He was born at St Flour, Cantal, and studied theology at Orléans. He was ordained in 1824 and placed in charge of the parish of Puiseaux, in the diocese of Orléans. In 1833 he went to Paris, and started L'anivers religieux, which afterwards became Louis Veuillot's ultramontane organ. On severing his connexion with the paper three years later, he opened his great publishing house at Petit Montrouge, near Paris. It brought out in rapid succession numerous religious works at popular prices. The best known of these are: Scripturae sacrae cursus cormpletus, and Theologiae cursus (each in 28 vols, 1840-5); Collection des auteurs sacrés (100 vols., 1846-8); Encyclopédie théologique (171 vols., 1844-6); Patrologiae cursus completus, Latin series in 221 vols. (1844-5; and edition, 1878 seq.); Greek series, first published in Latin (85 vols., 1856-7); with Greek text and Latin translation (165 vols., 1857-8).
Unfortunately these editions, brought out in great haste and often inadequately edited, did not come up to the requirements of modern criticism. Nevertheless, the scope of the Patrologia makes it unique and valuable, where other editions of special works still do not exist. The indices, in three volumes, are arranged so that one may easily find any reference in the patristic writings. The collection is now available on CD rom at some research libraries.
The Patrologia Latina and the Patrologia Graeca, along with the Monumenta Germaniae Historica are among the great 19th century contributions to scholarship of the Middle Ages.