The Ambiguities of Contempt for the Folliculaires in Eighteenth-Century France



The feuilles volantes were a type of periodical publication that emerged and developed in eighteenth-century France. Literally ‘flying leaves’, or ‘loose sheets’, they were short publications of a few dozen pages published at intervals whose name served as a constant reminder of their own fleeting materiality. If the format of the feuille volante contributed to the unity of this journalistic ensemble, it was also mocked, despised, and even vehemently attacked by contemporary authors such as Voltaire and Louis-Sébastien Mercier. Voltaire even coined the neologism folliculaire, which became a generic term in his writings to denigrate mediocre and greedy journalists for whom the feuilles volantes were a way to eke out a living. As this article shows, however, the fantasies and obsessions to which these periodicals gave rise appear to be very ambiguous: they are, in fact, proof of a fascination, and perhaps a fear of a medium whose expansion seemed already irreversible.

Keywords: eighteenth century, France, feuilles volantes, folliculaires, Voltaire, Louis-Sébastien Mercier

How to Cite: Lévrier, A. (2022) “The Ambiguities of Contempt for the Folliculaires in Eighteenth-Century France”, Journal of European Periodical Studies. 7(1). doi: