Plantin, Christophe°

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PLANTIN, CHRISTOPHE ° (c. 1520–1589), French humanist printer and publisher. Plantin, who was born near Tours, learned the book trade in Normandy and Paris. His Protestant sympathies led him in 1549 to the more congenial atmosphere of Antwerp in the Spanish Netherlands, where he devoted himself to fine printing from about 1555 onward. Plantin was, after Daniel *Bomberg, the outstanding 16th-centuryx Christian printer of Hebrew books. By 1576 he operated 22 presses and was the leading printer-publisher of northern Europe. Following the "Spanish Fury" of 1576, he spent some years in France and Holland, eventually returning to Antwerp, where he died.

Plantin's greatest publishing achievement was the eight volume "Antwerp Polyglot," Biblia Sacra hebraice, chaldaice, graece et latine… (1568–72), an improved and expanded version of the first Complutensian Bible (Alcalà de Henares, 1514–17). The undertaking received the Vatican's approval in 1568 owing to fears of a rival project by Immanuel *Tremellius, a Jewish convert to Protestantism. The four volumes devoted to the Old Testament included revised texts of the Targums, and a Latin translation; the fifth covered the New Testament; and the last three volumes constituted the Apparatus Sacer, which included pioneering lexicons of Syriac and Aramaic. The introduction to the first volume, inspired by the prefaces to Daniel Bomberg's second Rabbinic Bible (1525), contains interesting Hebrew panegyrics by Benito *Arias Montano, Guy *Le Fèvre de la Boderie, and Gilbert Génébrard (one of the Polyglot's obliging censors). From every aspect, the work was a masterpiece of Bible scholarship, typography, and illustration. Hebrew punches were either especially cut by Guillaume *Le Bé or provided by the Bombergs. Of the 1,200 copies printed, 12 sets on vellum were prepared for Philip ii of Spain, who made Plantin his Architypographer Royal, but never furnished the sum promised for naming the Bible in his honor. The "Antwerp Polyglot" was speedily denounced by Spanish obscurantists, who objected to its philological, rabbinic, and kabbalistic preoccupations, but it was cleared of suspicion in 1580. Plantin also printed Hebrew Bibles for export to Jewish communities in North Africa (1567) and may have issued the anonymous Hebrew prayer book which appeared in Antwerp c. 1577. His descendants maintained the press until 1875, when the Antwerp municipality transformed it into the present-day Plantin-Moretus Museum – a unique monument to Renaissance printing and publishing.


C. Clair, Christopher Plantin (Eng., 1960); M. Rooses, Christophe Plantin, imprimeur anversois (1882); idem, Correspondance de Christophe Plantin (1883–84); S.H. Steinberg, Five Hundred Years of Printing (1955), index; Gedenkboek der Plantin-Dagen 1555–1955 (1956); F. Secret, in: Sefarad, 18 (1958), 121–8; G.E. Silverman, in: jc (Jan. 8, 1960); B. Rekers, Benito Arias Montano 1527–1598… (1961); I.S. Revah, in: rej, 2 (1963), 123–47.

[Godfrey Edmond Silverman]