A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Mercure de France
MERCURE DE FRANCE. This title embraces a series of periodical publications difficult to verify completely, but of so much interest to the history of the arts, that we will endeavour with the aid of the catalogue of the Bibliothèque nationale, to give a list of them. The first newspaper published in France was called the 'Mercure Français.' Originally started in 1605, it was continued in 1635 by Théophraste Renaudot, a physician and founder of the 'Gazette de France' (1631); it dropped in 1644, but was revived in 1672 as the 'Mercure Galant,' by a prolific but mediocre writer named Donneau de Vizé. After the first 6 volumes (1672 to 74) it ceased for two years, but in 1677 was resumed by de Vizé, and published in 10 volumes with the title 'Nouveau Mercure Galant.' It first became of real importance in 1678, when it was issued in monthly volumes 12mo at 3 francs, with a kind of quarterly supplement, called from 1678 to 85 'Extraordinaires du Mercure,' and from 1688 to 92 'Affaires du Temps.' From May 1714 to Oct. 1716, 33 volumes of the 'Nouveau Mercure Galant' came out, including three of 'Relations.' The 54 volumes from 1717 to May 1721 are called 'Le Nouveau Mercure,' and the 36 volumes from June 1721 to December 1723, simply 'Le Mercure.' In 1724 the monthly review founded by de Vizé became 'Le Mercure de France, dedié au Roi,' and 977 volumes appeared with this celebrated title. On Dec. 17, 1791, it resumed its original title of 'Le Mercure Français,' and 51 volumes came out between that date and the year VII of the Republic, but with many changes in the manner of publication. On the 15th of Dec. 1792 the form was changed to 8vo and it was issued daily up to March 25, 1793, then weekly up to the 30th Pluviose of the year VII (Feb 19, 1799). The 84 volumes (eight 12mo and twelve 8vo) from the year VII to 1820 are again called the 'Mercure de France.' To this collection of 1772 volumes may be added 'Le Mercure au XIX siècle' 1823 to 27 (18 volumes); 'Le Mercure de France au XIX siècle' 1827 to 32 (18 volumes numbered 19 to 36); 'Le Mercure' 1832 (one volume numbered 37); and finally 'Le Mercure de France' Nov. 1851 to Feb. 1853, consisting of one folio and two quarto volumes.A few words more are necessary to show the importance of the Mercure in the history of music. In founding his periodical, de Vizé gave particular attention to court news, anecdotes, and poetry, reserving only a small space for the announcement and criticism of new works. His chief aim was to flatter Louis XIV, and obtain the post of 'historiographe de France'; but as we approach the Revolution the interest and importance of the information contained in the 'Mercure' increases with every step. Analyses of new operas, programmes and reports of the 'Concerts Spirituels,' biographical notices of artists, articles on the 'Guerre des Bouffons'—the struggle between French and Italian music—lines addressed to singers or musicians, reviews of treatises on music, announcements of new music, or newly invented instruments—all these and more are to be found in these monthly volumes, which are moreover particularly easy to consult from their well-arranged indexes. A 'Choix des anciens Mercures, avec un extrait du Mercure Français' (Paris 1757 to 64, 108 volumes 12mo, generally bound in 54, with an additional volume of index), was drawn up by La Place, Bastide, Mannontel, and de la Porte, but there is still room for a collection of the matter most interesting to musicians. The writer of this article has long wished to undertake such a work, but lacking the requisite leisure hopes to see it accomplished by some one else.
[ G. C. ]