Mamert Patisson (d. 1601/02)

‘Noli altum sapere (sed time)’ or ‘Do not become proud, but be afraid.’[1]

A scholarly branch of the Estienne empire.

Joseph Juste Scaliger, Iosephi Scaligeri Ivl. Caesaris f.  Opus nouum De emendatione temporum in octo libros tributum (Paris, 1583), title page device of the heirs of Robert II Estienne.

Mamert Patisson (d. 1601/2) was born in Orléans in the Centre-Val de Loire, possibly in 1530, and was probably the son of Philippe Patisson (a bookseller in Orléans in 1528). His early career is shrouded in mystery: according to Didot he founded a printing press in Paris in 1568, producing works which not only displayed a high level of proof-reading, but also incorporated an elegant typeface and wide margins.[2] Evidently at least one of them got him into trouble for one of the few facts we know about him during this period was that he was prosecuted for heresy in 1569 by the University of Paris, though exactly why is unclear.[3] As Frédéric Barbier relates: ‘In August 1569, Marin Marié, a pedlar, was executed for selling Protestant books; in October, Mamert Patisson was tried for heresy. In March 1570, Claude Wibert, a bookseller and pedlar, was arrested (…).’[4] Patisson somehow managed to refute the charge of heresy and continued his career.

According to Renouard, after acquiring a thorough knowledge of ancient languages Patisson became a proof-reader for Robert II Estienne (1530-71) in 1569 and acted in this capacity until 1575, when he married Robert II’s widow, Denyse Barbé, on 20 January 1574 (i.e. 1575 new style), and took over the running of the Estienne press.[5] As Image 1 demonstrates, Patisson chose to continue using Robert II Estienne’s device. The device had first been used in 1526 by Robert I Estienne (1503?-59), along with the motto ‘Noli altum sapere’, later ‘Noli altum sapere, sed time’, which is a quotation from the New Testament (Romans 11: 20).[6] In addition, Mamert also continued using Robert II’s address: ‘In aedibus Roberti Stephani, in vico Bellovaco, è regione schola Decrelogis’ or ‘Par l’imprimeur Robert Estienne, Au logis de Robert Estienne, Rue Saint-Jean-de-Beauvais, devant les écoles de décret’.[7]

In 1578, he was appointed King’s Printer, a position he held until his death. The exact date of his death is uncertain (sometime around 1601/02), but we know that it was the result of drowning: returning from a trip to Orléans, he fell into the river near  Châtres-sous-Montlhéry. His widow, Denyse, ran the press from 1602 to 1604. Renouard notes that a Philippe Patisson (either his son or his brother), produced a single volume at the same address in 1606, but it is unclear what his role was at the press.[8] Ultimately the firm was taken over in 1606 by Robert III Estienne (1559/60-1630), Mamert’s step-son.

During his years at the helm of the Estienne press, Patisson printed a considerable number of volumes under the sole name of Robert II Estienne (at least until 1588). One of Patisson’s earliest printings was Étienne Jodelle’s Oeuvres et meslanges poétiques, edited by Charles de la Mothe and published by Patisson in 1574 in collaboration with Nicolas Chesneau (d. 1584). This was not the only collaboration of Patisson with other printers: on 4 April 1599, he and three of his colleagues: Fédéric I Morel (1523-83), Jamet Mettayer (d. 1605) and Pierre L’Huillier (d. 1610), received from King Henri IV (1553-1610) the privilege of printing the Edict de Pacification of 1598, also known as the Edict de Nantes. As King’s Printer, he and his colleagues were entitled to print the laws sent to them by the royal chancellery.

Joseph Juste Scaliger, Iosephi Scaligeri Ivl. Caesaris f.  Opus nouum De emendatione temporum in octo libros tributum (Paris, 1583), pp 324 and 325.

Patisson’s knowledge of ancient languages and general erudition was acknowledged by all. It was for this reason that his wife’s famous brother-in-law, Henri II Estienne (1528-98), entrusted to him his Project du livre intitulé De la precellence du langage françois, which appeared in 1579.[9] Patisson also corresponded with many scholars of his time, including one of the foremost scholars of his day, Joseph Juste Scaliger (1540-1609). Scaliger was among the first to attempt a complete chronology, and his famous De emendatione temporum was printed by Patisson in 1583 in eight books. It was a seminal work, for Scaliger’s chronological studies were based on his wide-ranging knowledge of Hebrew, Samaritan, Syriac and Aramaic sources. Image 2 displays two magnificent pages of part of the work, the Computus ecclesiae AEthiopicae (The Calculation of the Ethiopian Church).[10] The ‘Computus’ was used to determine important dates and events in the liturgical calendar of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. For this purpose, Patisson had woodblocks made for the Ethiopic text (p. 324) and he transliterated the Ethiopian text into romanized Ethiopian and Latin (p. 325).

De emendatione temporum was a complex work to print and, as Anthony Grafton points out, the publication required time and communication between Scaliger and Patisson. Scaliger was not always happy about the level of communication and complained that Patisson did not keep in sufficient contact with him: in a letter to Claude Dupuy (1545-94), dated 9 December 1579, Scaliger fulminated:

‘I humbly ask you to ask [Mamert] Patisson to finish my Computus. I have not received a single letter from him since the death of Monsieur de La Roche, although I have written to him several times.’[11]

Clearly there were difficulties in communication between the author and Patisson between 1579 and 1581. De Emendatione was eventually published in 1583, possibly because Scaliger had threatened to publish the work elsewhere!

 Antoine Le Pois, Discours sur les medalles et graueures antiques, principalement Romaines. … Par M. Antoine Le Pois…  (Paris, 1579), fols 30v and 147v.

Image 3 shows pages from the first edition of a book on Renaissance numismatics by Antoine Le Pois (1525-78), printed by Patisson in 1579,  a year after the author’s death. It contains a dedication by Antoine Le Pois’ brother, Nicolas Le Pois (1527-90), to Charles III, Duke of Lorraine (1543-1608), who had been a patron of both brothers.[12] The treatise contains 48 engravings, including depictions of four statuettes found in Soissons during the fortifications commissioned by Henri II (1519-59). The most famous of these was a statuette of Priapus (whose depiction was often smeared, or, as in this edition, scribbled over), Mercury, Hermaphrodite and Pomona. Image 3 also displays one of the 20 plates engraved by Pierre Woeiriot de Bouzey (1532-99), each of which bore 8 medals. A stylized monogram PWDB (Pierre Woeiriot de Bouzey) appears under the engravings. This highly illustrated publication offers us some indication of the range of publications emanating from the Parisian part of the ‘Estienne’ press under the careful stewardship of Mamert Patisson.

Sources

Barbier, Frédéric, ‘La foi, le souverain et l’imprimé’, in Frédéric Barbier (ed.), Histoire du livre en Occident (Paris, 2020), pp 139-58.

Didot, Ambroise Firmin, ‘Patisson, Mamert’, Nouvelle bibliographie générale (Paris, 1856; Copenhagen, 1965 reprint), 39-40, p. 335.

Grafton, Anthony T., ‘Joseph Scaliger and Historical Chronology: The Rise and Fall of a Discipline’, History and Theory, 14, no. 2 (1975), 156-85.

Renouard, Antoine Augustin, Annales de l’imprimerie des Estienne, ou, Histoire de la famille des Estienne et de ses éditions, 2v. (Paris, 1837-38).

Renouard, Philippe, Jeanne Veyrin-Forrer & Brigitte Moreau (eds), Répertoire des imprimeurs parisiens: libraires, fondeurs de caractères et correcteurs d’imprimerie: depuis l’introduction de l’imprimerie à Paris (1470) jusqu’à la fin du seizième siècle … (Paris, 1965).

Schreiber, Fred, The Hanes Collection of Estienne publications: From book collecting to scholarly resource (Chapel Hill, 1984).

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[1] Romans 11: 20. This was the source of the Estienne motto.

[2] Didot, Ambroise Firmin, ‘Patisson, Mamert’, Nouvelle bibliographie générale (Paris, 1856; Copenhagen, 1965 reprint), 39-40, p. 335.

[3] In Paris, the theological faculty controlled the booksellers’ district and decided to increase repression drastically.

[4]  Barbier, Frédéric, ‘La foi, le souverain et l’imprimé’, in Frédéric Barbier (ed.), Histoire du livre en Occident (Paris, 2020), p. 197.

[5] Renouard, Philippe, Jeanne Veyrin-Forrer & Brigitte Moreau (eds), Répertoire des imprimeurs parisiens: libraires, fondeurs de caractères et correcteurs d’imprimerie: depuis l’introduction de l’imprimerie à Paris (1470) jusqu’à la fin du seizième siècle … (Paris, 1965), pp 334-335.

[6] Some versions of the device include a male figure standing by the tree. The figure can be interpreted as either a philosopher gathering knowledge, or a biblical character emphasising the role of faith.

[7] Renouard et al. (eds), Répertoire des imprimeurs parisiens, p. 335.

[8] Ibid.

[9] The date of Henri II Estienne’s birth is unclear: the Library of Congress suggests 1531 and Renouard gives 1528: Renouard et al. (eds), Répertoire des imprimeurs parisiens, p. 143.

[10] ‘Computus’ is a Latin term that generally refers to the science of calculation, especially in the context of astronomy and the calendar.

[11] Grafton, Anthony T., ‘Joseph Scaliger and Historical Chronology: The Rise and Fall of a Discipline.’ History and Theory, 14, no. 2 (1975), 157-158.

[12] Nicolas Le Pois had succeeded his brother Antoine as Charles III’s physician on his brother’s death in 1578.

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