French Renaissance Paleography


Paris, 9 December 1682
Inventaire après décès du mobilier et du matériel d’imprimerie de Jean Chardon
Chicago, Newberry Library, VAULT Case Wing MS folio Z311 .C37


After the death of the Paris printer Jean Chardon in 1682, his widow and eldest son had this inventory drawn up, listing his household goods and the equipment found in his shop on the rue Galande in the parish of Saint Séverin, in the Latin Quarter. The level of detail is invaluable for helping us to understand the nature of the printing business in Paris in the late 17th century. The appraisers, Pierre le Mercier and Clement Gasse, were Parisian printers and booksellers themselves.

The document sheds light on the fact that most printing concerns were also family businesses. Both personnel and material moved from press to press along family lines. As was typical, Chardon’s widow, Marie Denys (Denis) was herself the daughter of a bookseller and binder, Mathurin Denys. Marie took over her husband’s business after his death, under the name “Veuve [widow] Jean Chardon,” and ran it until 1712.

Marie and Jean had three sons, all mentioned in the preliminary matter for the inventory, two of whom also became printers and booksellers: the eldest, Etienne Chardon, active 1683-1695, and one of his younger brothers, Sebastien, active 1711-1719 (the third son was Jean). The document indicates that upon his father’s death Etienne became guardian to his brothers.

A year before his death, their father had purchased four printing presses from the Veuve Charles I Coignard printing business – another business run by a widow. Those four presses were likely among the seven presses listed in the inventory (see folio 3r).


On working women and the legal status of widows in seventeenth-century France, see: