest printing presses in the world bear witness to this process. They were built around 1600, and can be admired in the Museum Plantin-Moretus, more than four centuries later.

The two oldest printing presses in the world are the earliest witnesses of a landmark moment in history: the invention of printing. These presses can be found in the Museum Plantin-Moretus. Their presence alone makes a visit to the Museum Plantin-Moretus well worth your while.

The printing shop was the very heart of the business. At the time of Christophe Plantin himself (around 1575), there were at least 16 presses. The business had 56 employees, and was the largest of its kind in the world at that time.

The oldest printing presses in the world

A total of seven printing presses stand in the printing hall, five of which are still in working order. The two oldest (and most battered) presses are ‘retired’. They date from around 1600, making them the oldest printing presses in the world.

1,250 sheets per day

Which members of the family of printers would have been familiar with these presses? Definitely Plantin’s son-in-law Jan I Moretus, and perhaps Plantin himself too. These presses printed 1,250 sheets on both sides per day. An average working day lasted 14 hours. For a long time, printers were paid piece-rate wages. It was therefore in their interest to put in long hours and print as many sheets as possible.

Museum Plantin-Moretus

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