© E. Sergysels
In the immediate vicinity of the Pavillon des Arts Décoratifs stood the Pavillon des Arts Graphiques, which housed the general instruments and processes of the arts, sciences and literature. With a surface area of approximately 2000 m2, its height was proportionate to the objects on display, whose limited dimensions required an intimate setting. It was designed by the architect Fernand Petit; the frescoes and stained glass windows in the halls were based on cartoons by the painter Armand Paulis; the sculptor Bernard Callie created two allegorical figures for the garden: "Inspiration" and "Thought".
The different classes were divided as follows: a first group was composed of paper, as a vehicle for the manifestations of the Arts and Sciences; printing; bookselling; photography and its industrial applications. It occupied two large halls accessible from Astrid Avenue through two circular entrances, the sides of which were reserved for the Press; between these two halls, the office instruments class occupied the centre of the upper part of the pavilion, the sloping ground having ordered the arrangement in three levels.
For each of these classes, the most modern equipment and the most sophisticated accessories illustrated the progress made by national industry. Typographic and lithographic work, photomechanics, rotogravure and bookbinding attracted attention. The Salon de la Presse Belge, meticulously arranged, showed the public the leading role played by our press in the economic life of the country. There was also eloquent documentation on the resistance to the occupying forces during the war and issues of the first newspapers published after the armistice. An interesting collection of foil cutters, photographs of the founders of the General Association of the Belgian Press and a series of illustrated documents on the history of the dynasty completed this attractive exhibition.
The Book Section, in which the main Belgian publishing houses were represented, included a very rich and varied collection: school books, atlases, picture books, artistically bound books, books for everyday use; semi-luxury and luxury editions, missals and prayer books, all different aspects of publishing, both French and Flemish.
On the middle floor were the precision instruments and surgery sections, grouped around a rotunda containing the gondola of the aerostat in which Messrs Piccard and Cosyns made their journey into the mysterious regions of the stratosphere.
The lower landing was given over to the exhibition of coins and medals, where working machines struck artistic tokens commemorating the Exhibition and 50 franc coins.
A covered gallery ran the length of the building, surrounding a picturesque green grove.
The whole of this Pavilion allowed visitors to appreciate the importance of publishing in our country, whose origins go back a long way; for if Gutenberg is the inventor of the printing typeface, Belgium, through its illustrious children Thierry Martens of Aalst and Jean Britto of Bruges, can claim a large share in the first dissemination of thought through the printed book, the successor to the handwritten book.
"The art and craft of printing achieved a high reputation in the old Netherlands during the 16th and 17th centuries, to which the glory of Christopher Plantin and his emulators is the most striking testimony.
In the 19th century, publishing in Belgium experienced a period of great prosperity.
The absence of international copyright regulations made it perfectly legal to reproduce works of the mind without the author's permission: counterfeiting of the works of French authors made the fortune of Belgian printers and publishers from 1815 to 1845.
After this period, the book industry had to adapt to new conditions: printing, working for export, developed to the detriment of publishing.
In 1840, 760 new works were published in Belgium. In 1880, this figure reached 1176, and in 1913, 3,245.
Then came the war period, when production was almost nil. In 1919, a recovery was felt with 2302 works. Since then, this figure has remained more or less constant.
When in 1880 the "Bibliographie Nationale" drew up an inventory of our intellectual production during the first half-century of our independence, it noted 80,000 titles. After that date and especially from 1900 to 1914, production increased: 72,926 titles were noted for the period 1881 to 1914.
Without neglecting any technical progress, our printing works have never abandoned the search for quality, and a whole school of talented illustrators has provided national publishing with remarkable works.
Modern illustration processes are infinitely varied: heliogravure, offset, letterpress, watercolour inks, all different working methods that have given illustration a prodigious development.
As for the Belgian press, its traditions are no less ancient and the role it has played in national activity no less considerable.
In 1457, the first printers in Mainz and Strasbourg published the important news of the war against the Turks on loose sheets. In 1563 the "Notizie Seritte" published in Venice were paid for with a "gazetta", a Venetian coin, hence the name "gazette", which extended to all newspapers.
In 1619, Abraham Verhoeven of Antwerp published his "Antwerpsche Tijdingen" almost regularly.
In France, the first newspaper was the "Mercure français", which existed from 1644 to 1825; then came the "Gazette de France", founded in 1672 by Théophraste Renaudot.
In Belgium "De Gazet van Gent" still appears daily and has been in existence for 266 years.
The General Association of the Belgian Press is the moral, organic and duly qualified representation of the country's daily press. Five regional sections ensure its influence in the nine provinces. A sixth section, the Union de la Presse Etrangère (Union of Foreign Press), brings together all professional journalists, correspondents of the major newspapers of the two continents.
In order to ensure the civil existence of these organisations and to defend the professional and social interests of the members of the organisation, a professional Union of the Belgian Press has been set up, which owns a Press House, manages the Unemployment Fund, the joint purchasing office, publishes the professional periodical bulletin "Le Journaliste", as well as the Directory of the Belgian Press.
In close collaboration with the Belgian Press Association, the owners, directors and publishers of newspapers have formed the Entente des Directeurs de journaux de Bruxelles and the Fédération des Directeurs des journaux de province.
While maintaining close friendly relations, journalists are also grouped according to their political affinities: the Association of Catholic Journalists, the Association of Liberal Journalists and the Union of Socialist Journalists.
Finally, we should mention the solidarity and mutual aid organisations; the conciliation and disciplinary council; the Institute for Journalists with its permanent courses and the various specialised groups acting under the aegis of the General Association.
The photographic industry came into being around 1880. Before that time photographers had to prepare their own plates and paper, and it was not until long afterwards that they abandoned this technique in favour of the gelatino-bromide emulsion.
The war, by creating new applications for photography, allowed it to flourish: the manufacture of fast emulsions; panchromatic emulsions; emulsions sensitized to infrared radiation; advances in microphotography and aerial and astronomical photography; the development of radiography, all of which are diverse aspects of the activity of this industry.
At the same time, it created a range of papers to meet the most stringent requirements: papers of different shades, tinted supports; papers for the reproduction of documents; papers for the recording of oscillations (used in electrocardiography); radiographic papers, reversible papers, etc.
The use of precision equipment for testing emulsions and the raw materials used in their composition quickly became widespread. The sensitometer and the spectrograph, previously reserved for research laboratories, were definitively introduced into control laboratories. The stalagmometer (apparatus for measuring surface tension), the ionometer, the microscope and several other precision devices rendered and still render invaluable services every day.
The photographic industry has thus resolutely embarked on the path of rational techniques whose field of application continues to expand.
© Le Livre d'Or de l'Exposition Universelle de Bruxelles 1935