June 20

Robert Estienne the Paris printer, published on June 20, 1536 Seminarium, written by his brother Charles,a professor of Greek. This volume was but one of thirteen edited and printed by Estienne between the end of April and the end of September of that year. During a twenty-five year period the great scholar-printer printed some 465 editions of which thirty-nine were in folio, making up to fifty-two volumes. Estienne was not only concerned with the printing of learned data, but he served also as editor and publisher, securing a well-deserved reputation for the authenticity of his texts.

The poet John Dorat composed in 1538 a pseudo-Horatian poem describing Estienne’s methods of working:

I then, in hopes my business next to do,
Admir’d the town,admir’d its sages too,
Then swift to Robert at his house repair’d,
To speak with him concerning it prepar’d.
Once at his door, my suit knew no delay,
His ready servants brought me in straight way,
There, amid volumes open lying round
(A portly flock) the man himself I found,
Intent (to further wholesome learning’s state)
Errors to purge and lines to punctuate;
Pallas the while, his judgment to inspire,
(As to Tydides in his combats dire)
Behind him stood his counsellor to be
Andall his works with her did well agree;
The footnote to supply with ease and skill,
The great lacuna learnedly to fill.
Some matter from the proof-sheet to delete,
Or what was else for the occasion meet.
Me, when he saw that I towards him came,
He greeted, ask’d my business and my name.
Speechless I stood, quite seiz’d with awe to see
The sage companions of his industry,
Noted for civil learning—all their care
The copy for the presses to prepare. . . .
More favor added, for he offer’d straight
To take me in his house, in company
With men of learning and authority;
And more the liberal printer will’d to give—
Upon his substance, in his home, to live:
What fair resort! O Jove, what noble sphere,
And most to the devoted scholar dear:
What does he hear along the cheerful board?
Among the foaming cups, with one accord? . . .
What, but the purity of Latin speech
In rev’rend elegance pronounc’d by each?
His wife, his handmaids, and his clients too,
His children (lively band) hold speech with you
Habitually in no other way
Than Terence or than Plautus in a play.

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