Sallo, Denys De

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(b. France, 1626: d Paris, 14 May 1669)

scientific journalism.

Denys de Sallo, Seigneur de la Coudraye, was the son of Jacques de Sallo, conseiller of the grandchambre of the Parlement of Paris. He was educated at the Collége des Grassins, winning awards in Greek and Latin, before studying law. Admitted to the Paris bar in 1652, he won respect for his solid judgement, intelligence, and wit. In 1655 he married Elisabeth Mesnardeau, daughter of a colleague: they had one son and four daughters, the latter entering religions orders. Details of Sallo’s life are extremely scarce: in 1657 he was in Frankfurt for the preliminaries to the election of a successor to Ferdinand III. E. Bigot records at this time that Sallo carried books from J. Boecler of Strasbourg to Paris for the astronomer Bouillaud1. During his last years Sallo was unable to walk, a condition attributed to his constant reading; although competent analysis of recorded symptoms now suggests a diabetic condition, then undiagnosed. In 1664 he began preparing the first scholarly periodical, Journal des sçavans. His 4,000 books and 200 manuscripts were sold after his death for 6,000 francs.

A privilège for the printing of the Journal des sçavans for twenty years was granted to Sallo on 8 August 1664; it was ceded on 30 December to Jean Cusson, printer and publisher; and on 5 January 1665 the first number was put on sale, priced at five sous. Thirteen weekly issues were published under Sallo’s editorship: after the last, that of 30 March, there was a nine-month gap before resumption under Jean Gallois on 4 January 1666. A member of Sallo’s household, Gallois was competent in languages and mathematics, and probably was one of three of four unidentified persons actively engaged in writing for the Journal des sçavans from the beginning.

Even before publication started, the Journal des sçavans had been actively promoted; by J. Chapelain, poet, critic, and correspondent of many French and foreign scholars; by Henri Justel, acquainted with innumerable travelers and men of letters; and by Éméric Bigot, well-known in foreign centers of learning. These and others had assured the Journal of a favorable reception abroad. Henry Oldenburg, secretary of the Royal Society, and Christiaan Huygens promised their assistance, which is apparent in the early issues. Sallo’s active collaborators, apart from Gallois, for whom circumstantial evidence is persuasive, cannot be identified with assurance. Amable Bourzeis, the novelist Martin Le Roy de Gomberville, and Chapelain have been named on the basis of a rumor repeated by Gui Patin, who was not a friend of the circle in which the Journal des sçavans had originated. Of these only Chapelain probably was involved.

The Journal des sçavans responded to several aspects of contemporary life. Scientists, historians, philosophers, and others were finding that new facts, theories, and techniques posed issues that changed the basis of their thought. A rising skepticism about traditional views was transforming all disciplines, and the usual methods of exchanging information by letter were inadequate to the challenge. The Gazette. founded at Paris in 1631 by Théophraste Renaudot, reported competently on politics and military affairs; and it was logical that a similar periodical should chronicle events of intellectual interest. François de Mézeray, author of a comprehensive history of France and aware of the need for a record of cultural events as a basis for future histories of the sciences and arts, drafted a program (in the form of a privilège), outlining the aims of such a journal2. Mézeray lived in the same house in Paris as Sallo, a coincidence that cannot be passed over.

Mézeray’s project emphasized the need for a record of discoveries and inventions, with only secondary attention to publications; as finally realized, the Journal des sçavans was a record of new books, a readable and critical account of current writings, and a marketable production in which the hand of the publisher is evident. The prospectus in the first pages of the first number resembles the program that Mézeray had outlined; but the accent was now on utility to the reader, whom the Journal des sçavans would inform of the content and value of the books reviewed.

In its first three months some eighty publications were discussed, sometimes at length. Almost all were in French or Latin, four in Italian of Spanish, and one in English-the first issue of the Philosophical Transactions. listed because of the repute of the newly founded Royal Society. A capable translator had been found who promised reviews of books in English. The Journal des sçavans was international from the outset; about half the books reviewed were published in Paris, while the rest came from London, Amsterdam, Rome, and other French and German cities. A quarter of the space was devoted to scientific material, some identified with insight: Thomas WillisCerebri anatome, at length; Steno’s De musculis et glandulis, also in detail: G. Campani’s work on his new lenses and telescopes; Clerselier’s edition of Descartes’s De l’homme; and G. Huret on the geometry of columns, treated with sharp criticism.

In addition there were reports of current scientific and technological developments: William Petty’s double-hulled vessel and Robert Holmes’s use of Huygens’ clocks on Atlantic voyages. The most important scientific article offered an account3 of a learned conference on comets held at the college of the Jesuits, followed by a detailed report on Adrien Auzout’s calculation of the path of the comet then visible, with predictions for following weeks. While the views set forth before the distinguished audience at the conference were treated with formal respect, a discreet emphasis showed that traditional lore on the causes and nature of comets was not significant in comparison with accurate observation and sound comparison with accurate observation and sound mathematics, which demonstrated that the course followed by comets was much more regular than the lecturers, including Roberval, had asserted.

Various reasons have been given for the interruption of the Journal des sçavans. Sallo had offended certain persons of importance who were unaccoustomed to seeing their work criticized in public print: the editor had commented critically on papal policy and the decrees of the Congregation of the Index concerning French publications; and the ironical view toward traditional attitudes in science and philosophy had indicated a learning to excessive freedom of thought. The fact that the weekly numbers of the Journal des sçavans were not submitted in page proof for official approval was given as the cause of suppression; and Sallo, who could not tolerate constraints on speech and thought, was glad to turn his work over to others, although he seems to have acted as an intermediary for Gallois in dealing with Oldenburg in London. There is no record of his association with the Journal des sçavans after early 1668.


1. Leonard E. Doucette, Emery Bigot: Seventeenth-Century French Humanist (Toront, 1970), 11

2. The papers of François Eudes de Mézeray in the Bibliothéque Natiionale contain a leaf on which is drafted a privilègefor a “Journal littéraire général” (Fonds français 20792, between ff. 112 and 113). This undated document was first published by the critic C. A. Sainte Beuve in 1853 (reprinted in Causeries de lundi, VIII , 183–184) and again from the original text by W. H. Enans in L’Historien Mézeray et la conception de Phistoire en France an dix-sepième sièle (Paris, 1930), pp. 63–64.

3.Journal des sçavans, “du Lundy, 26 janvier, M. DC. LXV.”


A Paris thèse de l’université by Betty Trebell Morgan, Histoire du Journal des Savants depuis 1665 jusqu’en 1701 (Paris, 1929), offers a rapid summary of the available information on De Sallo and his periodical; the book contains a full bibliography of earlier material. See also R. Birn, “Le Journal des Savants sous I’ancien régime”, in Journal des Savants (1965), 15–35; Harcourt Brown, Scientific Organizations in Seventeenth Century France (Baltimore, 1934; New York, 1967), 185–207; and “History and the Learned Journal”, in Journal of the History of Ideas, 33 , no. 2 (1972), 365–378. For De Sallo, see Louis Moreri, Le grand dictionaire [sic] historique ou le Mélange curieus de I’histoire sacrée et profane, IV (Paris, 1699), 392. The fullest article on De Sallo is Dugast-Matifeux, “Débuts du du Journal des Savants”, in Annales de la Société d’Emulation de la vendée (1883).

Harcourt Brown