Winner: NABE Pinnacle Book Achievement Award, 2016
Etienne Dolet (1509-1546), the son of a cloth-seller in Orléans, France, showed great promise as a child. His father paid to have him educated by the eminent humanist, Nicolas Bérault, a specialist in Marcus Tullius Cicero’s thought and writing. Etienne mastered Latin, became a fine scholar of Cicero, and went on to study with Simon Villanovanus at the University of Padua in Italy. After his master’s death, he worked for a time as secretary to Bishop Jean de Langeac in Venice and Limoges, after which he went to the University of Toulouse to study law. The Lutheran reform movement had gained traction in France, and the Gallican branch of the Church of Rome reacted violently. In Toulouse, the Inquisition was particularly active. Fellow printers were jealous of his success and furious that he took the part of the print-shop workers in their quest for higher wages. They framed him by sending two boxes of heretical books to Paris, boldly labeled with his name. The Inquisition seized him, tried him, condemned him and burned him at the stake on his 37th birthday.
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