Simon de Colines

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Simon de Colines (1480–1546), a Parisian printer, one of the first printer type of the French Renaissance. He was active in Paris as a printer and worked exclusively for the University of Paris from 1520 to 1546. Over the course of his lifetime, he published over 700 separate editions (almost 4% of books published in 16th-century Paris). Colines used elegant roman and italic types and a Greek type, with accents, that were superior to their predecessors. These are now called French old-style, a style that remained popular for over 200 years and revived in the early 20th century. He used rabbits, satyrs, and philosophers as his pressmark.
Colines's satyr pressmark
Colines's satyr pressmark

Colines was associated with the elder Henri Estienne and continued his work after his death in 1520. Colines married widow of Estienne and was in charge of the press until Estienne’s son Robert I entered the business in 1526, by which time Colines had set up his own shop nearby. In 1528 he began to use italic type. Colines published many Greek and Latin classics. Although he was not a scholar himself, he extended the range of the Estienne firm’s learned and scientific works to include the natural sciences, cosmology, and astrology. He is credited with the design of italic and Greek fonts and of a roman face for St. Augustine’s Sylvius (1531), from which the Garamond types were derived. In 1525 he published the notable Grandes Heures de Simon de Colines, with decorations by Geoffroy Tory.

Religious books and Parliament

In addition to textbooks, Colines also published a few editions of scriptures and some devotional books. In 1522, Colines printed the four Gospels with commentary by Lefèvre d'Étaples called Commentarii initiatorii in quatuor Evangelia. The book was not submitted to the Parisian Faculty of Theology for approval as had been decreed the previous November, and the theologians fined Colines on June 9, 1523, and threatened to seize the remaining copies. Colines argued that the printing had started in Meaux before the decree, and the theologians consented to let him keep his remaining copies as long as he did not sell them. In 1545, after Lefèvre's death, Parliament censored Commentarii. In 1524, Colines printed Lefèvre's French translations of both the New Testament and the Psalms; however, Colines also published anti-Lutheran pamphlets (Antilutherus), much to Robert Estienne's and Lefèvre's disapproval. Colines was careful to petition for approval from Parliament. In 1526, the theologians prohibited the sale and possession of French language scriptures.

In 1525 and 1527 Colines published Books of Hours with decorations by Geoffroy Tory. Both books together are called the Tory Books of Hours. Colines also published Books of Hours in the 1540s. Colines's miniature Vulgate was widely circulated and went through 50 editions. In 1541 Colines revised a Latin Bible folio with diacritical marks which contained a geographical index by Robert Estienne in Aramaic, Greek, and Latin. The volume, over 800 pages long, was a difficult printing job and published by Galliot du Pré and Lyonese Antoine Vincent.

Colines published a few more anti-Lutheran books in 1526. Colines printed several works by Josse van Clichtove, including Clichtove's refutation to Johannes Oecolampadius (1527) and Clichtove's commentary (1529) on the decrees of the Councils of Sens in 1528. Colines also printed a book of polemical essays by Johann Eck in 1526.

Colines published many books by Erasmus, often for schools. After Erasmus's Colloquia was censured, two secretly printed editions (1528 and 1532) bore Colines's typeface called Mignonne. When Colines printed a New Testament with commentary by Erasmus in a single volume (Testamentum Nouum per Des. Erasmum recognitum) in 1533, he used a typeface even smaller than the Mignonne. In 1542, French Parliament decreed that all books entering Paris should be examined, in order to make sure they contained no "Lutheran errors". The decree also stipulated that all books should contain the name and address of their printer. In 1544, Parliament published a list of censored books, and anyone still owning the books after three days could be incarcerated. The list included four books Colines had published. Colines published few new works after this decree.


  • Simon de Colines: An Annotated Catalogue of 230 Examples of his Press, 1520-1546. Salt Lake City: Brigham Young Univ Library, 1995. Avec une introduction de Jeanne Veyrin-Forrer. (based on the unique collection of the university Brigham Young University and collected by Fred Schreiber who represents 230 editions published by Simon de Colines). Books represented in this catalogue represent nearly a third of the production of Colines during the quarter of century of its career.

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