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He was the son of Michael Greyff (Greif, Gryff, Gryph), and learned from him the new craft of printing, in Germany and then in Venice. Around 1520 he came to Lyon and settled there, on behalf of a Venetian firm of booksellers.
Initially Gryphius mostly published works on law and administration, in Gothic script. He then moved to Latin classics. He also translated classical Greek authors into Latin. He published his contemporaries Erasmus, Guillaume Budé and Poliziano.
In 1536 he went into business with Hugues de la Porte, who financed him in an independent venture. He founded l'Atelier du Griffon, with a griffin mark. Around this time he introduced the Italic type of Aldus Manutius.
In the 1540s he was the highly-reputed 'Prince of the Lyon book trade'. He promoted the local humanist culture, and his books were prized for their clean lay-out and accuracy. The nineteenth-century scholar Henri Baudrier spoke of the Atelier du Griffon as a « société angélique pour les libres-penseurs ».
His friends included André Alciat, Étienne Dolet, Guillaume Scève and Barthélémy Aneau, and they wrote highly of his work, even helping out in practical printing tasks. Their linguistic input was also of benefit to the works printed. Gryphius printed suspect texts and even sheltered authors in trouble for heretical writing. Étienne Dolet, an academic and satirical poet, came fresh from jail in Toulouse, and was burned as a heretic in 1546.
His brother Franz (François) was a printer in the rue des Carmes in Paris from 1532. Another brother, Johann (Jean), remained in Venice, also as a printer.
- There is a street named after him in la Guillotière, in the seventh arrondissement of Lyon.
- The journal of the Bibliothèque de Lyon is called Gryphe.
- Febvre, Lucien, and Martin, Henri-Jean. The Coming of the Book: The Impact of Printing, 1450-1800. London: Verso, 2010. Page 149.
- Febvre. Pages 149-151, 312.
- Henri Louis & Jules Baudrier. Bibliographie Lyonnaise. (Lyon: Librairie ancienne d'Auguste Brun, 1895–1921) [(F) Z145.L9 B3].
- 450th anniversary of his death in 2006 : Quid novi? Sébastien Gryphe à l'occasion du 450e anniversaire de sa mort"
Typographical material at Flickr by History of the Book, Amsterdam