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Medallion with portrait of Étienne Dolet
Étienne Dolet (3 August 15093 August 1546) was a Frenchmarker scholar, translator and printer.

Early life

He was born at Orléansmarker. A doubtful tradition makes him the illegitimate son of Francis I; but it is evident that he was at least connected with some family of rank and wealth.

From Orléans he was taken to Parismarker about 1521, and after studying under Nicolas Bérauld, the teacher of Coligny, he proceeded in 1526 to Paduamarker. The death of his friend and master, Simon de Villanova, led him, in 1530, to accept the post of secretary to Jean de Langeac, bishop of Limoges and French ambassador to the republic of Venicemarker; he contrived, however, to attend the lectures of the Venetian scholar Battista Egnazio, and found time to write Latin love poems to a Venetian woman named Elena.


Returning to France soon afterwards he proceeded to Toulousemarker to study law; but there he soon became involved in the violent disputes between the different nations of the university, was thrown into prison, and finally banished by a decree of the parlement. He entered the lists against Erasmus in the famous Ciceronian controversy , in which he took an ultra-Ciceronian stance : In 1535 he published through Sébastien Gryphe at Lyonmarker a Dialogus de imitatione Ciceroniana. The following year saw the appearance of his two folio volumes Commentariorum linguae Latinae. This work was dedicated to Francis I, who gave him the privilege of printing during ten years any works in Latin, Greek, Italian or French, which were the product of his own pen or had received his supervision; and accordingly, on his release from an imprisonment occasioned by his homicide of a painter named Compaing, he began at Lyon his typographical and editorial labours.

Cato christianus

He endeavoured to conciliate his opponents by publishing a Cato christianus, in which he made profession of his creed. The catholicity of his literary appreciation, was soon displayed by the works which proceeded from his press: ancient and modern, sacred and secular, from the New Testament in Latin to Rabelais in French. But before the term of his privilege expired his labours were interrupted by his enemies, who succeeded in imprisoning him (1542) on the charge of atheism.

Further imprisonment and death

After imprisonment for fifteen months, Dolet was released by the advocacy of Pierre Duchatel, Bishop of Tulle. He escaped from a second imprisonment (1544) by his own ingenuity, but, venturing back from Piedmont, whence he had fled in order to print at Lyon the letters by which he appealed for justice to the king of France, the queen of Navarremarker and the parlement of Paris, he was again arrested, and branded as a relapsed atheist by the theological faculty of the Sorbonnemarker. On 3 August 1546 (his 37th birthday), he was strangled and burned in the Place Maubertmarker. On his way there he is said to have composed the punning pentameter Non dolet ipse Dolet, sed pia turba dolet.

Religious views

Whether Dolet is to be classed with the representatives of Protestantism or with the advocates of anti-Christian rationalism has been frequently disputed; by the principal Protestants of his own time he was not recognized, and by Calvin he is formally condemned, along with Agrippa and his master Villanova, as having uttered execrable blasphemies against the Son of God; but, to judge by the religious character of a large number of the books which he translated or published, these condemnations seem altogether misplaced. His repeated advocacy of the reading of the Scriptures in the vulgar tongue is especially noticeable.


The trial of Dolet was published (1836) by A.H. Taillandier from the registers of the parlement of Paris. A statue of Dolet was erected on the Place Maubert in Paris in 1889.


Further reading

  • Boulmier, Joseph, E. Dolet, sa vie, ses oeuvres, son martyre (1857)
  • Christie, Richard Copley, Étienne Dolet, the Martyr of the Renaissance (2nd ed., 1889), containing a full bibliography of works published by him as author or printer;
  • Didot, Ambroise Firmin, Essai sur la typographie (1852)
  • Galtier, O., Étienne Dolet (Paris, 1908).
  • Michel, L., Dolet: sa statue, place Maubert: ses amis, ses ennemis (1889)
  • Née de la Rochelle, J.F., Vie d'Éienne Dolet (1779)

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