Exhibition Text is Not Our Type. Photo by Reinis Hofmanis

From today, January 18, the National Library of Latvia will host the exhibition Text is Not Our Type, which highlights the interaction between book design, people, and technology. The exhibition is one of the central events of the 500 Years of Latvian Books celebrations this year.

Stories Editorial January 18, 2024

A book has always been more than just a text. The exhibition Text is Not Our Type focuses on its materiality and form resilience throughout the centuries, looking at the basic principles of typography, layout, and text readability, which have been established in the 15th and 16th centuries and which have still preserved their importance today. The exhibition features publications by Nicolaus Mollyn (c. 1550/1555–1625), the first book printer in Riga, and his teacher, Christophe Plantin (c. 1520–1589), an eminent European printer and publisher, from the collection of the NLL. They present the tradition of book printing of the 16th century, reveal Mollyn’s connection with book printing and publishing in Western Europe, and emphasise the importance of knowledge transfer. The historic part of the exhibition is combined with an insight into today’s challenges: the printing industry continues to develop in the 21st century along with new technologies, digitalisation, and changing wishes of readers.


From Gutenberg’s printing revolution to the changes introduced by Apple Macintosh, the scenography of the exhibition was inspired by 1980s video games, bringing visitors to a world that reveals the principles of book design in an interactive way through animation, installation, and video. The exhibition also features a work by the book designer Aleksejs Muraško, a publication that was created as a graphic experiment and includes references to book design and layout trends throughout several centuries.


The core of the exhibition’s team includes Ineta Vaivode, curator and project manager; Madara Lesīte–Volmane, designer; and Beāte Orlova, collection expert of the NLL Lettonica and Baltic Centre, who continue the research line of the NLL guest exhibition The Essence of a Typographer. Nicolaus Mollyn: Riga–Antwerp at the Museum Plantin–Moretus (Antwerp, Belgium) in 2023. The teaching staff of the Art Academy of Latvia and the Riga State Technical School also participated in the preparation of the exhibition. In cooperation with the Association of Latvian Printing Companies, there is a selection of contemporary Latvian books displayed in the public area on the 5th floor of the NLL. The exhibition will be complemented by a programme of events—readings, the pedagogical programme of the museum, and excursions under the guidance of the exhibition organisers. Furthermore, in cooperation with Riga State Technical School, an ambitious project was carried out: a carefully designed copy of Christophe Plantin’s printing press of the 16th century, based on the drawings of the Museum Plantin–Moretus.


The exhibition will be on view free of charge in the Exhibition Hall on the 5th floor of the National Library of Latvia until August 30, 2025. The exhibition was created as part of the 500 Years of Latvian Books programme with the support of the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Latvia and the State Culture Capital Foundation, as well as companies Jelgava Printing House and Arctic Paper.