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In 1863 he joined the manuscript department of the Bibliothèque Nationale. He was keeper of the national archives from 1866 to 1872. In 1876 he became professor of the languages and literatures of southern Europe at the Collège de France. In 1882 he was made director of the École des Chartes, and a year later was nominated a member of the Academy of Inscriptions. He was one of the founders of the Revue critique (1865), and a founder and the chief contributor to Romania (1872).
Paul Meyer began with the study of old Provençal literature, but subsequently did valuable work in many different departments of romance literature, and ranked as the chief authority on the French language of his era.