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An itinerary of the oldest printing presses in Europe


Printing is almost indispensable in our daily lives. When it comes to understanding its historical importance, as well as its technical development over the centuries, travellers have a large number of interesting alternatives to investigate the origins of one of the most revolutionary inventions created by man.

The starting point should be the Gutenberg Museum, dedicated to the honour of Johannes Gutenberg, a German goldsmith who went down in history after inventing our modern movable type printing in the mid-15th century. Located in front of the cathedral in the old town of Mainz (Germany), the museum opened its doors in 1900, commemorating the 500th anniversary of the birth of the famous printer. As well as explaining the technical and artistic achievements of Gutenberg himself, the museum's several collections include printing equipment and printed materials from many cultures around the world.

The next destination could be the Plantin-Moretus Museum in Antwerp (Belgium), focusing on the printing establishment founded and run by Cristophe Plantin in the 16th century. At that time, the Belgian city was one of the main exit and entry points for all kinds of raw materials and manufactured goods in Europe, which helps us to understand how it ended up becoming a first-rate intellectual centre. Its museum preserves the two oldest presses in the world but also machinery and tools closely related to the printing process, as well as an impressive library of over 25,000 old printed works.

Further south, the Museum of Printing and Graphic Arts of the Community of Valencia stands out, located in the city of Valencia capital itself. Here visitors can enjoy a complete historical journey through the world of printing, with such significant attractions as an exact copy of the wooden machinery used by people such as Lambert Palmart, Jacob Vizlant and Gutenberg himself. A Stanhope press from the early 19th century, in perfect condition, is also worth a visit.

Finally, Valldemossa is another place of great interest. The Guasp Collection, located in one of the halls at the Charterhouse of Valldemossa, is of particular importance thanks to its large number of woodblocks used for printing, as well as their chronological, stylistic and thematic variety. A perfectly preserved 17th-century press not only makes this Mallorcan collection one of the most spectacular on the European continent but also means that La Cartoixa must be included on this fascinating itinerary.

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