Printing for Copernicus

About a week ago my friends of The Paper Unicorn asked me whether I would like to bring out the Minion Press, for the official opening of an exhibition about Copernicus.

Location? The St. Walburgis church in Zutphen…

Where did we hear that name before? It must have been last May, when I made this portable version of a chained library…

The Walburgis church is home to one of the few chained libraries left in the world. Sacred ground for a book maniac like me…

Would I like to go there to demonstrate the Minion Press? – Hell yeah!

So we travelled to Zutphen, set up the press (under the most impressive chandelier I’ve ever seen) and waited for the events to start. Well, not quite. We took our time to explore the massive and beautiful church. And pay a visit to its intellectual heart: the Librije. A 16th century chained library, one of the first public libraries in the world.

It isn’t allowed to take pictures inside the library, but it was a fantastic experience to see the lecterns with rows of books. The intricate woodcarvings on the stands and benches. Loads of inspiration.

We found out that our attempt at making a small reconstruction for living history events and exhibitions is almost spot on. Especially when we look at how the chains are fastened.

In the middle of the library was a very special book; Nicolas Copernicus’ “Revolutionibus orbium coelestium”, about the tracks of the planets in our solar system. Copernicus was the first in our modern age to propose heliocentrism instead of geocentrism. Or to say that the sun is in the middle of the solar system, not earth. This could have brought him in great trouble with the church, were it not that he got the first print of his book on his death bed… But the Catholic church did place it on the index of prohibited books.

Standing under the most impressive chandelier I have ever seen: made in 1398!

The Librije is in posession of a beautiful first edition copy, which is regarded the best preserved example in the world.

It’s very special to stand so close to one of the most important scientific works in history. Even though it wasn’t completely right yet, (Kepler would correct some of the flaws), it was  one of the products of the enlightenment. A force of curiosity and exploration that went through Europe at the end of the middle ages, and eventually stopped them. It speaks to me in a sense that I have always been advocating science and the use of reason, rather than preconceived notions and teachings of doubtful origins, like the church. Believing can be fine, but knowing something for sure is better… We’ve come a long way since the times of Copernicus. But even now we have crazy idiots like the flat earth society and other regressive intellectual groups. It even seems they gained in popularity over the last years. Something causing a lot of face-palm moments, but also showing the relevance of the exhibition.

Opening the exhibit

The opening festivities of the exhibition was a true celebration of science. With lectures and speeches. After which the ambassador of Poland made the official opening gesture by printing a Copernicus quote on the press…

After which all visitors could make their own print of this quote…

Ter Apel

It was a wonderful evening. And a very nice preamble for next weekend, when we will attend the Medieval festival at Ter Apel in Groningen. Again with the Paper Unicorn. We will help people to make their own book. Printing the pages at the press, folding the quires and binding it, to make a complete book about book making.

We hope to meet you there on the 1st and 2nd of September!


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