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SOEUR MARIE JULIE DE
SAINT PAUL DE THOMASSIN

Commonplace book, in French.
Provence, 18th century.

This remarkable manuscript belongs to the genre known as the commonplace book, in which the owner would record quotations, proverbs, prayers, lists, memoranda, recipes, and other useful information for personal use. The exhibited book was compiled by Soeur (Sister) Marie Julie de Saint Paul de Thomassin (fl. 18th century), a nun within the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary, founded in 1610 by St. Jane Frances de Chantal and St. Francis de Sales. In 1749 the compiler of this manuscript was sent from her convent at Aix-en-Provence to Our Lady of the Visitation at Draguignan after a plague had taken the lives of nine of its thirty sisters. She became the Mother Superior at the Draguignan convent in 1759, an office that she held until 1764. She was still living in 1775 when her Order published one of her letters.

Her commonplace book, inscribed “A l’usage de la Sr. Marie Julie de St. Paul,” provides an intimate view of an eighteenth-century nun’s values, interests, and activities. It includes general rules for monastic living, short histories of various religious orders active in France, extracts from the works of St. Augustine, notes on the Council of Trent, and the exhibited Christmas hymn in French. This hymn, which she composed in 1742, consists of seven staves of musical notation with five stanzas of lyrics. In the upper margin the nun wrote, “Noel que j’ay compose en 1742.”