The E-Sylum:  Volume 5, Number 42, October 20, 2002, Article 14


  Martin Purdy writes: "Here are a few thoughts to start the ball
  rolling.  Touraine pounds sounds like an English translation of
  "livres tournois", i.e. pounds on the weight/fineness standard
  of Tours.

  According to,
  the British pound sterling was worth 8.5 times as much as the
  livre tournois in the period 1464-1526 or thereabouts. That
  gives 117.7 pounds (117.14.0) in British currency at the time.

  Now, looking at£s=117&shillings=14&pence=&year=1600,

  which only goes back as far as 1600, 117.14.0 in 1600
  had a purchasing power equivalent to 15,645 pounds today.
  It's a fairly safe assumption that inflation in Britain wasn't huge
  between 1450 and 1600, so that figure will at least be in the
  right order of magnitude.

  For the record, this was all done using Google, and key
  words such as "livre tournois" linked with "pound sterling" to
  start with, followed by "pound sterling" linked with "current
  value" and "middle ages".  A little more playing with search
  engines along this line may produce something more
  accurate, you never know!"

  Bruce Burton of Round Rock, Texas, writes: "Paraphrased
  from the book "All the Monies of the World, A Chronicle
  of Currency Values" by Franz Pick and Rene Sedillot (publ.

  The French system of accounting was first used in Tours,
  then extended to the entire royal domain.  In the 12th
  century, a Livre of Tours (Livre Rournois) of 455.2 grams
  was a unit of weight in Touraine. [This is rather close to what
  we (in America) now call a pound.

  In the 13th century under Saint Louis, adoption of Tournois
  system for accounts of the kingdom was enacted, to the
  detriment of Paris is accounting system wherein 1 Livre
  Tournois = 20 Sous Tournois = 240 Deniers Tournois.
  In 1336, the Livre Parisis was demonitized, however, the
  two systems coexisted until Louis XIV.

  On page 307 a chart shows that during the reign of Charles
  VI (1422) the weight of a Livre Tournois had dropped
  drastically to 1.30 grams of fine gold but that under Charles
  VII (1461) the value was listed as 26.05 grams of fine gold
  or 2.420 grams of fine silver.  This makes me think that the
  authors have switched their column headings unless gold at
  that time in France actually was worth more than silver."

  Ron Haller-Williams wrote a very lengthy piece which we
  can't use in its entirety, but here are a couple excerpts.
  It's great to see such a level of interest and expertise among
  our readers.

  ".. was this pound/livre the UNIT OF CURRENCY?
   In England, 240 pence, then 15 grains each  = 3600
  grains (or 233.3 grams) of 92.5% purity, compared with
  the tower pound of 5400 grains (349.9 grams), or the troy
  pound of 5760 grains (373.24 grams).  By the way, the
  avoirdupois ("common") pound weighs in at 7000 grains =
  453.59237 grams.

   But what was the standard for the French currency?
   I'm not sure how useful Edward Leigh's "A Diatribe of Mony or Coyn"
   (1671) is, as this is neqarly 230 years later, but it tells us that
   "in France a Liver is about 1s. 6d. English"
   In fact, in 1656 the 20 sols was 8.007 grams of 95.8% silver,
   compared with the English Charles II shilling of some 5.8 grams of
   92.5%, so he wasn't too far off  -  I make it just over 1s. 5d.!"

  "... what would the purchasing power have been?
   Because the idea of however-many shillings does not
   directly help in the compare, when the daily wage
   was just a few pence.

   According to "Chronicon Preciosum", in that year:
   Wheat was 5 shillings and 4 pence per quarter (i.e. 28 lb)
   Ale was a penny plus a farthing per gallon
   A "Cade" of red (i.e. dried & smoked) herrings 7 shillings
   and 4 pence
   80 white herrings would have cost one shilling
   At this time an English penny was 15 grains (about 0.95
   grams) of 92.5% silver, and the shilling was of course 12
   pence.  The farthing was a quarter of a penny."

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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