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Estienne (Stephanus), Charles

(b. Paris, France, ca. 1505; d. Paris, 1564)

anatomy, natural history, scientific publication.

The son of Henri I Estienne and younger brother of François and Robert I, Charles belonged to the famous dynasty of Parisian printers and publishers. His father died in 1520, and his mother married Simon de Colines, another printer, who was later to publish Estienne’s anatomical atlas. After learning Greek under Jean Lascaris, he extended his knowledge of classical philology at the University of Padua. While in Italy (1530–1534) he became interested in botany, horticulture, and medicine. After returning to Paris he followed the extracurricular courses (courslibres) in anatomy and medicine given by Jacques Dubois (Sylvius) at the Colléege de Tréguier. His literary activity started in 1535 with three abstracts based on the works of the diplomat Lazare de Baïf. Estienne then published several treatises on gardening and the names of plants and birds. De re hortensi libellus (1535) and Seminarium (1536) were favorably received and republished. In these books Estienne showed himself to be a scholar of importance but a mediocre naturalist in sacrificing observation to history and philology.

In 1536 Charles Estienne had printed by his brother a short treatise entitled Anatomia. (This volume is listed in the Estienne firm’s catalogues, but no copy seems to have survived.) Around 1538 Estienne married Geneviéve de Verley, daughter of Gilles de Verley, surgeon to the king. Estienne was at the time studying medicine but without being formally registered at the Faculté de Médecine. However, the faculty recognized his diligence, and in 1540 he received the degree of bachelor; on 20 June 1542 he was promoted to docteur régent. From then on he seems to have devoted himself to the practice of medicine. He taught anatomy from 1544 to 1547 at the Faculté de Médecine in Paris, where he was given the title of lector ordinarius. During this period the Latin and French editions of his manual of anatomy were published, although much of this work had been drafted before 1539. In November 1550 Estienne brought out a treatise on diet and a classification of foods, dedicated to the inquisitor Guillaume de Bailly. (This dedication is more easily understood in light of the dangers that threatened the Estienne publishing house; earlier that year Robert, accused of Protestantism, had been obliged to seek refuge in Geneva.) Charles Estienne then gave up his medical practice in order to manage the family business. He printed Belon’s zoological treatise, and edited several dictionaries, geographical guides, and works in classical philology, grammar, and history. He translated into French the treatise of Vegetius on the diseases of horses and also wrote a rural encyclopedia (Praedium rusticum, 1554), which when revised by his son-in-law, Jean Liébault, had tremendous success in the book trade. Nevertheless, Estienne was a poor businessman. Accused of having squandered the inheritance of Robert’s children and heavily in debt, he was imprisoned in 1561 at the Châtelet, where he spent the last four years of his life.

Estienne’s main scientific work, De dissectione partium corporis humani (1545), poses a particular problem: although it was published two years after the Fabrica of Vesalius, it antedates it in actual composition. Estienne worked it out in collaboration with the surgeon Estienne de la Riviére (Riverius), who had probably done some dissection and also helped in preparing the plates. Estienne first used woodcuts executed by Jollat and stored in his father-in-law’s office (four plates are dated from 1530 to 1532); he then used various erotic engravings—among others—and inserted a special section that included internal anatomical details; finally (from 1534 to 1539), he had some original anatomical engravings made. In 1539 Estienne de la Riviére lodged a complaint at the Parlement against Estienne’s claiming his rights as author. The lawsuit delayed the publication of the work, two-thirds of which had already been printed and was subsequently submitted in 1541 to the Faculté de Médecine for approval.

In the De dissectione, Estienne stated at the outset the principle of the new anatomical method: “One should not believe in books on anatomy but far more in one’s own eyes.” The book’s many original observations include the morphology and physiological significance of the “feeding holes” of bones, the cartilaginous meniscus of the temporomandibular joint, the orbicular ligament of the radius, the three-part composition of the sternum, the path of the trigeminal and phrenic nerves, a sharp distinction between the sympathetic chain (considered as a nerve) and the vagus, the canal of the ependyma and the enlargements of the spinal cord, the cerebrospinal fluid, the valvulae in the hepatic veins, and the scrotal septum. Estienne also described the ideal anatomical theater and expounded the technique of dissecting cadavers and wiring skeletons.


I. Original Works. De dissectione partium corporis humani libri tres, a Carolo Stephano doctore medico editi, una cum figuris et incisionum devlarationibus a Stephano Riuerio chirurgo compositis (Paris, 1545), trans. into French as La dissection des parties du corps humain (Paris, 1546; facsimile ed., Paris, 1965); De nutrimentis (Paris, 1550); Praedium rusticum (Paris, 1554), trans. into French and revised by Liebault as L’agriculture et maison rustique (Paris, 1564).

II. Secondary Literature. On Estienne and his work see R. Herrlinger, “Carolus Stephanus and Stephanus Riverius,” in Clio medica2 (1967), 275–287; E. Lau, Charles Estienne (Wertheim, 1930); G. Rath, “Charles Estienne, Anatom in Schatten Vesals,” in Sudhoffs Archiv für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften, 39 (1955), 35–43; and E. Wickersheimer, La médecine et les médecins en France ä l’époque de la Renaissance (Paris, 1906). A facsimile edition of La dissection with a historical introduction by P. Huard and M. D. Grmek, L’ecole anatomique parisienne (Paris, 1965), includes a BIBLIOGRAPHY. A BIBLIOGRAPHY may also be found in A. A. Renouard, Annales de l’imprimerie des Estienne (Paris, 1843). For the anatomical iconography of Estienne, see the manual of L. Choulant and several articles of C. E. Kellett, particularly his brochure Mannerism and Medical Illustration (Newcastle, 1961).

M. D. Grmek

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Estienne, Étienne (both: ātyĕn´), or, Latinized, Stephanus (stĕf´ənəs), family of Parisian and Genevan printers of the 16th and 17th cent., distinguished through five generations in scholarship as well as in their craft.

The first of the line was Henri Estienne, d. 1520, who was by 1502 established as a printer in Paris. Before his death more than 100 books, some of them of great typographic beauty, had issued from his press. His foreman, Simon de Colines, succeeded him and married his widow.

Some years later, probably in 1526, Henri's son, Robert Estienne, b. 1498 or 1503, d. 1559, took over his father's shop, and Colines then founded a new establishment. Robert, a capable scholar, devoted himself to printing only scholarly works, many of which he himself edited. He put out editions of classical authors, dictionaries and lexicons, and, more especially, critical editions of the Bible. He enjoyed the favor of Francis I and became king's printer for Latin, Hebrew, and Greek. The printer's mark used by him, the Olive Tree, was apparently designed by Geofroy Tory, who is said to have been a proofreader for the elder Estienne; some of the Estienne types were designed by Claude Garamond. Robert Estienne, a thorough humanist, upheld the cause of the Reformation.

Long-continued attacks upon him by the faculty of the Univ. of Paris and by political opponents of the king caused him to move to Geneva in 1550. He set up a press there and continued to print books until his death. His own Latin dictionary, Thesaurus linguae Latinae (1531), probably compiled with the aid of other scholars, is a monumental work. His grammatical treatises on French are also of great importance.

One of Robert's brothers, François Estienne, d. 1553, was of minor importance as a bookseller, but another brother, Charles Estienne, c.1504–1564, succeeded Robert in the management of the Paris establishment in 1551. Educated in medicine and skilled in classical learning, Charles wrote many works on medicine, agriculture, and other subjects. A number of his books were printed by his brother, Robert, and by his stepfather, Colines. Among his best-known works are an encyclopedia, one of the earliest appearing in France, a treatise on dissection, and Praedium rusticum, which appeared later in English editions.

The second Henri Estienne, 1531?–1598, the greatest scholar of the family, was one of Robert's sons. He inherited his father's press on the express condition that it should not be moved from Geneva. He was a well-trained scholar and devoted years to searching for manuscripts. Although humanism was far advanced, he, nevertheless, discovered numerous works of classical authors of which he issued first editions. His editions of Greek and Latin works are remarkable for their accuracy and textual criticism. The greatest monument to his scholarship is, perhaps, his Thesaurus Graecae linguae (1572).

Henri also championed the use of the French language and wrote valuable treatises on the French tongue and on French grammar; the most important is La Precellence du langage françois (1579), in spite of its gross errors in philology. His satirical Apologie pour Herodote (1566) brought him trouble with the Consistory of Geneva, and after the publication of Deux Dialogues du nouveau langage françois italianizé (1578) he went to France to escape censure in Geneva. He was imprisoned for a short time on his return and afterward became a wandering scholar. The books he printed did not equal those of his father in typographic beauty. He marks, however, the highest point of the family's career, although the Estiennes continued prominent as printers until late in the 17th cent.

See M. Pattison, The Estiennes (1949).