French livre

The livre (English: pound) was the currency of Kingdom of France and its predecessor state of West Francia from 781 to 1794. Several different livres existed, some concurrently. The livre was the name of both units of account and coins.

France 1793-A 24 Livres
French 1793 24-Livre gold coin


Origin and etymology

The livre was established by Charlemagne as a unit of account equal to one pound of silver. It was subdivided into 20 sous (also sols), each of 12 deniers. The word livre came from the Latin word libra, a Roman unit of weight. This system and the denier itself served as the model for many of Europe's currencies, including the British pound, Italian lira, Spanish dinero and the Portuguese dinheiro.

This first livre is known as the livre carolingienne. Only deniers were initially minted, but debasement led to larger denominations being issued. Different mints in different regions used different weights for the denier, leading to several distinct livres of different values.

"Livre" is a homonym of the French word for "book" (from the Latin word liber), the distinction being that the two have a different gender. The monetary unit is feminine, la/une livre, while "book" is masculine, le/un livre.

Late medieval and early modern period

For much of the Middle Ages, different duchies of France were semi-autonomous if not practically independent from the weak Capetian kings, and thus each minted their own currency. Charters would need to specify which region or mint was being used: "money of Paris" or "money of Troyes". The first steps towards standardization came under the first strong Capetian monarch, Philip II Augustus (1165–1223). Philip II conquered much of the continental Angevin Empire from King John of England, including Normandy, Anjou, and Touraine.

The currency minted at the city of Tours in Touraine was considered very stable, and Philip II decided to adopt the livre tournois as the standard currency of his lands, gradually replacing even the livre of Paris, and ultimately the currencies of all French-speaking areas he controlled. This was a slow process lasting many decades and not completed within Philip II's lifetime.

The result was that from 1200 onwards, following the beginning of King Philip II's campaigns against King John, the currency used within French speaking lands was in a state of flux, as the livre tournois was gradually introduced into other areas.

Until the thirteenth century and onwards, only deniers were actually minted as coin money. Both livres and sous did not actually exist as coins but were used only for accounting purposes.

Upon his return from the crusades in the 1250s, Louis IX instigated a royal monopoly on the minting of coinage in France and minted the first gold écu d'or and silver gros d'argent, whose weights (and thus monetary divisions) were roughly equivalent to the livre tournois and the denier.

Between 1360 and 1641, coins worth 1 livre tournois were minted known as francs. This name persisted in common parlance for 1 livre tournois but was not used on coins or paper money.

The official use of the livre tournois accounting unit in all contracts in France was legislated in 1549. However, in 1577, the livre tournois accounting unit was officially abolished and replaced by the écu, which was at that time the major French gold coin in actual circulation. In 1602, the livre tournois accounting unit was brought back.

Seventeenth century

Louis XIII of France stopped minting the franc in 1641, replacing it with coins based on the silver écu and gold Louis d'or. The écu and louis d'or fluctuated in value, with the écu varying between three and six livres tournois until 1726 when it was fixed at six livres. The louis was initially (1640) worth ten livres, and fluctuated too, until its value was fixed at twenty-four livres in 1726.

In 1667, the livre parisis was officially abolished. However, the sole remaining livre was still frequently referred to as the livre tournois until its demise.

Eighteenth century

FRA-A20a-La Banque Royale-10 livres Tournois (1720)
10 livres tournois note issued by La Banque Royale (1720)

The first French paper money was issued in 1701 and was denominated in livres tournois. However, the notes did not hold their value relative to silver due to massive over–production. The Banque Royale (the last issuer of these early notes) crashed in 1720, rendering the banknotes worthless (see John Law for more on this system).

In 1726, under Louis XV's minister Cardinal Fleury, a system of monetary stability was put in place. Eight ounces (a mark) of gold was worth 740 livres, 9 sols (so, one ounce of gold was worth ~4 Louis or ~93 livres); 8 ounces of silver was worth 51 livres, 2 sols, 3 deniers. This led to a strict conversion rate between gold and silver (14.4867 to 1) and established the values of the coins in circulation in France at:

  • the Louis d'or (gold coin) of 24 livres
  • the double Louis d'or (gold coin) of 48 livres
  • the demi-Louis d'or or half-Louis (gold coin) of 12 livres
  • the écu (silver coin) of 6 livres or 120 sols, along with ​12, ​14 and ​18 écu denominations valued at 60, 30 and 15 sols
  • the sol (copper coin) denominated in 1 and 2 sol units valued at 1/20th of a livre (or 12 deniers) per sol
  • the denier (copper coin) denominated in 3 and 6 denier units valued at 1/4 and 1/2 a sol respectively (the three denier coin was also called a liard).

A coin of value 1 livre was not, however, minted. Yet in 1720 a special coin minted in pure silver was produced and assigned an over-value of 1 livre. Additionally, France took 20 Sols de Navarre coins minted in 1719 and 1720, re-struck them as Sixth Ecu de France (between the years of 1720 and 1723) essentially creating a coin worth 1 livre. These re-struck coins, however, eventually were assigned the value of 18 Sols.[1]

FRA-A74-République Française-125 livres (1793)
Assignat for 125 livres (1793)

A kind of paper money was reintroduced by the Caisse d'Escompte in 1776 as actions au porteur, denominated in livres. These were issued until 1793, alongside assignats from 1789. Assignats were backed (in theory) by government-held land. Like the issues of the Banque Royale, their value plummeted.

The last coins and notes of the livre currency system were issued in Year II of the Republic (1794). In 1795, the franc was introduced, worth 1 livre 3 deniers (​1 180 livres), and the first one-franc coin was struck in 1803. Still the word livre survived; until the middle of the 19th century it was indifferently used alongside the word franc, especially to express large amounts and transactions linked with property (real estate, property incomes or "rentes", cattle, etc...).

Later history

The livre had also been used as the legal currency of the Channel Islands. The Jersey livre remained legal currency in Jersey until 1834 when dwindling supplies of no-longer minted coins obliged the adoption of the pound as legal tender.

Today, France uses the Euro as its currency.


  1. ^ W.K. Cross, ed. (2012). CANADIAN COINS: A Charlton Standard Catalogue (66th ed.). Toronto, Ontario / Palm Harbor, Florida: The Charlton Press. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-88968-348-8.
8-pounder long gun

The 8-pounder long gun was a light calibre piece of artillery mounted on French warships of the Age of sail. It fired a projectile of eight livres in weight, equivalent to 8.633 English pounds, or 8 lb 10 oz (the French livre was 7.916% heavier than the English pound weight). They were used as main guns on light ships of the early 19th century, and on the quarterdeck and forecastle of ships of the line. They were similar in design to the Canon de 8 Gribeauval.

Anglo-Saxon pound

The pound was a unit of account in Anglo-Saxon England, equal to 240 silver pennies and equivalent to one pound weight of silver. According to the Daily Telegraph it came into use around 775. It evolved into the modern British currency, the pound sterling.

The accounting system of 12 pence = 1 shilling, 20 shillings = 1 pound was adopted from that introduced by Pepin or even earlier to the Frankish kingdom (see French livre). King Offa of Mercia is credited with causing the widespread adoption of the silver penny and the pound as a unit of account. Thomas Snelling writes that the division of the pound into 12 ounces was in use with the Romans, and the division of ounces into 20 pennyweights was introduced into France by Charlemagne, and then brought to England by William the Conqueror.The Latin word for "pound" is libra. The £ or ₤ is a stylised writing of the letter L, a short way of writing libra. This is similar to how a pound of mass is abbreviated "lb". Up until 1972, especially on typewriters or keyboards without a "£" symbol, it was common to write "L" or "l" instead of "£".

The pound in use in King Offa's day, also known as the Saxon pound or moneyers' pound, remained essentially unchanged until 1527, by which time it had come to be known as the Tower pound, after the Tower of London. In 1527, the Tower pound was replaced by the English modern troy pound of 373,3 g, which was, by law, equal to exactly ​16⁄15 of a Tower pound.

The fundamental unit of the pre-1527 English weight system known as Tower weights, was a different sort of grain known as the "wheat grain".

The Tower pound had a mass of 240 × 32 = 7680 wheat grain. The Tower wheat grain was defined as exactly ​45⁄64 of a troy grain. Expressed in modern English troy grains, the Tower pound was 7680 × ​45⁄64 = 5400 modern troy grains (350 g). The Tower pound was divided into 12 ounces, each ounce into 20 pennyweights, and each pennyweight into 24 barleycorns. There were thus 480 barleycorns to a Tower ounce, 5760 barleycorns to a Tower pound of 350 g. The Anglo-Saxon pound (Saxon pound, moneyers' pound or Tower pound) remained in use for silver and gold coinage in England after the adoption of the medieval troy pound of 367.5 g. This pound of 12 ounces was in use in Troyes (Champagne fairs) where the mark of 8 ounces (also the Paris mark) weighed 245 g. The medieval troy pound weighed 240 pennyweights of 1.53 g or 24 medieval troy grains (​1⁄5760 of the new pound and heavier than the real barleycorn). The Tower pound remained in use for weighing gold and silver until 1527.

Canon de 12 Gribeauval

The Canon de 12 Gribeauval or 12-pounder was a French cannon and part of the system developed by Jean Baptiste Vaquette de Gribeauval. There were 1.079 English pounds in the Old French pound (French: livre), making the weight of shot nearly 13 English pounds. The 12-pounder was the heaviest cannon in the French field artillery; the others were the light Canon de 4 Gribeauval and the medium Canon de 8 Gribeauval. Superseding the previous Vallière system, the Gribeauval system was adopted in 1765 and its guns were first used during the American Revolutionary War. The greatest use of Gribeauval guns came during the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. During the latter wars, the 12-pounder was often employed in corps artillery reserves. Because of their physical and psychological effect, Emperor Napoleon increased the number of 12-pounders in his artillery and fondly called the cannons his belles filles (beautiful daughters). Gribeauval cannons fired canister shot for close-range work and round shot at more distant targets. In 1803 the Year XI system was introduced, but it only partly replaced the Gribeauval system which was not completely replaced until the Valée system was set up in 1829.

Canon de 8 Gribeauval

The Canon de 8 Gribeauval or 8-pounder was a French cannon and part of the Gribeauval system developed by Jean Baptiste Vaquette de Gribeauval. The Old French pound (French: livre) was 1.07916 English pounds, making the weight of shot about 8.633 English pounds (or 8 lb 10 oz). The 8-pounder was the medium weight cannon of the French field artillery; the others were the light Canon de 4 Gribeauval and the heavy Canon de 12 Gribeauval. Replacing the older Vallière system, the Gribeauval system was introduced in 1765 and the guns were first employed during the American Revolutionary War. The most extensive use of Gribeauval guns was during the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. The 8-pounder could be found in divisional reserves, advanced guards or army artillery reserves. Emperor Napoleon began to phase out the 8-pounder by increasing the proportion of 12-pounders in his artillery. The emperor began switching calibers to the handier 6-pounder piece, utilizing captured guns as well as newly designed French cannons. The Year XI system began in 1803, but it only partly replaced the Gribeauval system which was not entirely suppressed until the Valée system was introduced in 1829.

Fleury Playbook

The Fleury Playbook (French: Livre de Jeux de Fleury — Orléans, Bibliothèque Municipale MS. 201) is a medieval collection of Latin biblical dramas dating from around 1200 AD It was included in a composite volume of sermons, biblical texts, liturgical dramas, and hymns that was bound and kept at the library of Abbaye Saint Benoît de Fleury, a Benedictine monastery at Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire, France, until after the French Revolution and is now housed in the Bibliothèque de la Ville (Municipal Library) at Orléans, France. The works in the playbook are told in a musical style similar to that of plainsong. The origin of the book is unknown, but it is possible that it was written by multiple authors. The playbook consists of a total of 10 works, occupying pages 176–243 of the manuscript.

French colonial livre

The livre was the currency of various French colonies until the early 19th century. It was subdivided into 20 sous, each of 12 deniers. It was mostly issued in paper money form and was generally linked to the French livre at the rate of 1½ colonial livres = 1 French livre. Colonies where it was used include French Guiana, Guadeloupe (see Guadeloupe livre), Saint-Domingue (See: Haitian livre), Martinique, Mauritius, New France (see New France livre) and Réunion.

Haitian livre

The livre was the currency of Haiti until 1813. The Haitian livre was a French colonial currency, distinguished by the use, in part, of Spanish coins. It was equal to the French livre and was subdivided into 20 sous, each of 12 deniers. The escalin of 15 sous was also used as a denomination, since it was equal to the Spanish colonial real. Coins specifically for use in Haiti were issued between 1802 and 1809, along with various overstamped coins.

The livre was replaced by the Haitian gourde in 1813, at a rate of 1 gourde = 8 livre 5 sous (11 escalin).

Jersey livre

The livre was currency of Jersey until 1834. It consisted entirely of French coins.

Until the 1720s, the currency used was the French livre, subdivided into 20 sous, each of 12 deniers. The commonest coin in circulation was the liard (3 deniers or ¼ of a sou). However, the copper coinage had devalued against silver and by the 1720s liards were being exchanged in St Malo at a rate of 6 to the sou. The consequent cross-border financial speculation caused by the discrepancy in coinage values was threatening economic stability. The States of Jersey therefore resolved to devalue the liard to 6 to the sou. The legislation to that effect implemented in 1729 caused popular riots that shook the establishment. The devaluation was therefore cancelled and the liard remained officially at 4 to the sou until 1834 (and liard remains the Jèrriais word for a farthing).

The Code des Lois of 1771 codified the value of the livre against sterling in order to regulate the exchange of sterling paid to the British garrison and the currency used by the population. The exchange rate was set at 24 livres = 1 pound, making the 2 sous coin equal to a British penny. However, in the early 19th century, an exchange rate of 26 livres = 1 pound was established.

In the French Revolutionary period, the livre was replaced by the franc. The last coins and notes of the livre currency system were issued in France in the Year II of the Republic (1794).

By the 1830s, the surviving livre coinage was in very short supply in Jersey and so worn as to be unusable. The States passed a law on September 18, 1834 that sterling would be sole legal tender as from October 1, 1834 (this law was confirmed by Order in Council, June 24, 1835). However, although sterling was henceforth the sole legal tender, French coinage continued to circulate in Jersey. In 1840, a new copper coinage was introduced for Jersey, based on a penny worth ​1⁄13 of a shilling, the equivalent of 2 sous.

Nonetheless, some French coins continued to circulate (increasingly French francs). On February 7, 1923 the States passed a law to ban the import of foreign copper coinage in sums exceeding 20 sous. This law was confirmed by Order in Council March 12, 1923 and registered in the Royal Court April 7, 1923. The States then proceeded to take steps to remove French copper coinage from circulation.

On August 2, 1923, the States authorised the Finance Committee to exchange French copper coins for Jersey copper coins. Between August 27 and September 8, the Treasury carried out at their office the exchange of 1 and 2 sous French coins for Jersey coins and placed advertisements in the press to that effect, with an additional reminder that French coinage was still not legal tender.

Lebanese pound

The Lebanese pound (Arabic: ليرة لبنانية‎ lira libnaniyya; French: livre libanaise; sign: ل.ل.‎, ISO 4217: LBP) is the currency of Lebanon. It used to be divided into 100 piastres (or qirsh) but high inflation in the Lebanese Civil War has eliminated the subdivisions.

The plural form of lira, as used on the currency, is either lirat (ليرات) or the same, whilst there were four forms for qirsh: the dual qirshan (قرشان), the plural qirush (قروش) used with numbers 3–10, the accusative singular qirsha (قرشا) used with 11–99, or the genitive singular qirshi (قرش) used with multiples of 100. In both cases, the number determines which plural form is used. Before the Second World War, the Arabic spelling of the subdivision was غرش (girsh). All of Lebanon's coins and banknotes are bilingual in Arabic and French.

List of currencies

A list of all currencies, current and historic. The local name of the currency is used in this list, with the adjectival form of the country or region.


Livre may refer to:

French livre, one of a number of obsolete units of currency of France

livre tournois, one particular obsolete unit of currency of France

livre parisis, another particular obsolete unit of currency of France

French colonial livre, an obsolete unit of currency used in some French colonies

Haitian livre, an obsolete currency of Haiti

Luxembourgish livre, an obsolete currency of Luxembourg

New France livre, an obsolete currency of New France

Saint Lucia livre, an obsolete currency of Saint Lucia

Jersey livre, an obsolete currency of the island of Jersey

Guadeloupe livre, an obsolete currency of Guadeloupe

LIVRE (political party), a minor Portuguese socialist ecologist political party

one of a number of units of mass, translated as a Pound

a rating of the Brazilian advisory rating system

Livre parisis

The livre parisis (French pronunciation: ​[livʁ paʁizi], Paris pound) was a standard for minting French coins and a unit of account. Like the livre tournois, which was divided into 20 sols tournois each of 12 deniers tournois, the livre parisis was also divided into 20 sols parisis each of 12 deniers parisis, but the livre parisis was worth 25 sols tournois (i.e., the livre tournois was worth ​4⁄5 of the livre parisis). Each sol parisis was thus worth 15 deniers tournois, and each denier parisis worth ​1 1⁄4 deniers tournois.

Before the seizure of the Anjou region around Tours by Philip II of France in 1203, the livre parisis had been the official coin of the Capetian dynasty. The livre tournois quickly outstripped the livre parisis as a unit of account, and it ceased to exist as an actual coin under Louis IX. Despite this, a monetary unit of accounting based on the livre parisis continued to be used in the area around Paris and was not officially abolished until 1667 by Louis XIV of France.

Livre tournois

The livre tournois (French pronunciation: ​[livʁ tuʁnwa], Tours pound) was:

one of numerous currencies used in France in the Middle Ages; and

a unit of account (i.e., a monetary unit used in accounting) used in France in the Middle Ages and the early modern period.

Luxembourgian livre

The livre was the currency of Luxembourg until 1795. It was subdivided into 20 sols, each of 4 liards. In the late 18th century, coins were issued in denominations of ½ and 2 liards, 1, 3, 6, 12 and 72 sols, with the lower three denominations in copper, the highest minted in silver and the others in billon. The last issues of 1795 were 1 sol coins minted during the siege of Luxembourg.

New France livre

The livre was the currency of New France, the French colony in modern-day Canada. It was subdivided into 20 sols, each of 12 deniers. The New France livre was a French colonial currency, distinguished by the use of paper money.

Pound (mass)

The pound or pound-mass is a unit of mass

used in the imperial, United States customary and other systems of measurement. Various definitions have been used; the most common today is the international avoirdupois pound, which is legally defined as exactly 0.45359237 kilograms, and which is divided into 16 avoirdupois ounces. The international standard symbol for the avoirdupois pound is lb; an alternative symbol is lbm (for most pound definitions), # (chiefly in the U.S.), and ℔ or ″̶ (specifically for the apothecaries' pound).

The unit is descended from the Roman libra (hence the abbreviation "lb"). The English word pound is cognate with, among others, German Pfund, Dutch pond, and Swedish pund. All ultimately derive from a borrowing into Proto-Germanic of the Latin expression lībra pondō ("a pound by weight"), in which the word pondō is the ablative case of the Latin noun pondus ("weight").Usage of the unqualified term pound reflects the historical conflation of mass and weight. This accounts for the modern distinguishing terms pound-mass and pound-force.

Syrian pound

The Syrian pound or Syrian lira (Arabic: الليرة السورية‎ al-līra as-sūriyya; French: livre syrienne; sign: LS or £S; code: SYP) is the currency of Syria and is issued by the Central Bank of Syria. The pound is subdivided into 100 qirsh (Arabic: قرش plural: قروش, qurūsh, piastres in English or French), although coins in qirsh are no longer issued.

Before 1947, the word qirsh was spelled with the initial Arabic letter غ, after which the word began with ق. Until 1958, banknotes were issued with Arabic on the obverse and French on the reverse. After 1958, English has been used on the reverses, hence the three different names for this currency. Coins used both Arabic and French until independence, then only Arabic.

The standard abbreviation for the Syrian pound is SYP. On 5 December 2005, the selling rate quoted by the Commercial Bank of Syria was 48.4 SYP to the US dollar. A rate of about 50 pounds to one dollar has been usual in the early 2000s, but the exchange rate is subject to fluctuations. Since the start of the civil war in 2011, the pound's exchange rate has deteriorated significantly, falling from 47 SYP for US$1 in March 2011 to 515 SYP for US$1 in July 2017.

The Book of Law

The Book of Law (French: Livre de loi; Persian: کتاب قانون‎, transliteration: Ketabe ghanoun) is a 2009 Iranian film directed by Maziar Miri, written by Mohammad Rahmanian, and produced by Mohsen AliAkbari. The film is about a Lebanese woman and convert to Islam struggling with the contrast between the behaviour of Iranian Muslims and the principles of Islamic religion. The film stars Parviz Parastui and Darine Hamze.

The Travels of Marco Polo

Book of the Marvels of the World (French: Livre des Merveilles du Monde) or "Description of the World" (Devisement du Monde), in Italian "Il Milione" (lit. The Million, deriving from Polo's nickname "Emilione") or "Oriente Poliano" ("Polian East") and in English commonly called "The Travels of Marco Polo", is a 13th-century travelogue written down by Rustichello da Pisa from stories told by Italian explorer Marco Polo, describing Polo's travels through Asia between 1271 and 1295, and his experiences at the court of Kublai Khan.The book was written in Old French by romance writer Rustichello da Pisa, who worked from accounts which he had heard from Marco Polo when they were imprisoned together in Genoa. From the beginning, there has been incredulity over Polo's sometimes fabulous stories, as well as a scholarly debate in recent times. Some have questioned whether Marco had actually travelled to China or was just repeating stories that he had heard from other travellers.Economic historian Mark Elvin concludes that recent work "demonstrates by specific example the ultimately overwhelming probability of the broad authenticity" of Polo's account, and that the book is, "in essence, authentic, and, when used with care, in broad terms to be trusted as a serious though obviously not always final, witness."

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