The Discourse on the seashells […, found] in Champagne , written by Vignier to Peiresc (1635): An early text supporting the organic origin of fossils


en Comptes Rendus Palevol 16 (1) - Pages 122-131

Published on 28 February 2017

The ‘Bibliothèque nationale de France’ keeps a manuscript entitled Discourse on the seashells that are found on dry land, particularly in Champagne, written in French in 1635 by the Jesuit Jacques Vignier. Vignier describes, 55 years after Palissy, the Lutetian fossils of Champagne (France) and discusses their presence in a place as far from the sea; 32 years before Steno, he refutes the in-situ generation of the fossils, which he considers to be seashells transported by the Flood. Peiresc, to whom the manuscript was addressed, endorses the marine origin, brings other examples of such fossils, but suggests a deposit by the sea prior to the Flood. In a second version of the discourse, written 20 years later, Vignier equates roughly the Flood with an “invasion” of the sea, shifting towards the modern concept of marine transgression. In the 1750s, Dieudonné, Calmet, Musard and Guettard continued to debate on the origin of these fossils.


Peiresc, Palissy, Lutetian, Champagne, Fossils, Spontaneous generation, Biblical Flood

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