There, Amid Volumes Open Lying Round
In her study of the sixteenth-century scholar and publisher Robert Estienne (also known as Stephanus), Elizabeth Armstrong cites (and translates) a pseudo-Horatian poem written by John Dorat in 1538. The poem is based on the scholar Junius Rabirius’s account of his visit to Estienne’s printing establishment in the interest of getting his books published. While our technology has changed, there is much that remains the same:
I then, in hopes my business next to do,
Admir’d the town, admir’d its sages too,
Then swift to Robert at his house repair’d,
To speak with him concerning it prepar’d.
Once at his door, my suit knew no delay,
His ready servants brought me in straightway,
There, amid volumes open lying round
(A portly flock) the man himself I found,
Intent (to further wholesome learning’s state)
Errors to purge and lines to punctuate;
Pallas* the while, his judgments to inspire,
(As to Tydides in his combats dire)
Behind him stood his counselor to be
And all his works with her did well agree;
The footnote to supply with ease and skill,
The gaunt lacuna learnedly to fill,
Some matter from the proof-sheet to delete,
Or what was else for the occasion meet.
Me, when he saw that I towards him came,
He greeted, ask’d my business and my name.
Speechless I stood, quite seiz’d with awe to see
The sage companions of his industry,
Noted for civil learning—all their care
The copy for the presses to prepare.
Ah yes, little has changed. How often do visitors to IVP stand speechless, quite seiz’d with awe to see the sage companions of my industry, noted for their civil learning—all their care the copy for the presses to prepare!
Well, I must be off—some matter from the proof-sheet to delete, or what is else for the occasion meet.
*Armstrong infers that a statue or bust of the goddess Pallas Athene stood behind the printer’s work area.
Elizabeth Armstrong, Robert Estienne, Royal Printer: An Historical Study of the Elder Stephanus (Cambridge University Press, 1954), pp. 59-60.
Posted by Dan Reid
at February 9, 2010 11:38 AM