Madame de Graffigny and the 18th Century Post Office


Joint French History Seminar


After some general observations on the functioning of the eighteenth-century post-office, I first interpret three mysterious postmarks. I then treat the problems Mme de Graffigny faced in dealing with the cost of letters and especially with the opening and resealing of her mail by the government and by private individuals.

David Smith, emeritus professor of French at the University of Toronto, fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and honorary member of the Canadian Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, is a specialist on Helvétius, Mme de Graffigny and Voltaire. He first worked in the history of ideas, notably on the condemnation of Helvétius' De l'esprit, then on editing the letters of Helvétius (5 volumes) and of Graffigny (15 volumes) as well as the Relation de Berthier for the Oxford edition of the Œuvres complètes of Voltaire. He has also produced several bibliographical articles on Voltaire and physical bibliographies of the works of both Helvétius and Graffigny. The latter was awarded a prize for the best bibliography of 2016 by the Syndicat du Livre Ancien et Moderne (SLAM).