Montserrat mountain abbey surpasses 500 years of publishing

Catalonia's iconic site houses one of the oldest publishers in the world alongside Oxford and Cambridge

Abbey of Montserrat Publications Library on February 20, 2022 (by Pere Francesch)
Abbey of Montserrat Publications Library on February 20, 2022 (by Pere Francesch) / Angus Clelland

Angus Clelland | Barcelona

February 21, 2022 03:46 PM

The Abbey of Montserrat has been publishing works continuously for over 500 years, coming into existence with the installation of a printing press in 1499, driven by Abbot Cisneros.

Alongside Oxford and Cambridge, the publishing house is one of the oldest in Europe and, indeed, the world.

Publisher Núria Mañé attributes the organization's longevity to tenacity, contribution to the Catalan society, the ability to adapt and good work.

Talking to the Catalan News Agency (ACN), she added that if, since 1499, neither the Napoleonic wars nor the Spanish Civil War were able to stop the publishing house, neither would Covid-19. "We are confident to continue ahead," she highlighted.

1,000 years of Montserrat Abbey

Montserrat, a mountain around 35km from Barcelona, is a popular tourist spot thanks to its striking appearance, climbing opportunities, hiking trails and of course, its abbey, dating back to the 11th century, which hosts a boys' choir. In 1987 it was designated as an official National Park.

You can find out more about the impressive site in an episiode of our podcast 'Filling the Sink' from May 2021.

"There was a scriptorium [a room devoted to the writing, copying, and illuminating of manuscripts] where manuscripts such as the 'Red Book of Montserrat' were copied, and from 1499 a printing press was installed for prints and bulla seals for pilgrims".

Initially, the abbey centered itself around printing religious and spiritual texts, but in the 20th century it became a modern publishing house that, since the 1970s, has been "picked up its pace" under Josep Massot, the current director.

The publishing house in 2022

The main subjects for publication include history, art, essays, language, literature, religion, music for schools, Catalan courses, walking and children’s books.

It also produces magazines, such as Serra D'Or, known for its literary content; Studia Monastica, featuring research on monasticism; historical magazine Qüestions de Vida Cristiana; as well as children’s magazines.

The size of the archive currently stands between 3,000 and 4,000 titles, split between its headquarters in Barcelona and the Abbey of Montserrat.

Mañé comments that they also publish books about the Abbey itself and Montserrat, in addition to books dedicated to teaching Catalan like the 'Digui, digui' collection and 'A punt', which has a digital interactive version.

The abbey started producing children's literature in 1973 at a time when no other publishing houses printed in Catalan.

To celebrate 500 years of its history the company released 'Five hundred years of publications by the Montserrat Abbey' by Catalan authors and historians Francesc Xaver Altés, Josep Massot and Josep Faulí.