See also arpent in Quebec, Canada; arpent in Louisiana, USA; arpent in Mauritius and the Seychelles.
In France, at least as early as the 7ᵗʰ – 18ᵗʰ century, two units: one of length, and the other of land area. Symbol, P.
The arpent as a unit of length was equal to 10 perches (but there were several perches).
The arpent that was a unit of land area was equal to one hundred square perches, and was so defined by royal edicts of October 1557 and March 1566 (but they also defined the perche as 22 pied). It was the principal unit of land area. Sometimes it was called an arpent de surface, or “superficial arpent,” to distinguish it from the arpent as a linear unit, the side of a square whose area was one arpent de surface.
The three principal arpents were:
In addition, there were a number of local arpents; R. E. Zupko gives values for many of them.
R. E. Zupko.
French Weights and Measures before the Revolution. A Dictionary of Provincial and Local Units.
Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978.
Arpent: m. An acre, or furlong of ground; the most ordinarie one called (sometimes) L'arpent de France, is 100 perches square (or every way) after 18 feet to the perche.
L'arpent de bois: containes, in most places, two roods and a halfe; the rood 40 perches; the perche 24 feet; and the foot 24 ynches.
L'arpent de Clermont. is in most places 100 Verges, in others but 70; after 26 feet to the verge.
L'arpent de Dunois. is of 200 perches, after 20 feet to the perch.
L'arpent de France. as before, in Arpent.
L'arpent de Nevers. is foure quarters square; the quarter tenne fadomes; the fadome six ordinarie feet.
L'arpent de Paris. is 100 perches square after 22 feet to the perche; (yet is not this proportion of the Perche generall; for in some places about Paris it containes 25 feet, and in others (after the ordinarie rate) but 18.)
Arpent de la Perche. contains 100 perches, the perch 24 feet, the foot 13 ynches.
Arpent de Poictou. is 80 paces square.
L'arpent Romain. was 240 feet long, and 120 feet broad.
A Dictionary of the French and English Tongues.
By “foot” Cotgrave of course means “pied”, and similarly for “ynche” read “pouce”.
La principale mesure anciennement en usage pour les biens ruraux était l'arpent, qui, dans toute l'étendue du département, se composait de 100 perches carrées. Mais comme la perche n'était pas partout de la même longueur, il s'ensuivait que l'arpent avait plus ou moins de superficie, selon que la perche en usage dans les diverses localités était plus ou moins longue. Il y avait des perches de 28, 25, 24, 22 et 20 pieds.
The main measure formerly in use for rural property was the arpent, which throughout the department consisted of 100 square perches. But as the perch was not the same length everywhere, it followed that the arpent had more or less area, according to whether the perch in use in the various localities was more or less long. There were 28, 25, 24, 22 and 20 pied perches.
Système Légal des Poids et Mesures.
Blois: chez l'auteur, 1839.
page 38. The author was the Chef de Bureau of a prefecture in Loir-et-Cher.
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