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CERL’s olive tree logo

CERL uses as its logo a version of the printers’ device made famous by the Estienne (Stephanus) dynasty of Renaissance printers in Paris and Geneva. A similar device was also used by members of the Elsevier family in Leiden and Amsterdam in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The basic image shows an olive tree with a falling branch. CERL follows the common interpretation of the device, which identifies the olive as the tree associated with the Greek goddess Pallas Athene, patroness of wisdom and learning. A portion of divine knowledge falls to earth to be collected and used by scholars for the benefit of mankind.

Some elements of this interpretation were certainly made in the sixteenth century, but Fred Schreiber1) has pointed out that when the device was first used in 1526 by Robert I Estienne (1503–1559), it was accompanied by the motto ‘Noli altum sapere’, later ‘Noli altum sapere, sed time’, which is a New Testament quotation (from the Epistle to the Romans, chapter 11, verse 20). Versions of the device used by the Estienne and Elsevier families often include a male figure standing by the tree. Rather than this being the philosopher gathering knowledge, Schreiber points out that the figure must be that of St Paul quoting a text which emphasises the role of faith, indicating Robert Estienne’s sympathies for the protestant reformation.

Another interpretation mentioned by Schreiber links the name Estienne with the crown of olive leaves offered for athletic or intellectual success in ancient Greece, through the Greek word στέφανος (crown) and the Latin form of the family name Stephanus.

The Hanes Collection of Estienne publications: From book collecting to scholarly resource. A paper presented by Fred Schreiber, The Fourth Hanes Lecture. Hanes Foundation, Rare Book Collection, University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1984.
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 about/cerl_logo.txt · Last modified: 2012/08/31 09:57 (external edit)



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