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Saint Vincent's Reading List: XLVIII: Current Events in Vincent's Day

by Rev Edward R Udovic CM 12/13/2013 2:42:00 PM

Le Mercure François. Paris: J. Richer [etc.], 1613-1648.

Call Number: SpC. 944.03 M556r


Throughout his letters and conferences Vincent de Paul makes reference to the events of the day: things that were happening in Paris, throughout France, and even internationally. How did Vincent de Paul get his news? Certainly, some of Vincent’s news came from rumors, from letters he received or from events he witnessed, and some would have come from official royal and parlementary announcements. There was also a lively trade in quickly-published and rapidly-distributed pamphlets such as the famous "Mazarinades" of the Fronde.

In the 20th century, encyclopedias would often publish "yearbooks" which would summarize highlights of major selected events for the year just ended. This approach is still in use among broadcast and online news agencies. It was also used during Saint Vincent’s lifetime.

Le Mercure François was published in Paris in twenty-five volumes from 1613 to 1648. The first volume covered the events of 1605 until the coronation of Louis XIII in 1613. The series ended early in the reign of Louis XIV before the declaration of his majority and the outbreak of the Fronde.

This publication had a fairly standard subtitle, for example: "Volume Five of the Mercure François, where you will find the history of our times, during the reign of the Most-Christian King of France and of Navarre, Louis XIII, containing those memorable events for the years…"

Le Mercure François was an edited compilation with added commentary of previously published news: including international events, wars, treaties, papal documents and religious news, French and Parisian news, items about the court and royal family, the decisions of the Conseil d’Etat, natural disasters, the weather, and gossipy items about the nobility and public figures.

There were a number of editors during this period, and the publication continued to evolve. It is generally believed that the royal government had a hand in its publication, which gave it a semi-official status. With Cardinal Richelieu’s death in 1642, it lost much of its political purpose and became more informational. Publication ceased in 1648. Another similar publication was La Gazette de France, which began publication in 1631.

Le Mercure François represents an intermediate stage in the development of journalism which on one hand would lead to the development of newspapers, and on the other to the modern news or feature magazine.

There are no extant references in St. Vincent’s corpus to Le Mercure François, but there are several references to a similar periodical published in Rome that gave news of the papal court.

DePaul Special Collections and Archives holds the eleventh volume of Le Mercure François (1625-1626). The full twenty-five volume set can be viewed online here.



St. Vincent’s Reading List is a recurring blog series exploring texts known to have been read and recommended by Saint Vincent de Paul, those which can be presumed to have been read by him, and works published during his lifetime (1581-1660) illustrating his world. All materials discussed are held by DePaul University’s Richardson Library. The entire series may be viewed here.


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