The Life of Vincent de Paul (Abelly): Introduction

Francisco Javier Fernández ChentoVincent de PaulLeave a Comment

Author: Louis Abelly · Translator: William Quinn. · Year of first publication: 1664.
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Weights and Measures

These have been left in French to preserve the flavor of the original, and to avoid, particularly dealing with money, having to change currency rates. Note, too, that weights and measures were not uniform throughout France; consequently, these descriptions are often valid only for the Paris region.

  • Chopine: liquid measure, containing about one pint
  • Denier: money, a half-sou
  • Ecu: money, also translated as “crown”; 60 sous or 3 livres
  • League: distance, about 2 1/2 miles, 4 kilometers
  • Livre: money, an old name for a franc; 20 sous
  • Muid: liquid measure, containing about 59 gallons
  • Piastre: money, a coin of Italian or Spanish origin, widely used internationally; in the near east and north Africa, 100 piastres were worth 1 livre
  • Pistole: money, 10 livres
  • Setier: liquid measure containing 2 gallons; in Paris, a demi-setier contained a half-pint
  • Sou: also spelled sol; money, 1/20 of a livre

Quotations and Citations

Only direct quotations from the Scriptures have been cited. Indirect quotations, allusions or passing references are left as they are. Citations from the Psalms are given according to modern numbering, but the text remains that of the old psalter as quoted by Abelly.

All other quotations have been cross referenced to the edition of Coste. Those not attributed to some source (a speaker or writer) or not otherwise identified are presumed to appear only in Abelly. More research needs to be done on the sources used by Abelly.

French officials and specific institutions

  • College: a boarding high school
  • Lieutenant: (lieutenant criminel), an official with powers to pursue and arrest criminals
  • Madame la Presidente: the wife of the president
  • Official: an ecclesiastical judge
  • Parlement: a judicial body, not a legislature
  • President: a presiding judge in the parlements

Translation issues

The terms “Mission” and “Missionaries” often, but not always, refer to members of the Congregation of the Mission. When the reference is clear, the terms are capitalized. Often, however, the reference is not clear.

Use of Monsieur instead of Father: used for secular clergy regularly in France, and retained here to give some flavor of the original text

Use of Moslem instead of Turk: Turk was a general word in French for Moslem, particularly in North Africa, where there were many ethnic Turks at work in the imperial Ottoman government. At present, the religious term Moslem matches the reality better than Turk.

Personal names in French or other languages are generally retained in the original language, unless the English version of the name is normally in use as such in English. For bibliographical references in footnotes, the original forms have been maintained. However, the use of accents in French names has been retained only for references to book titles. All others have been eliminated. Hyphens in French given names have been eliminated.

Titles and forms of address: Noble and ecclesiastical titles have been put in English, except for Marquis/Marquise, instead of its less recognizable English Marquess and Marchioness. These titles are capitalized only when they precede the person’s name. French Monseigneur for bishops has been translated as “Your Excellency,” rather than “My Lord,” a more British than American usage. Other ecclesiastical forms of address have been similarly simplified to modern usage.

Place names: These have been given in modern French equivalents in cases where they have been changed from the seventeenth century, such as modern Noyon for Noyons. In addition, the customary English spellings of certain places have been retained instead of the modern French spelling: English Marseilles for French Marseille. Hyphens used in composite names have been eliminated: Saint Germain en Laye.

Second edition:

1. Additions:

Five new letters

Report of Charles Demia about Vincent’s ministry at Chatillon, completed in 1665

An entire rewriting of the chapter on Prudence, Book III, ch. 16.

2. Subtractions:

All of Book II was dropped.


This work was edited, 1891, (by J.B. Pémartin, C.M.)

German translations, 1710, 1859-60;

Italian, 1677 (by Domenico Acami), also 1700, 1734, 1753 and 1837.

The Acami edition was translated into German, 1710; Spanish, 1701, 1844, 1884, 1906; the Spanish text, in turn, was translated into Portuguese, 1738, 1850. Polish translation 1688.

Other Italian translations were done in 1847, 1912-13

Dutch, 1864, 1902.


Have full citations to Coste in English Life

Also: Román Biografía

Also: Summarium ex processu, etc. 1713

Also: Collet Vie

More notes in 1891 ed.

André Dodin, La Légende et l’histoire. De Monsieur Depaul à saint Vincent de Paul (Paris: O.E.I.L, 1985), a revision of part one of his doctoral dissertation for the Institut catholique de Paris. date? after 1962)

André Dodin, Saint Vincent de Paul, Correspondence, Entretiens, Documents. XV. Supplément. Paris, 1970.

André Dodin, Saint Vincent de Paul. Entretiens spirituels aux missionnaires. Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1960. (“Entretiens.”)

Patristic citations are made, wherever possible, to the old edition by Migne, and abbreviated PL (Patrologia Latina) and PG (Patrologia Graeca).

Dodin notes:

a. Abelly sometimes called doctor of theology, particularly by later editors of his other numerous writings; he is even called a licentiate, but no records of these degrees exist, and he never used the titles for himself.

b. There were two printings of the 1664 version; the one we are using is the second printing (also dated 1664.) Only a few slight changes were made, and these are noted where appropriate. The second printing could not have been a thorough revision since both the first and second printings carry the same list of Errata. These errors have been corrected in this translation, as well as others pointed out by Dodin in his dissertation.

Biblical translations are generally made directly from the New American Bible, rather than from the text cited. The only exceptions are those occasioned by significantly different texts.

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