The Third Generation

The third generation of the French book trade includes Guillaume Morel (1505-64), Guillaume Cavellat (d. 1576/77?), Fédéric I Morel (1523-83), Oudin I Petit (d. 1572) and Andreas Wechel (d. 1581). The French crown was fully aware of the importance of preserving France’s printing industry, given its reputation throughout Europe, and during the reign of Charles IX (1550-74), several reforms were introduced. These centred on the role of the King’s Printer and access to the matrices of the ‘Grecs du roi’. Whereas under François I (1494-1547), the office of King’s Printer had been a prestigious one, given only to a single printer, during the reign of his grandsons François II (1544-60) and Charles IX, more than one printer could hold the position at the same time.[1] Thus, between 1550 and 1570, the Parisian and more generally French printing industry, was evolving. It was doing so not only in response to royal reforms but also, and more importantly, in an attempt to survive the calamitous effects of the French wars of religion.

Quintilian, M. Fabii Quintiliani, oratoris eloquentissimi, De institutione oratoria libri XII, singulari cum studio tum iudicio doctissimorum virorum ad fidem vetustissimoru[m] codicum recogniti ac restituti: argumentísque doctissimi viri Petri Gallandii Latinarum literaru[m] professoris regii longè quàm antea castigatioribus & plenioribus ante singula omnium librorum capita præfixis elucidati. Eiusdem Quintiliani Declamationum liber. Additæ sunt Petri Mosellani uiri eruditi Annotationes in septem libros priores, & Ioachimi Camerarii in primum & secundum. Quibus & accessit doctissimus comme[n]tarius Antonii Pini Portodemæi in tertium, nunc multo quàm antè, castigatior (Paris, 1543), title page.

The career of Oudin I Petit reflects the challenges faced by many members of the third generation of printers and booksellers. The advent of the wars of religion in 1562 led to a dispersal of reformed printers and booksellers, who fled from France in order to practice their religion in safety: for example, famous figures such as Robert I Estienne (1503?-59) and his son Henri II Estienne (1528-98), left France to set up shop in Geneva.[2] However, others stayed behind and among them was Oudin I Petit, a ‘libraire juré’ of the University of Paris. Oudin I was the son of the Parisian bookseller Jean II Petit (fl. 1518-40), and a grandson of Jean I Petit (fl. 1492-1530), a famous bookseller of the early sixteenth century. Relatively shortly after taking over the family firm, he published an edition of Quintilian (d. c. 100), the magnificent title page of which is shown in Image 1. This title page is in the style of the Petit dynasty, with a detailed ornamental frame, typical of the title pages of early sixteenth-century printers and booksellers.

The work was printed by Michel de Vascosan (d. c. 1577), a major printer of the second generation of Parisian printers – proof indeed that Oudin I had succeeded in maintaining the Petits’ network with the great printers of Paris. The Petit-Vascosan partnership was confirmed by a three-year monopoly privilege granted by the Parlement. This 1543 edition followed Vascosan’s earlier edition of 1538, which he had himself edited, but the Petit-Vascosan edition was edited by Pierre Galland (1510-59), who dedicated the work to Pierre Du Chastel (d. 1552), Bishop of Tulle.[3]

Oudin I had been in practice since 1537, and from 1554 he held the position of ‘quartenier de la ville de Paris’, which was an administrative role elected annually that charged him with compiling a list of the inhabitants in his quarter. However, due to the tense situation in Paris and his Protestant beliefs, he was suspended as ‘quartenier’ on 5 October 1567 without losing his title. A few months later, on 12 December 1567, he was suspended as ‘libraire juré’ of the University of Paris, despite the opposition of the faculties of medicine and canon law, but again retained his title. He had previously been imprisoned in January 1567 and then again in March 1568 on religious grounds. The University decided to lift his suspension as ‘libraire juré’ on 22 September 1570, on the condition, however, that he could not sell books. He supposedly died on St Bartholomew’s Day (24 August 1572), murdered by ‘rascals’ in the pay of his father-in-law, the printer and bookseller Jacques I Kerver (d. 1583).[4]

Livy, T. Liuij Patauini Historiae Romanae principis Decades tres cum dimidia, seu libri XXXV, ex XIIII Decadibus relicti: longè quàm hactenus ex collatione meliorum codicum, & doctiss. hominum iudicio correctiores, & emendatores. Cum multis annotationibus, quae proxima pagina continentur .. (Paris, 1552), title page device of Oudin I Petit.

Worth’s copy of Livy’s Historia Romanae principis Decades tres (Paris, 1552), represents another major collaboration between Oudin I and Vascosan. The first part concentrates on the ‘Decades’ and the ‘Epitome’ of Florus, while the second part contains commentaries by Henricus Glareanus (1488-1563), Lorenzo Valla (1407-57), Marco Antonio Sabellico (1436?-1506), Johannes Bernhardi (1490-1534), Beatus Rhenanus (1485-1547), Sigmund Gelen (1497-1554), Teodorico Morello (fl. 16th century), Johannes Saxonius (d. 1561), as well as chronologies by Josse Badius (1462-1535), and Henricus Glareanus.[5] As Image 2 demonstrates, Oudin I’s device on the title page of the Historiae Romanae principis Decades tres is closer to Vascosan’s plainer style for it offers the reader a much simpler, cleaner device when compared with the ornate device of his grandfather, Jean I. Oudin I’s device may be said to embody the trends visible in the devices of the second half of the sixteenth century: a concentration on essential elements and a preference for allowing the white of the page to dominate. Oudin I simultaneously retains the charm of the first devices of the late fifteenth century (by including a coat of arms carried by two animals bearing his initials), but offers the reader a less complicated image that of his grandfather.

It is important to put the aforementioned reforms regarding the office of the King’s Printer and the matrices of the ‘Grecs du roi’ into context: following the death of the King’s Printer Conrad Néobar in 1540, Robert I Estienne was chosen to be his successor and he acted as King’s Printer for the next decade. However, in 1550, embracing Calvinism, he fled to Geneva, taking with him a pair of matrices of the ‘Grecs du roi’. Thus the initial advantage reserved for royal printers disappeared in the 1550s, for it was now possible to print outside the kingdom of France with the prestigious ‘Grecs du roi’. Despite that, the position of King’s Printer remained an attractive one as it was seen as an honorific title that enhanced the reputation of a printer. To be able to put ‘typis regis’ on the title page of a publication was still regarded as desirable, even at the end of the sixteenth century.[6]

Robert I Estienne was succeeded as King’s Printer by Adrien Turnèbe (1512-65) and Guillaume Morel, who were soon followed by Michel de Vascosan and Robert II Estienne (1530-71). Thus, from 1550 onwards, more than one printer simultaneously bore the title ‘King’s Printer’ so, for example, though printers such as Vascosan and Guillaume II de Nyverd (fl. 1549-73) were honorary royal printers, the ‘official’ King’s Printer’ from 1560 to 1570 was Robert II Estienne, who in turn was succeeded in 1571 by Fédéric I Morel.[7] The ‘official’ King’s Printer was responsible for the printing of the edicts, ordinances and amendments sent daily by the royal chancellery.

Throughout this period the Sorbonne, using the Roman Index of forbidden books (1557), attempted to determine what was heretical and what was not, but censorship proved to be both disorganized and ineffective. Given that some authorities banned all the works of Erasmus (d. 1536) and others only some of his books, there were problems of consistency.[8]

Petrus Ales, De utroque Iesu Christi adventu, summoque, et generali iudicio … Authore Petro Alite Carnutensi (Paris, 1561), title page device of Andreas Wechel.

Oudin I Petit was not the only one to suffer from the political and religious turmoil that shook Paris and France. But unlike the many printers who fled to Geneva, Andreas Wechel, like his father before him, looked to Frankfurt, and more generally the Holy Roman Empire. Frankfurt was a strategic choice in the sixteenth century, for the city’s trade fairs were at their height, and there were many travellers and merchants eager to make investments. As a result the printing industry there was developing naturally and rapidly; in short it was the ideal destination for a member of the book trade.

Andreas Wechel worked in Paris from 1554 to 1572, under the sign of the Flying Horse, the printing firm he had inherited from his father, Chrestien Wechel (1495-1554).[9] Like Oudin I Petit, Wechel decided to keep his father’s famous Pegasus device but, as may be seen in the above image, he too made slight changes to it.[10] Again like Oudin I, Wechel was a Protestant, but in the 1560s he was less lucky than Petit, for he was imprisoned in August 1568 and in 1569 some of his books were burned or confiscated. He left Paris in 1572 after the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, escaping death due to the intervention of Hubert Languet (1518-81), a Saxon minister in Paris, who was staying with Wechel at the time. Moving to Frankfurt, he became a citizen of the city in December 1572. He married Marguerite Frénot and was succeeded in Frankfurt by his sons-in-law Jean I Aubry (d. 1600/01) and Claude de Marne (d. 1610), while in Paris his successor in the family business was Denys I Duval (1536-1619). Wechel died of the plague on 1 November 1581.[11]


Barbier, Frédéric, Histoire du livre en Occident, 4th ed. (Paris, 2020).

Dumoulin, Joseph, Vie et oeuvres de Fédéric Morel, imprimeur à Paris depuis 1557 jusqu’à 1583 (Paris, 1901).

Renouard, Philippe, Bibliographie des impressions et des oeuvres de Josse Badius Ascensius, imprimeur et humaniste, 1462-1535, 3v. (Paris, 1908).

Renouard, Philippe, Jeanne Veyrin-Forrer & Birgitte 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).


[1] Dumoulin, Joseph, Vie et oeuvres de Fédéric Morel, imprimeur à Paris depuis 1557 jusqu’à 1583 (Paris, 1901), pp 70-80.

[2] The date of Henri II Estienne’s birth is unclear: the Library of Congress suggests 1531 and Renouard gives 1528: 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), p. 143.

[3] The title page gives 1542 as the imprint date but a colophon mentions that it was printed in January 1543.

[4] Renouard, et al. (eds), Répertoire des imprimeurs parisiens, p. 342.

[5] Renouard, Philippe, Bibliographie des impressions et des oeuvres de Josse Badius Ascensius, imprimeur et humaniste, 1462-1535, 3v. (Paris, 1908), iii, pp 17-18.

[6] Dumoulin, Vie et oeuvres de Fédéric Morel, pp 70-80.

[7] Ibid.

[8] The Council of Trent (1545-63) had attempted to draw up a list of banned books (and, also sections of books that the Council deemed should be censured), such as the work of Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543). On this see Barbier, Frédéric, Histoire du livre en Occident, 4th ed. (Paris, 2020), pp 199-200.

[9] Renouard et al. (eds) Répertoire des imprimeurs parisiens, p. 435.

[10] In fact, he reproduced it in various forms until his death in 1581.

[11] Renouard et al. (eds), Répertoire des imprimeurs parisiens, p. 435.

Scroll to Top