Robert Estienne

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Robert I Estienne (Paris 1503 – Geneva, 7 September 1559), known as Robertus Stephanus in Latin[1] and also referred to as Robert Stephens by 18th and 19th-century English writers, was a 16th century printer and classical scholar in Paris. He was a former Catholic who became a Protestant late in his life and the first to print the Bible divided into standard numbered verses.



Robert was the second son of the famous humanist printer Henri Estienne (the Elder) and became acquainted early on with ancient languages. After Henri's death in 1520 the printing establishment was maintained by his former partner Simon de Colines who also married Robert's mother, the widow Estienne. In 1526 Robert assumed control of his father's printing shop while de Colines established his own firm nearby.[2] [3]

In 1539 Robert adopted as his device an olive branch around which a serpent was twined, and a man standing under an olive-tree, with grafts from which wild branches were falling to the ground, with the words of Romans 11:20, Noli altum sapere, sed time… ("Be not high-minded, but fear.") The latter was called the olive of the Stephens family.

In 1539, he received the distinguishing title of "Printer in Greek to the king." But the official recognition and the crown's approval to his undertaking could not save him from the censure and ceaseless opposition of the divines, and in 1550, to escape the violence of his persecutors, he emigrated to Geneva where he set up his printing house.

With his title of "royal typographer" Estienne made the Paris establishment famous by his numerous editions of grammatical works and other school-books (among them many of Melanchthon's), and of old authors, as Dio Cassius, Eusebius of Caesarea, Cicero, Sallust, Julius Caesar, Justin, Socrates Scholasticus, and Sozomen. Many of these, especially the Greek editions (which were printed with typefaces made by Claude Garamond), were famous for their typographical elegance.

In 1532, he published the remarkable Thesaurus linguae latinae, and twice he published the entire Hebrew Bible — "one with the Commentary of Kimchi on the minor prophets, in 13 vols. 4to (quarto) (Paris, 1539-43), another in 10 vols. 16mo (sextodecimo) (ibid. 1544-46)."[4] Both of these editions are rare.

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