Catechism of the Diocese of Sens


Catéchisme du diocese de Sens (Catechism of the diocese of Sens) was printed in 1765 by order of Jean Joseph Languet, Archbishop of Sens (1677–1753), and used in the Diocese of Quebec until 1777, when the first edition of the Catéchisme à l'usage du diocèse de Québec (Catechism for use in the Diocese of Quebec) was published. In the absence of a printing press in New France, the availability of catechisms and other books was subject to the same hazards that affected the import of other goods from France: dangerous transatlantic voyages, high transportation costs, and varying levels of cooperation from booksellers. Although manuscript copies were commonly made, the increase in population was such that catechisms were lacking, probably as early as the start of the Seven Years’ War in 1754. The war between France and England and the beginning of British rule in the former French colony interrupted the delivery of books from France for several years. In the summer of 1764, two printers from Philadelphia, William Brown and Thomas Gilmore, established a printing business in Quebec. By then, no catechisms had been delivered to Quebec in more than five years, making the province of nearly 70,000 a prime market. While it is not known who decided to have the Catéchisme du diocese de Sens printed by Brown and Gilmore, the name of Louis Langlois, dit Germain, an important Quebec merchant and friend of the clergy, appears on the printers’ registry at the time. Newly under the authority of an English Protestant governor, the Catholic Church was at the time uncertain of its rights and privileges and appears to have preferred to ask a tradesman to place the order rather than risk drawing attention to itself. The catechism thus became the first book ever printed in Quebec. Two thousand copies where printed in November 1765, and were quickly sold out throughout Quebec Province. The book was highly popular, and a second edition of 2,000 copies was printed in April 1766.

Last updated: September 2, 2015