France’s First Daily Newspaper Appears Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The Journal de Paris, France’s first daily newspaper, was launched on January 1, 1777, and remained in print for sixty-three years. Its pages offered concise information on developments in local and national politics, administrative and police matters, science, health, fashion, art, music, dance, and literature.

Summary of Event

The expansion of journalism Journalism;France in prerevolutionary France Prerevolutionary France was slower than in most other major European nations during the same period. The highly centralized French government granted monopolies on the dissemination of local, national, and foreign news to a limited number of presses. Domestic nondaily newspapers such as the Gazette (pb. 1631-1792), the Journal des savants (pb. 1665-1792; journal of scholars), and Mercure galant (pb. 1672-1710; gallant Mercury) all held monopolies but were closely monitored by an obedient caste of royal censors Censorship;France and had to compete with independent newspapers published abroad. Studies point to the decades after 1750 as a period of significant growth in the French press, when an increasing number of available journals found their way into the hands of an increasing number of literate and interested readers. The nation’s earliest daily newspaper, the Journal de Paris (pb. 1777-1840; Paris journal), was founded well after the establishment of daily newspapers in Germany and England. [kw]France’s First Daily Newspaper Appears (Jan. 1, 1777) [kw]Newspaper Appears, France’s First Daily (Jan. 1, 1777) [kw]Daily Newspaper Appears, France’s First (Jan. 1, 1777) [kw]First Daily Newspaper Appears, France’s (Jan. 1, 1777) Newspapers;France [g]France;Jan. 1, 1777: France’s First Daily Newspaper Appears[2290] [c]Communications;Jan. 1, 1777: France’s First Daily Newspaper Appears[2290] Corancez, Guillaume Olivier de Romilly, Jean de Cadet de Vaux, Antoine-Alexis Ussieux, Louis d’ Suard, Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Xhrouet, Jean-Michel

Official permission to publish and distribute the Journal de Paris as a daily periodical was granted on September 11, 1776. Its first issue appeared on January 1, 1777. From 1777 to 1782, the advertised annual subscription price was fixed at £24 for Paris and £31, 4 shillings for the provinces—about what a skilled laborer in the Paris region might earn in two weeks. In 1782, the newspaper absorbed into its pages the well-established Necrologe des hommes célèbres (pb. 1767-1782; necrology of famous men) and raised its price accordingly to £30 for Paris and £33 for the provinces. In its first year of publication, the journal reached more than 2,500 subscribers, and it had as many as 5,000 subscribers in 1782. Reportedly, more than 12,000 readers subscribed in 1791, but their numbers declined dramatically as the new millennium drew closer and as competition between journals increased.

The Journal de Paris was founded by four men of bourgeois origins: Guillaume Olivier de Corancez, Jean de Romilly, Antoine-Alexis Cadet de Vaux, and Louis d’Ussieux. As a journalist, Corancez specialized in literary criticism. Coproprietor of the newspaper from 1777 to 1799, he frequented the salons of Parisian aristocracy and enjoyed friendly commerce with Jean-Jacques Rousseau Rousseau, Jean-Jacques and the French poet Jean-Antoine Roucher. He wrote a series of articles on Rousseau for the Journal de Paris, which later appeared as a monograph titled De J. J. Rousseau (1788; Anecdotes of the Last Twelve Years of the Life of J. J. Rousseau, Anecdotes of the Last Twelve Years of the Life of J. J. Rousseau (Roucher) 1798).

Corancez’s father-in-law and the cofounder and coproprietor of the newspaper, de Romilly, was a famous watchmaker from Geneva, Switzerland, who had contributed articles on clocks and clock making to Denis Diderot’s Encyclopédie: Ou, Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts, et des métiers (1751-1772; partial translation Selected Essays from the Encyclopedy, 1772; complete translation Encyclopedia, 1965). He took charge of the newspaper’s meteorological reports from 1777 to 1799. The newspaper’s third cofounder, Cadet de Vaux, was a pharmacist and chemist close to the Parisian milieu of freemasons and was probably responsible for a good portion of the newspaper’s coverage of scientific news. Moreover, his friendly ties to the lieutenant-general of police, Jean Charles Pierre Le Noir (1732-1807), gave him convenient access to newsworthy items through government agencies.

The newspaper’s fourth cofounder, d’Ussieux, wrote articles on the various theatrical arts from 1777 to at least 1786. In 1786, he sold his share in the newspaper to Jean-Michel Xhrouet, who then assumed its management until 1991. Historians remember d’Ussieux as the author of popular historical novellas and translator of literary works from German and Italian into French. Like his colleague Cadet de Vaux, he was closely linked to the intellectual circles of the Parisian freemasons.

From its inception, the Journal de Paris was a conservative newspaper intended for the general literate public. Each issue consisted of four in-quarto pages (not counting the inclusion of occasional supplements); after 1777, pagination was consecutive, so at year’s end, all pages could be bound together as a book. Columns in the newspaper covered such topics as weather, events in the arts and sciences, new publications, administrative announcements of various sorts, community service announcements, advertisements, theater, fashion, clever anecdotes, commodity prices, exchange rates, lottery results, and a regular necrology.

The newspaper published letters to the editors and miscellaneous pieces written by celebrated individuals, such as the American envoy to France, Benjamin Franklin [p]Franklin, Benjamin;Journal de Paris French chemist Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier; and German physician Franz Anton Mesmer. Mesmer, Franz Anton Illustrations were too expensive to reproduce, however, and only a handful were included in the journal’s pages, such as a depiction of women’s hair fashion (February 20, 1777), a likeness of Rousseau (January 1, 1780), surgical instrument designs (October 27, 1782), and a drawing of a hot-air balloon(September 19, 1783). Excerpts from musical scores were frequently included as part of an ongoing discussion of the era’s leading operatic performances in the French capital.

Journalists associated with the newspaper discreetly endorsed Enlightenment ideals but, for the most part, limited their discussion of controversial topics to art, music, literature, and science. Their writing style was simple; their coverage of politics was limited and cautious. Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Suard, a royal censor and writer for the journal, ensured that offensive material seldom made its way into print. A substantial amount of the newspaper’s information came from local administrative sources in Paris and Versailles. Such news tended to support the monarchy by projecting a positive view of the Catholic Church and the government. The editorial staff’s compliant sense of journalism, at least during its early years, was perhaps best expressed in the following description of le bon ton Bon ton (proper tone) (the proper tone) reproduced in its pages:

The proper tone, is the tone of high society. It is better felt than defined. It requires a flair for noble sentiment, an adherence to polite expression, decency of conduct, decorum in all matters, a manner of reporting which confounds neither ranks, titles, estates nor individuals.

Adherence to the dictates of bon ton helped ensure the newspaper’s survival, not only under the Old Regime’s strict censorship laws but also during the chaotic years of the French Revolution and beyond.

Significance

One of the express goals of the Journal de Paris was to serve as an instrument of the Enlightenment. Its founders and contributing writers used the journal’s pages to promote discussion of art, science, and literature. However, as a government-sanctioned periodical in a tightly controlled industry, the newspaper also served as an organ of the Old Regime monarchy, diffusing official announcements while advocating conservative social and political reforms. Closely monitored by censors, it avoided sensitive political, philosophical, and religious issues. Its general coverage of politics and societal conditions, nonetheless, helped bring policy-making out of the secretive chambers of government ministries and into the arena of public opinion, thus contributing to the notion of accountability in government. Government;accountability

Sections of the newspaper containing letters to the editors as well as community service announcements provided a convenient forum for public expression and encouraged involvement among the middle and upper bourgeoisie in matters of local governance. In addition to being France’s first daily newspaper—a model and testing ground for future journalism—the Journal de Paris was also the first major news source to embrace paid advertising. Advertising in newspapers Scholars of French history now look to early newspapers such as the Gazette, the Journal des savants, the Mercure galant, and Journal de Paris as precious mirrors of the science and mores of prerevolutionary France.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Censer, Jack Richard. The French Press in the Age of Enlightenment. New York: Routledge, 1994. A comprehensive study of eighteenth century journalism.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Darnton, Robert, and Daniel Roche, eds. Revolution in Print: The Press in France, 1775-1800. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989. A collection of articles by specialists in the history of eighteenth century print culture.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Feyel, Gilles. L’Annonce et la nouvelle: La Presse d’information en France sous l’ancien régime, 1630-1788. Oxford, England: Voltaire Foundation, 2000. An in-depth look at prerevolutionary journalism. In French.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Harris, Bob. Politics and the Rise of the Press: Britain and France, 1620-1800. New York: Routledge, 1996. Chapter 3 concentrates on the development of prerevolutionary journalism in France.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Sgard, Jean, ed. Dictionnaire des journalistes, 1600-1789. 2 vols. Oxford, England: Voltaire Foundation, 1999. Articles on the major French journalists of the prerevolutionary era, including Corancez, Romilly, Cadet de Vaux, d’Ussieux, and Suard. In French.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">_______. Dictionnaire des journaux, 1600-1789. Vol. 1. Paris: Universitas, 1991. Articles on 1,267 French-language periodicals of the prerevolutionary era, including the Journal de Paris. In French.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Thogmartin, Clyde. The National Daily Press of France. Birmingham, Ala.: Summa, 1998. A survey of French journalism from the early seventeenth century to the present.

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