Robert II

Robert II (1530-1570);[1] Paris 1556-1588

Robert II was the second son in Robert I’s family of nine children. A convinced Catholic, he chose to return to Paris as soon as he could, following his father’s flight to Geneva, and finished his studies there with his uncle Charles Estienne, who had become the King’s printer following Robert I’s exile. Robert II’s education and apprenticeship with his uncle Charles offered him a comfortable situation and a wonderful start in printing.

 [Anakreontos kai allon tinon lyrikon poeton mele]: Anacreontis et aliorvm Lyricorum aliquot poetarum Odæ. In easdem Henr. Stephani Observationes. Eadem Latine (Paris, 1556), title page with device B3.

His first publication (which Worth has a copy of), was published in 1556 at Paris. The text, poems by the ancient Greek lyric poet Anacreon (with observations by his brother Henri II) had been the first book published by Henri II, two years earlier. As the imprint makes clear, this was a joint production of Robert II’s new printing house and that of Guillaume Morel (1505-64), who had succeeded Adrien Turnèbe (1512-65) as King’s Printer. Robert II was very much the junior partner in this arrangement. However, though his printing firm produced relatively few publications those he printed were considered to be of a very high quality.

Though not as active an editor as either his father or brother, Robert II was well known in the scholarly community. One of his most famous publications was Thomas Smith’s De recta & emendata linguæ Anglicæ scriptione, dialogus (Paris, 1568). This work, a linguistic volume on the English language by the English scholar and diplomat Thomas Smith (1513-77), was very much par for the course for an Estienne.

De recta & emendata linguæ Anglicæ scriptione, dialogus (Paris, 1568), title page bearing device 25.

The visit on 21 May 1566 of Jeanne d’Albret (1528-72), the mother of the King Henri IV of France (1553-1610), and queen regnant of Navarre, to Robert II’s printing house represents the recognition of a change in Robert II’s religious affiliations for the Queen of Navarre was one of the staunchest supporters of the Calvinist cause. Three years later Robert II finally followed his father to Geneva, and subsequently died there in 1570. His widow, Denyse Barbé, married the printer Mamert Patisson who oversaw the education of Robert III.

De recta & emendata linguæ Anglicæ scriptione, dialogus (Paris, 1568), title page imprint detail.

The title page of Worth’s copy of De recta & emendata linguæ Anglicæ scriptione, dialogus (Paris, 1568) bears the signature of a ‘Joh. Priceus’, possibly the English scholar and book collector John Price (c. 1602-76), though the name was relatively common. Common also was the use of similar family names in the Estienne family and this has sometimes led to confusion between Robert I and Robert II. However, as the imprint details make clear, all Robert II’s publications were printed at Paris post 1556, six years after his father Robert I had fled to Geneva. In turn Robert II named one of his sons Robert III, who continued the family printing tradition at Paris.


Amert, Kay, The Scythe and the Rabbit. Simon de Colines and the Culture of the Book in Renaissance Paris, edited by Robert Bringhurst (New York, 2012).

Armstrong, Elizabeth, Robert Estienne, Royal Printer (Cambridge, 1954).

Bernard, Auguste, Les Estienne et les types grecs de François Ier, complément des annales stéphaniens (Paris, 1856).

Didot, Ambroise Firmin, ‘Les Estienne. Henri I, François I et II, Robert I, II et III, Henri II, Paul et Antoine…’, Nouvelle bibliographie générale, (Paris, 1856; Copenhagen, 1965 reprint), 15-16, pp 555-58.

Renouard, Antoine, Annales de l’imprimerie des Estienne (Geneva, 1971 reprint).

Rott, Jean & Peter, Rodolphe, ‘Exposition Jean Calvin’, Revue d’histoire et de philosophie religieuse 45 (1965), 128-155.

Schreiber, Fred, The Estiennes. An annotated catalogue of 300 highlights of their various presses (New York, 1982).

Schreiber, Fred, Simon de Colines (Utah, 1995).



[1] There appears to be some confusion over Robert II’s dates. Didot and Renouard place his birth some time in 1530 whereas Schreiber suggests 1533. 1570 is given as the year of his death by both Didot and Schrieber but Renouard suggests 1574. Posthumous publications by him are dated by both Renouard and Schreiber to 1588.