Oporinus, John

, a famous German printer, was born at Basil, Jan. 25, 1507. His father, John Herbst, was a painter; who had been deserted by his father for attachment to his art, and had settled at Basil in very indifferent circumstances. He contrived, however, to give his son some education at home, and afterwards sent him to Strasbourg, where he received the provision allotted to poor students. Here he studied Latin and Greek, and spoke and wrote the former with purity and fluency. With these accomplishments he would have returned home, but having no prospect of employment there, he went to the abbey of St. Urban, in the Canton of Lucerne, and was appointed master of the school. In this house, he formed an intimacy with the canon Xylotectus, who afterwards quitted his preferment, became a protestant, and married. Oporinus, also disliking a monastic life, followed his friend to Basil, and gained a livelihood by transcribing the works of the Greek authors published by Frobenius. On the death of his friend Xylotectus, he married his widow in 1527, a woman of a capricious temper, who rendered his life very uneasy. He had been for some time appointed schoolmaster here, but exchanged an employment of much drudgery and little reward for the study of medicine, which he hoped would be more profitable. The noted Paracelsus was at this time at Basil, and engaged to teach him all the secrets of his art within the space of a year. Oporinus, rejoiced at the prospect of becoming as wise as his master, willingly submitted to be his pupil, his servant, his | amanuensis, and bore with all his eccentricities with great patience, accompanying him even to Alsace, until finding that he was egregiously duped by this quack, he returned to Basil, to encounter another disappointment. His wife died, from whom he expected great riches, but she left him only debts.

About this time Grynaeus, the Greek professor at Basil, and an intimate friend of Oporinus, procured him to be appointed one of the professors, and he gave a course of lectures on the lives of Plutarch; but, the governors of that republic obliging all the professors in their university to take the degree of M. A. Oporinus, who was then past thirty, refused to submit to the usual examination, resigned his office, and took up the trade of a printer. In this business he joined in partnership with Robert Winter, and changed his family name of Herbst, according to the humour of several learned men at that time, for Oporinus, a Greek word, signifying Autumn as Winter also, for the same reason, took that of Chimerinus .*


Those names were apparently assumed, to humour the two following lines in Martial’s Ep. IX. xiii. 1.

"Si daret Autumnus mihi nomen, owci^xof essem

Horrida si Brumre sidera.

The partners, however, met with considerable losses; so that Winter died insolvent; and Oporinus was not able to support himself without the assistance of his friends, in which condition he died July 6, 1568. He had six presses constantly at work, usually employed above fifty men, and published no book which he had not corrected himself. Notwithstanding his great business, he died above 1500 livres in. debt.

As Oporinus understood manuscripts very well, he took care to print none but the best. He left some works of his own, as, “Notae in Plutarchum;” “Polyhistoris scholia in prioraaliqua capita Solini;” “DariiTiberti epitome Vitarum Plutarchiab innumeris mendisrepurgata;” “Scholia in Ciceronis Tusculanas qusestiones;” “Annotationes ex diversis doctorum lucubrationibus collectae in Demosthenis orationes;” “Propriorum nominum Onomasticon.” He also made notes to some authors, and large tables of contents to others; as Plato, Aristotle, Pliny, &c. and several letters of his may be seen in a collection of letters printed at Utrecht in 1697. An account of his life was | written by Andrew Lociscus, in an oration, “De vita et obitu Oporini.1


Chaufepie.—Portraits des hommes illustres de la Suisse, par Meister.—Niceron, vol. XXVII.