Stephanus, Robert

, the most celebrated printer of this family, was the second son of Henry, and born at Paris in 1503. He had a liberal education, and made very great progress in learning, particularly in the classical languages, and in the Hebrew. After his father’s death he worked for some years in partnership with De Colines, who entrusted him with the care of the business. It was during these years (in 1522) that he published an edition of the New Testament, more correct, and in a more convenient size, than any which had preceded it. It had a | very quick sale, which alarmed the doctors of the Sorbonne, who could not be reconciled to the circulation of a work from which the reformers drew their most powerful arguments; but still they could not find even a plausible pretext for requiring that it should be suppressed, and there-fore concealed their indignation until a more favourable opportunity .*


Maittaire does not mention any edition of the New Testament by R. Stephens, before that of 1541

Robert Stephens married Petronilla, the daughter of the celebrated printer Jodocus Badius, a lady of learned accomplishments. She herself taught Latin to her children and servants, and with such success that there was not a person in Robert’s house who did not understand and speak that language. In 1526, Robert dissolved partnership with de Colines, and set up a printing- establishment of his own in the same part of the city where his father had lived. The first work which issued from his press was Cicero “De Partitionibus Oratoriis,” in 1527; and from that year to his death, there seldom passed a year in which he did not produce some new editions of the classics, superior to all that had preceded, and for the most part enriched with notes and valuable prefaces. So attentive was he to the business of correction, that he used to fix up his proof sheets in some conspicuous place, with offers of reward to those who could detect a blunder. For some time he used the same types with his father and his late partner, but in 1532 he had a new and elegant fount cast, which he first used for his edition of the Latin Bible, dated that year. He, indeed, neglected nothing that could make this a chef-d’oeuvre of the art; and not only collated the text most carefully with two manuscripts, one at St. Germain-des-Pres, and the other at St. Denis, but consulted the ablest divines, sought their advice, and obtained their approbation. But this edition gave his old enemies, the doctors of the Sorbonne, an opportunity to renew their bigoted opposition to the circulation of the Scriptures; and if the king, Francis I. who had a great value for Robert, had not protected him against their violence, he would probably at this time have been obliged to quit his native country. Still the love of peace, and of a quiet life, to execute his undertakings, induced him to submit so far to these gentlemen, that he promised to print no work in future without the consent of the Sorbonne. He soon after published the first edition of his “Thesaurus Linguae | Latinae,” on which he had been employed many years, aided by various learned men; but although he had great success, he never ceased to improve each edition until he made it the first and most correct work of the kind. In 1539 he was appointed king’s printer of Latin and Hebrew; and it was at his suggestion that Francis I. caused those beautiful types to be cast by Garamond, which are still in the royal printing-office of Paris.

These favours, however honourable to the king’s taste and discernment, were ultimately of disadvantage to Robert, by exciting the jealousy of the Sorbonnists, who could not endure that his majesty should bestow his confidence on a man whom they suspected of being unsound in the faith, and therefore sought occasion to convict him of heresy. Grounds for this they thought were to be found in the new edition of the Bible which Robert published in 1545, and which had a double Latin version, and the notes of Vatablus. Leo Juda, well known to be a Zuinglian, was the translator of one of these versions; and they farther alleged that Robert had corrupted the notes of Vatablus. This was, in those days, a serious accusation, and the king had again to interpose between him and his enemies. His majesty died about this time, and Robert, as a mark of gratitude, printed with particular care, Duchatel’s funeral oration on Francis L in which that orator happened to say that the king was “translated from the present life to eternal glory.” This expression, although common in every eulogium of the kind, was now made the subject of an accusation by the Sorbonnists, who asserted that it was contrary to the doctrine of the church respecting purgatory. Robert, therefore, soon perceived that he could no longer depend on the protection he had hitherto received, and after some years struggling against the machinations of his enemies, determined to remove to Geneva with his family. He accordingly took his leave of Paris, and arrived at Geneva in the beginning of 1552. There he printed the same year, in partnership with his brother-in-law Conrad Radius, the New Testament in French. He afterwards set up a printing-house of his own, from which some valuable works issued. He was chosen a burgher of Geneva in 1556, and died there Sept. 7, 1559. Robert is said to have been a man of a firm and decided character; but it has been objected by his popish biographers, that he did not allow that liberty to other* which he | had taken himself, and that he disinherited one of his children for not embracing the reformed religion. Beza, Dorat, and St. Marthe, have given him the highest character. Thuanus places him above Aldus Manutius, and Froben, and asserts that the Christian world was more indebted to him than to all the great conquerors it had produced, and that he contributed more to immortalize the reign of Francis I. than all the renowned actions of that prince. His mark was an olive with branches, and the device, Noli altum sapere, to which sometimes were added the words sed time. The works he executed as King’s printer, are marked with a lance, round which a serpent is entwined, and a branch of olive, and underneath a verse of Homer, “B<nXi raya&ia xgaltfjca r‘ai%/*>iV’” to the good king and the valiant soldier.“All the printers who afterwards were permitted to use the royal Greek types adopted the same emblems. The works which he printed at Geneva are marked only with the olive, and these words, Oliva Roberti Stephani. It was not Robert, however, as has been commonly said, who first divided the Bible into verses, which he is said to have done inter equitandum, while riding from Paris to Lyons. That mode of division had been used in the Latin Bible of Pagninus in 1527, 4to, in the” Psalterium quintuples," 1509, and in other works. Another report concerning him is untrue, namely, that when he left Paris, he carried with him the Greek types belonging to the royal printing-house. The fact seems to have been that the matrices employed in casting those types were already at Geneva, and were the property of the family of Robert, and probably given to him by Francis I.; for when the French clergy in 1619 were about to reprint the Greek fathers, they requested that the king would demand of the state of Geneva the matrices used in casting the Greek types for Francis I. The answer was, that they might be bought for the sum of 3000 livres, to be paid either to the state of Geneva, or to the heirs of Robert Stephens.

Among the finest editions from the press of Robert are, 1. His Hebrew Bibles, 4 vols. 4to, and 8 vols. 16mo. 2. The Latin Bible, 1538 — 40, fol. of which the large paper copies are principally valued. 3. The Greek New Testament, 1530, fol. one of the most beautiful books ever printed; to which may be added the small editions of 1546 and 1549, usually called the O mirifcam, the first two words of the preface. That of 1549 is the most correct. | 4. “Historiae ecclesiastics scriptores, Eusebii preparatio et demonstratio evangelica,” Gr. 1544, 2 vols. fol: this is the first work published with Garamond’s new Greek types. 5. The works of Cicero, Terence, Plautus, &c. &,c. Besides the prefaces and notes with which Robert introduced or illustrated various works, he is deemed the author of the following: 1. “Thesaurus Linguae Latinae,” before mentioned, which has been often reprinted. One of the best of the modern editions is that of London, 1734 5, 4 vols. fol. and the last is Gessner’s, Leipsic, 1749, 4 vols, fol. 2. “Dictionarium Latino-Gallicum,Paris, 1543, 2 vols. fol. He published an abridgment of this for young people. 3. “Ad censuras Theologorum Parisiensium quibus Biblia a Roberto Stephano excusa calumniose notarunr, responsio,Geneva, 1552, 8vo. The same year a French edition of this was published; it forms a very able answer to the calumnies of his enemies the Sorbonnists. 4. “Gallicae grammatices libellus,” ibid. 1558, 8vo, and a “Grammaire Frangaise,1558, 8vo. He intended to have published a commentary on the Bible, and had engaged the assistance of the celebrated divine Marlorat; he also had projected a Greek Thesaurus, but the honour of that work was reserved for his son Henry, to whom he gave what materials he had collected. Robert had several sons, of whom Henry, Robert, and Francis, will be noticed hereafter, and a daughter, Catherine, who was married to Jacquelin, a royal notary of Paris. 1


Maittaire.—Biog. Univ.—Chaufepie.