A French family of the 16th century renowned as printers and humanists.
Henry Estienne, the founder of the family; b. c. 1460;d. Paris, 1520. The family printing press was set up near the Sorbonne University c. 1504–05. After Henry's death, since his three sons, Francis, Robert, and Charles, were still quite young, Simon de Colines, a foreman, provisionally took charge of the firm and married their widowed mother in 1521.
Robert, Henry's second son; b. Paris, 1503; d. Geneva, Sept. 7, 1559, collaborated (1522–23) in the printing of a Latin edition of the NT and the Psalms. By 1526 he became head of the family firm. In 1527–28 his first complete Bible in Latin was published, followed by his great Dictionarium seu linguae latinae thesaurus in 1531. Francis I appointed him the king's printer in 1539 for Hebrew and Latin works and in 1540 for Greek works. In this official capacity he published many texts of the Latin and Greek classics, as well as those of several early Church writers. Unfortunately, however, Robert became involved in the troubles of the Reformation; his critical and liberal views on religion and the Church ultimately prompted the privy council of Henry II, in 1547, to proscribe the series of Latin Bibles published by his firm. Robert, considering the censorship to be intolerable, became dissatisfied, and in 1548 he visited Geneva, where he conferred with John calvin. The following year he became a permanent resident of Geneva and also a member of the Reformed Church. Among his many works published at Geneva were a Greek-Latin NT (1551), in which he introduced the division of the text into verses that is still in use today. He published also a concordance of the whole Bible (1555). In his various editions of the Latin vulgate (1528–57), Robert Estienne attempted to reestablish critically the authentic text of St. Jerome [see bible (texts)]. His contributions to the history of the Vulgate were recognized by H. Quentin in his Memoir sur l'établissement du texte de la Vulgate (Rome 1922). During this period Robert published a caustic reply, Ad censuras theologorum parisiensium responsio (1552), an answer to the Sorbonne's condemnation of him.
Henry (II) was the eldest son of Robert; b. 1531; d. Lyons, France, January 1598. From 1554 to the time of his death, Henry published a large number of the Greek classics. His greatest work was his Greek dictionary, Thesaurus graecae linquae, 5 v. (1572), a masterpiece of lexicography, which reappeared in several editions (Paris 1831–65).
Paul, son of Henry (II); b. 1566; d. 1627, he succeeded his father in charge of the press at Geneva in 1598. He also published a large number of Greek classics. He disappeared from history, however, after his sale of the press in 1627. The Estienne family's activities, both in Geneva and in Paris, ceased after the middle of the 17th century.
Bibliography: f. dressler, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche 2 (Freiburg 1957–65) 3:1116–17. h. r. guggisberg, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart 3 (Tübingen 1957–65) 6:360–361.
[c. h. pickar]