The Printed Book

by Harry G. Aldis, M.A. Cambridge at the University Press 1916

Scholar Printers of the Sixteenth Century Part 3

The achievements of Aldus were not only recognized by his learned friends and the scholarly world at large, but they also stirred the admiration and emulation of contemporary craftsmen. Aldine editions served as copies for publishers of easy conscience to reprint to pirate, is perhaps too severe a term for a period when the idea of legal property in literature had scarcely been formulated-and they also served as a standard of excellence to be aimed at by the more ambitious printer desirous of attaining fame for his own productions.

On the death of Aldus Greek and Latin verses were composed in his honor by his distinguished contemporary Henri Estienne, who, during the first two decades of the sixteenth century, shared with Jodocus Badius Ascensius the honors of Paris printing. Many of the books which Badius published contain a preface from his own pen. In one of these he declares it to be his aim to emulate the laudable exactness of Aldus; and the reputation for correctness which his impressions acquired made it the desire of the foremost scholars of his day that their books should bear his imprint. During his busy career of thirty-three years (1503-35) he printed more than seven hundred books, including almost all the Latin classics and a number of important contemporary works. Many of these bear on the title page his well-known device of a printing press at work, with the legend Prelum Ascensianum affixed to it.

Henri Estienne, or, in the Latin form of the name, Henrlcus Stephanus, was the first of a celebrated family of typographers who exercised their art in the French capital for more than a century and a half. He, also, was famed for the accuracy of his editions. After his death, in 1520, Simon de Colines, who married his widow, carried on the business until 1526, when it was handed over to Robert, Henri Estienne's second son. This Robert was not only, the most distinguished member of the family both for scholarship and for the importance of his publications, but is, perhaps, the most eminent in the whole list of French printers. His family circle included several scholars who were engaged in the editorial work of the press; and Latin is said to have become the ordinary language of the household from cellar to garret.

At this period the cause of learning and letters in France owed much to the patronage of King Francis I, but nothing at all to the opposition of the theologians of the Sorbonne, whose antipathy to the new learning was so bigoted that in 1533 they endeavored to persuade the King to interdict altogether the practice of the art of printing in France. Robert Estienne, whose editions of the Bible and other books which favored the spread of knowledge and enlightenment brought him into conflict with the champions of ignorance, received encouragement and protection at the hands of the sovereign, and in 1539 he was nominated printer to the king in Hebrew and Latin.