Appeared around the 13the century, derived from Greek katalogos meaning “list”, the word catalog took time to enter the economic field. In its previous edition of 1935, the Dictionary of the French Academy reserved the use of the term “Enumeration, in such or such order, of books, works of art, plants, etc., which make up a collection”. It was only recently that the Immortals recognized a second meaning in it, that of a “Brochure presenting a descriptive list of goods, accompanied by their price and, generally, illustrations”.

Traders, however, have been using this tool for a long time. The first sales catalog could well be the one published in the middle of the XVIe century by the Vilmorin company to sell seeds. The practice spread widely in the XIXe century and perfected in the XXe, giving birth to flagships such as the catalogs of Manufrance, La Redoute or 3 Suisses. So many monuments that have now disappeared.

The decline of the catalog was confirmed at the very end of last year by the announcement of the imminent disappearance of the last icon of the genre, the Ikea catalog. However, this digital migration movement does not signify the total disappearance of advertising on paper and some strongholds are still resisting.

In the field of toys, in particular, Christmas catalogs intended for children remain a weapon of massive solicitation. More broadly, businesses, and particularly mass distribution, continue to use printed materials in large quantities. But these only display a small selection of promotional products. It is therefore rather a prospectus, a word borrowed from Latin meaning “ overview or perspective “. More than… 18 billion copies are distributed each year in France.


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