October 15

In a report read before the full Faculty of the University of Paris, on October 15, 1532 the censors discussed the bible printed by Robert Estienne in “round character,” i.e. roman type, and stated that they “did not observe that anything had been altered in the text used by the Church.” Estienne was therefore allowed to proceed with the sale of his great Latin Vulgate Bible. This was the first instance on record of a series of annoyances to Estienne, all of which questioned his religious faith in the publication of theological works. The printer could very well have resorted to the printing of simple texts or other secular works, but in the tradition of great scholar printers, he chose to produce instead editions of the New Testament in Greek, a Latin lexicon, and works in Hebrew.

All of this activity brought him to the attention of the censors of the University, prompted by an assiduous approach to the Papal Bull Exsurge Domine of June 15, 1520, which forbade the faithful to read, print, or sell books containing the Lutheran errors therein condemned. For twenty-five years Estienne was so persecuted by the Paris theologians that he finally removed himself and his printing office to Geneva, saying, “If I must print nothing but under the censure of the Sorbonne, I must have abandoned letters and confined myself to the Summa of Mandreston, the Logic of Enzinas, the Morals of Angest, the Physics of Major.”

However, such was the magnificence of his editions both as examples of the printer’s art and of scholarly achievement, that he was appointed Typographus Regius, or Printer to the King, by Francis I in 1539. In his appointment the King did not consult the clergy at the University, and therefore, for the first time in the case of a King’s Printer, Estienne did not occupy a chair at that institute of learning, nor was he ever invited to do so. Apparently Estienne was not concerned by this restriction, as he believed that the professors, the King’s Library, and learned printing were all complementary to each other. He wrote of this in 1542 in praising the King’s interest in learning:

“In the first place, offering rich renumeration, he has appointed as Masters of the best arts and studies in this University (the greatest in the world, to which all resort for study from every part) great scholars. . . . Then he has at great cost furnished and is daily furnishing a noble library of every kind of book, Hebrew, Greek and Latin, so that therein he has surpassed the efforts of the Kings Ptolemy and Eumenis; for . . . far from grudging to anyone the records of ancient writers which he at great and truly royal cost has procured from Italy and Greece, he intends to put them at the disposal and service of all men. With this in mind he has ordered that new and accurately copied forms of letters should be cut by distinguished craftsmen, in all the languages above-mentioned so that, by this method of writing, born and invented within the last hundred years, every excellent book—multiplied in any number of copies—might come into all men’s hands.”

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