Charlotte Guillard: One of Paris’ First Woman Printers

By Jamie Cumby and Panagiotis Georgakakis |

This week’s post brings together several themes in the sixteenth-century scholarly book world – printing in classical languages, women printers, legal humanism – via a single copy of a work by Emperor Justinian I.  This work (USTC 140698) was printed in Paris in 1542 by Charlotte Guillard, one of the city’s preeminent printers of Greek books who also happened to be one of the few women printers of the sixteenth century to work under her own name.  Its Greek title is: Nεαρῶν τῶν ἐν τῷ νῦν εὑρισκομένων καί ὡς εὑρίσκον βιβλίον τοῦ Γρηγορίου Ἁλοάνδρου ἐξηγητοῦ. Οἱ κανόνες τῶν ἁγίων Ἀποστόλων διά Κλήμεντος ἀθροισθέντες, more commonly known outside the Hellenic world by its Latin translation: the Novellae Constitutiones, part of the Corpus Juris Civilis.  This copy has spent most of its life in Trinity Hall Cambridge’s Old Library (D*.3.32), one of our Preserving the World’s Rarest Books library partners.


Charlotte Guillard - title page
The title page Novellae Constitutiones (USTC 140698; Trinity Hall Cambridge, D*.3.32)


Shortly after being printed, Trinity Hall’s copy found its way to Cambridge.  The earliest ownership inscription, visible at the very top of the title page, is by the lawyer William Mowse, master of Trinity Hall from 1552 to 1553, and again from 1555 to 1559.  Mowse’s book collection was one of the key donations to Trinity Hall’s library that allowed the College to construct a new library in the sixteenth century.  However, this particular copy travelled before returning to Trinity Hall.

From Mowse, it passed to another Tudor jurist, the celebrated judge and politician Edward Coke.  Though much of Coke’s library is now at the Bodleian, via a purchase of the Holkham Hall library in Norfolk, David Pearson’s research into personalized bindings strongly suggests that Trinity Hall’s copy was one of Coke’s books.   The blind-stamped initials “E C” are characteristic of Coke’s collection.


Binding of Guillard's book
Edward Coke’s “EC” blind-stamped in the binding.


In addition to being an excellent example of a personalized binding, this copy was bound using two pieces of manuscript waste as pastedowns, both from thirteenth-century English or French legal works.


Front paste down manuscript waste
Manuscript waste on front pastedown.


Bask pastedown, manuscript waste
Manuscript waste on back pastedown.

Greek printing and scholarship in Western Europe had a long history that preceded the publication of this particular edition.  The fall of Constantinople in 1453 led many Greek scholars to seek refuge in the West. Their migration was well timed since the intellectual developments of the Renaissance had put great emphasis on the spreading of knowledge of ancient Greek language and culture. An influx of native Greek speakers greatly aided the business of printing Greek classical books, which required not only special typefaces, but also proof-readers who were familiar with the language, and, of course, an audience who could read Greek.

During the sixteenth century, France printed the most texts in Greek, although production of Greek books was not evenly distributed. From a total of over 1,100 editions, Paris produced more than 1,000 imprints and Lyon followed with fewer than 80. Of the genres represented in this body of printed Greek literature, classical texts, religious books and dictionaries were the most popular. Demand for these texts increased rapidly during the 1530s and 1540s. This peak of production is connected to two factors: the founding of the Collège de France in 1530 and the establishment of the Imprimeur royal pour grec in 1538.

In the absence of a strict guild system, many women could take over their husbands’ businesses after their deaths. Charlotte Guillard is such an example, as she took over the printer-shop of her first husband, Berthold Rembolt. Rembolt managed to establish one of the most prestigious printing houses in Paris, the Soleil d’Or, and Guillard ran this business successfully from 1518 until her death in 1555. In 1521 she married her second husband, the bookseller Claude Chevallon. After her second marriage, her name no longer appeared on new editions, but this was a common practice of the time. In 1537, however, Chevallon died and Charlotte’s name reappeared on the shop’s imprints.

From 1537 to 1555, she printed approximately 158 different titles, focusing mostly on Latin editions. Nevertheless, Greek books were an important part of her catalogue.  She was the first French printer who published the works of the Greek Fathers both in Greek and in translations. Her editions of Justin Martyr (USTC 160549) and Proclus of Constantinople (USTC 186258), published in 1539, were the first in France. She had a long-standing connection with the Carthusian monk Godefroi Tilmann, who specialized in translating the Greek Fathers into Latin. Her contribution to the spreading of Greek books was great since she was only the second Parisian printer producing Greek literature between 1539 and 1556.

Unlike many Latin editions of the Novellae Constitutiones, Guillard’s Greek text is in the same portable octavo format as many of her other Greek editions.  For the typeface, Guillard used the same Saint-Augustin face that her second husband started using in 1533.  The entire book is set in these types, except for the Latin prefatory material, which uses roman and italic typefaces (see image at top).

Trinity Hall’s copy is an interesting example of the lives that Greek scholarly books could have in the sixteenth century.  From a workshop at the heart of Greek printing in Western Europe, this copy went on to be part of the libraries of two prominent jurists of the sixteenth century.  Its usefulness to these Tudor scholars transformed into usefulness for students within the College’s library, until finally it has become a piece of evidence of the broader European consumption of Greek books.


For more on Greek printing in Paris, including the career of Charlotte Guillard, see the work of Natasha Constantinidou (@ConstantinidouN).

For more on Trinity Hall’s donors and collections, visit the Trinity Hall Special Collections blog.


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Are you a librarian interested in learning more about the rarity of your collection? Learn more about how to partner with Preserving the World’s Rarest Books.



Jamie Cumby is a PhD student at the University of St Andrews.  She is currently a Senior Editor on Preserving the World’s Rarest Books, and has been affiliated with the USTC project since beginning her PhD in 2014.  Her ongoing work explores the development of the publishing industry in Lyon before the Wars of Religion, with special attention to the Compagnie des libraires.  She is also St Andrews’ contributor to the Material Evidence in Incunabula database. You can follow her on Twitter at @JECumby.

Panagiotis Georgakakis is a PhD student at the University of St Andrews. His research focuses on the French-language gazettes which were published in the Dutch Republic from 1677 to 1720. His interests are grounded in the history of identities and the transfer of political ideas and propaganda throughout 17th-century Europe. You can follow him on Twitter @Pangeorg08.


Photo Permissions:  Images courtesy of Trinity Hall Library Special Collections.


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