Estienne, Étienne [key], family of Parisian and Genevan printers of the 16th and 17th cent., distinguished through five generations in scholarship as well as in their craft.
The first of the line was Henri Estienne, d. 1520, who was by 1502 established as a printer in Paris. Before his death more than 100 books, some of them of great typographic beauty, had issued from his press. His foreman, Simon de Colines, succeeded him and married his widow.
Some years later, probably in 1526, Henri's son, Robert Estienne, b. 1498 or 1503, d. 1559, took over his father's shop, and Colines then founded a new establishment. Robert, a capable scholar, devoted himself to printing only scholarly works, many of which he himself edited. He put out editions of classical authors, dictionaries and lexicons, and, more especially, critical editions of the Bible. He enjoyed the favor of Francis I and became king's printer for Latin, Hebrew, and Greek. The printer's mark used by him, the Olive Tree, was apparently designed by Geofroy Tory, who is said to have been a proofreader for the elder Estienne; some of the Estienne types were designed by Claude Garamond. Robert Estienne, a thorough humanist, upheld the cause of the Reformation.
Long-continued attacks upon him by the faculty of the Univ. of Paris and by political opponents of the king caused him to move to Geneva in 1550. He set up a press there and continued to print books until his death. His own Latin dictionary, Thesaurus linguae Latinae (1531), probably compiled with the aid of other scholars, is a monumental work. His grammatical treatises on French are also of great importance.
One of Robert's brothers, François Estienne, d. 1553, was of minor importance as a bookseller, but another brother, Charles Estienne, c.1504–1564, succeeded Robert in the management of the Paris establishment in 1551. Educated in medicine and skilled in classical learning, Charles wrote many works on medicine, agriculture, and other subjects. A number of his books were printed by his brother, Robert, and by his stepfather, Colines. Among his best-known works are an encyclopedia, one of the earliest appearing in France, a treatise on dissection, and Praedium rusticum, which appeared later in English editions.
The second Henri Estienne, 1531?–1598, the greatest scholar of the family, was one of Robert's sons. He inherited his father's press on the express condition that it should not be moved from Geneva. He was a well-trained scholar and devoted years to searching for manuscripts. Although humanism was far advanced, he, nevertheless, discovered numerous works of classical authors of which he issued first editions. His editions of Greek and Latin works are remarkable for their accuracy and textual criticism. The greatest monument to his scholarship is, perhaps, his Thesaurus Graecae linguae (1572).
Henri also championed the use of the French language and wrote valuable treatises on the French tongue and on French grammar; the most important is La Precellence du langage françois (1579), in spite of its gross errors in philology. His satirical Apologie pour Herodote (1566) brought him trouble with the Consistory of Geneva, and after the publication of Deux Dialogues du nouveau langage françois italianizé (1578) he went to France to escape censure in Geneva. He was imprisoned for a short time on his return and afterward became a wandering scholar. The books he printed did not equal those of his father in typographic beauty. He marks, however, the highest point of the family's career, although the Estiennes continued prominent as printers until late in the 17th cent.
See M. Pattison, The Estiennes (1949).
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