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Estienne family

The Oxford Companion to the Book

Estienne family (Stephanus family) 

The greatest family of French scholar-printers. The Estiennes’ activities span 162 years, from 1502 to 1664, during which five generations of the family produced nearly 2,000 editions. The founder of the dynasty, Henri Estienne I (d. 1520), established himself as a printer and bookseller in 1502 by marrying the widow of his former employer, Johann Higman. In association with Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples, leader of the humanist movement in France, Estienne pursued a programme of academic printing. Henri’s son Robert (1503–59) was appointed royal printer in Greek and occupies a major place in the history of typography; as a scholar he left a permanent mark on lexicography, thanks to his pioneering Latin Thesaurus (1531), as well as on classical and biblical scholarship. In 1550 Robert issued the first critical edition of the Greek Testament, recording variants from fifteen MSS. These variant readings brought him into conflict with the Sorbonne, resulting in his eventual flight to Geneva, where he transferred his business and embraced Calvinism. Robert’s son Henri II (1531–98) made a name for himself early by publishing the *editio princeps of Anacreon (1554). Soon thereafter Henri joined his father in Geneva, setting up his own press with financial backing from Ulrich Fugger, a member of the Augsburg banking family. Henri Estienne’s most lasting contributions were made in the field of Greek studies, through his numerous editions of ancient Greek authors, the most important of which is the great Plato edition (1578), whose numbering system still provides the universally accepted system of reference to the Platonic text. Henri’s greatest scholarly achievement was his monumental Greek Thesaurus (1572), which has still not been replaced, and has contributed considerably to immortalizing the Estienne, or ‘Stephanus’ name.

Fred Schreiber


E. Armstrong, Robert Estienne Royal Printer, rev. edn (1986)Find this resource:

    F. Schreiber, The Estiennes (1982)Find this resource: