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The (sometimes also "the") livre , French for pound (from synonymous Latin libra ), was a French unit of silver currency from the 9th to the 18th century . The order of August 15, 1795 replaced the livre with the franc .


The metal currencies in France in the 17th and 18th centuries were broken down according to both the duodecimal and the decimal system .

The livre, like the British pound originally , was a simple bill (arithmetic pound ). As such, the livre was never minted as a coin in the French Kingdom, with a few exceptions, but rather served as a calculation and value basis for the French silver coin system based on the Carolingian coin system . A livre always consisted of 20 sols (later called sou ) or 240 deniers , so that one sol was equivalent to 12 deniers . In the beginning only deniers were minted and issued , so that the sol was also a simple calculation variable, later sols were also minted. (See also Schilling .)

Originally, a livre, as the name suggests, corresponded to a certain amount (one pound, today corresponds to around 409 grams) of silver with a precisely defined fineness . From such a pound, 20 sols or 240 deniers were minted, so that 240 deniers originally brought such a pound of silver on the scales.

Since the livre initially did not exist as a separate coin and thus as a real size and since 20 sols or 240 deniers always resulted in a livre, regardless of the quality of these coins, the value of the livre depended to a considerable extent on the quality of those based on the livre Coins off. As the coins based on the livre got worse and worse over time, due to a reduction in the weight of the coin or the fineness of silver, the livre also lost a lot of its value, so that in 1791 it was only an eighteenth of its value in 1266 . When the Lis d'Argent, a coin with the equivalent of one livre, was issued in 1656, this Lis d'Argent weighed just over eight grams and had a silver content of just under eight grams. The later, minted multiple livery of 6 livres was the so-called Laubtaler in the 18th century , whereby the simple livery in the Laubtaler only represented around 4 g of silver. The currency name Livre last appeared on assignats from the revolutionary years from 1789.

History of currency

La Banque Royale-10 livres Tournois (1720)

The arithmetic pound as a calculation and value basis and originally also a real material basis for a currency was already in use with Charlemagne . In the course of time, two different bill pounds emerged in France. On the one hand the southern livre tournois (abbreviation: lt or ₶), which was divided into 20 sols of 12 deniers each (= 240 deniers ), and the northern livre parisis , which is a quarter heavier , which also consists of 20 sols , the sol itself however , disintegrated into 15 deniers , so that it was yielded into 300 deniers in total . As early as the time of Louis XIV, however, the Paris livre and the coins based on it had disappeared, so that the tournois was the livre of the Ancien Régime . During the French Revolution , coins called “livre” were finally minted, but these had little in common with the classic livre. By law of August 15, 1795, the livre was abolished, but the newly introduced franc was roughly equivalent in weight and fineness to the revolutionary livre that was in effect until 1795. Although the franc was committed to the decimal system and the subdivision into sous was abolished, the term sou remained in use until the 20th century for a twentieth franc (= 5 centimes).

Purchasing power of the livre

It is difficult to determine what purchasing power the livre would have today. Monetary and economic systems are too different, the relevant shopping baskets have changed too much and the value of the livre - as mentioned above - has gradually declined in historical times in order to be able to make reliable statements. The often accepted rate of a minted silver livre = 5 - 15 euros should only be approximately usable for the 1760s and up to the late 1780s and should be used with caution. The paper assignats- Livres of the revolutionary years after 1789 had much less purchasing power.

1 Louis d'or was equivalent to 24 livres, 1 sou or sol was one twentieth livre, 1 liard was equivalent to a quarter of a sou. 1 Sou was twelve deniers . There were one and two sou or sol coins. Three deniers were equivalent to a liard. 3 livres were one taler ( écu ).

An average table d'hôte or lunch menu was 1 livre; the price of a bread ranged from 2 sous to 12 sous. A cup of café au lait in a street café cost 2 sous. The usual seat in the Comédie française was available for 1 livre and in the Opéra for 2 livres, 8 sous. The trip by stagecoach, carrosse from Bordeaux to Paris cost 72 livres. A printer producing the Encyclopédie , for example, earned 2 livres a day, a foreman earned 3. A horse for a traveling salesman cost around 100 livres, a new printing press cost 300 livres, a used one was available for 250 livres, a ream correspond to 500 sheets of paper and cost 9 livres. A Minot salt cost 60 livre and 7 sous. The shoeshine cost 1,775 2 Liards, ie 6 deniers in Paris around the year. The price for the government-sponsored Gazette was an annual subscription of 12 livres in 1774 and 15 livres in 1785. The wages of prostitutes in the area of ​​the Palais Royal in Paris ranged between 7 and 20 livres around 1790 .

Despite the difficulty of comparing the purchasing power of a historical currency with today's currency, here's an attempt:

Some prices. Denominations of the currency in the Ancien Régime from the middle of the 18th century:
1 livre = 20 sous = 240 deniers
1 livre approx. 5 to 15 € Table d'hôte or lunch menu
2 to 12 sous approx. € 0.5 to € 3 Bread price
2 sous approx. € 0.5 Café au lait
1 livre approx. 5 to 15 € Seat in the Comédie française
2 livres 8 sous approx. 15 to 45 € Seat in the Opéra
72 livres approx. € 360 to € 1080 Journey with a stagecoach, carrosse from Bordeaux to Paris
2 livres approx. 10 to 30 € Earnings of one printer per day; in the production of the Encyclopédie.
3 livres approx. 15 to 45 € One foreman earnings per day.
100 livres approx. 500 to 1500 € Purchase price of a horse for a traveling salesman.
300 livres approx. 1500 to 4500 € Purchase price of a new printing press.
9 livres approx. 45 to 135 € Purchase price for a ream of paper.
10 livres approx. 50 to 150 € Purchase price of a volume of an inexpensive edition of the Encyclopédie.
60 livres approx. 300 to 900 € Purchase price of a Minot (approx. 39 kg) salt.
6 deniers approx. € 0.13 to € 0.40 Price for shoeshine.
2 to 20 livres approx. 10 to 300 € Paying a prostitute to a prostitute at the Palais Royal.
12 livres approx. 60 to 180 € Annual subscription to La Gazette in 1774.



  • Adrien Blanchet, Adolphe Dieudonné: Manuel de numismatique française . 4 volumes. Picard, Paris 1912-1936, (Reproduction en fac-similé. Ibid. 1988, ISBN 2-7084-0340-0 ).
  • Jean Belaubre: Dictionaire de Numismatique médiévale occidentale. Le Léopard d'Or, Paris 1996, ISBN 2-86377-121-3 .
  • Konrad Klütz : Coin names and their origin. Outline of an etymological order of the coin names. Moneytrend-Verlag, Vienna 2004, ISBN 3-9501620-3-8 .
  • Francesco Pastrone: Monnaies françaises. 1789-2007. 18th edition. Éditions Victor Gadoury, Monte Carlo 2007, ISBN 978-2-906602-29-8 .

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Gudrun Valerius: Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture 1648-1793: history, organization, members. Books on Demand (BoD), 2010, ISBN 3-8423-2717-X , p. 155
  2. W. Mahlis: The coin - weight and fineness, trade and coin weights from the beginnings to the present. Moneytrend 10/2003, pp. 128–159.
  3. Philip N. Furbank: Diderot. A critical biography. Secker & Warburg, London 1992, ISBN 0-436-16853-7 , p. 474.
  4. ^ Robert Darnton: Shining Business. The spread of Diderot's Encyclopedia or: How do you sell knowledge for a profit? Klaus Wagenbach, Berlin 1993, ISBN 3-8031-3568-0 , p. 9.
  5. ^ Louis-Sébastien Mercier : Tableau de Paris. Images from pre-revolutionary Paris. Selection, translation from French and afterword by Wolfgang Tschöke. Manesse-Verlag, Zurich 1990, ISBN 3-7175-1776-7 , pp. 174 and 177.
  6. ^ Karin Angelike: Louis-François Mettra. A French newspaper publisher in Cologne. (1770–1800) (= Rheinisches Archiv. Vol. 145). Böhlau, Cologne a. a. 2002, ISBN 3-412-13301-9 , p. 14 (also: Köln, Universität, Dissertation, 1997).
  7. ^ Robert Darnton : Shining Business. The spread of Diderot's Encyclopedia or: How do you sell knowledge for a profit? Klaus Wagenbach, Berlin 1993, ISBN 3-8031-3568-0 , p. 9.
  8. Wages for prostitutes .
  9. The rate of a minted silver livre 1 livre = 5 - 15 euros , which is often assumed, should only be approximately usable for the 1760s and up to the late 1780s and should then be used with caution.

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