Henri Estienne

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Revision as of 23:12, 16 August 2019

Henri Estienne (1528 or 1531 - 1598), also known as Henricus Stephanus, was a 16th-century French printer and classical scholar. He was the eldest son of Robert Estienne. He was instructed in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew by his father and would eventually take over the Estienne printing firm which his father owned in 1559 when his father died. His most well-known work was the Thesaurus graecae linguae which was printed in five volumes. The basis of Greek lexicology, no thesaurus would rival that of Estienne's for three hundred years.

Among his many publications of Greek authors, his publications of Plato are the source of Stephanus pagination, which is still used to refer to Plato's works. Estienne died in Lyon in 1598.



Henri Estienne was born in Paris in 1528 or 1531. His father instructed him in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and typography. However, he was primarily instructed in Greek by Pierre Danès. He was also educated by other French scholars such as Adrianus Turnebus. He began working for his father's business at age eighteen. In 1547, as part of his training, he traveled to Italy, England, and Flanders, where he busied himself in collecting and collating manuscripts for his father's press. Around 1551, Robert Estienne fled to Geneva with his family, including Henri Estienne, to escape religious persecution in Paris.

Estienne published the Anacreon in 1554 which was his first independent work. Afterwards, he returned to Italy to assist the Aldine Press in Venice. In Italy, he discovered a copy of Diodorus Siculus in Rome, and returned to Geneva in 1555. In 1551, he translated Calvin's catechism into Greek, which was printed in 1554 in his father's printing room. In 1557 he likely had a printing establishment of his own, advertising himself as the "Parisian printer" (typographus parisiensis). The following year he assumed the title illustris viri Huldrici Fuggeri typographus from his patron, Ulrich Fugger whom saved him from financial despair after the death of his father. Estienne published the first anthology that included sections from Parmenides, Empedocles, and other Pre-Socratic philosophers.
Image:Henri Estienne's Thesaurus Graecae Linguae.png
Title page of Henri Estienne's 1572 Thesaurus Graecae Linguae

In 1559 Estienne assumed charge of his father's presses and became Printer of the Republic of Geneva. His most celebrated work, the Thesaurus graecae linguae or Greek thesaurus, appeared in five volumes in 1572. This thesaurus was a sequel to Robert Estienne's Latin thesaurus. The basis of Greek lexicography, a Greek thesaurus to rival that of Estiennes was not printed for over 300 years. This work was begun by his father and served up to the nineteenth century as the basis of Greek lexicography. However, the sale of this thesaurus was impeded due to its high price and the printing of an abridged copy later. In 1565, he printed a large French Bible. In 1576 and 1587, Estienne published two Greek versions of the New Testament. The 1576 version contained the first scientific treatise on the language of the apostolic writers. The 1587 version contained a discussion on the ancient divisions of the text. Estienne's other publications included those of Herodotus, Eschylus, Plato, Horace, Virgil, Plutarch, and Pliny the Elder.

Image:Stephanus Platonis opera quae extant omnia title.jpg
Plato's Dialogues were translated in 1578 by Jean de Serres and edited by Henri Estienne, image of copy owned by John Adams (1735 – 1826), second President of the United States

Estienne used the type he inherited and did not invent any new types. In 1578 he published the first and one of the most important editions of the complete works of Plato, translated by Jean de Serres, with commentary. This work is the source of the standard 'Stephanus numbers' used by scholars today to refer to the works of Plato. He published a concordance of the New Testament in 1594. During the latter years of his life, Estienne was transient, spending time in Paris and other regions in France. He died in Lyon in 1598.


Henri Estienne was married three times. He married Marguerite Pillot in 1555, Barbe de Wille in 1556, and Abigail Pouppart in 1586. Estienne had fourteen children, three of whom survived him. His daughter was married to Isaac Casaubon. His son Paul (b. 1567) assumed control of the presses in Geneva with Casaubon but he fled to Paris from the authorities. Paul's son Antoine became "Printer to the King" in Paris and "Guardian of the Greek Matrices"; however his death in 1674 ended the nearly two-century-long Estienne printing business.


Henri Estienne is considered by some scholars to be the most prominent printer in the Estienne family. Estienne was one of the "greatest and last scholarly editors and publishers of the Renaissance."

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