Eighteenth-Century French Nun’s Commonplace Book

Soeur Marie Julie de Saint Paul de Thomassin (fl. 18th century).
[Provence, 18th century].
Manuscript on paper.
(BRMS 134)

This manuscript belongs to the genre known as the commonplace book, in which the owner would record quotations, proverbs, prayers, lists, memoranda, recipes, and other information for personal use. The book on display was compiled by Soeur (Sister) Marie Julie de Saint Paul de Thomassin, 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 short histories of various religious orders active in France, extracts from the works of St. Augustine, notes on the Council of Trent, a Christmas hymn composed in French by the author in 1742, and the exhibited general rules for monastic living.

Soeur Marie Julie de Saint Paul de Thomassin (fl. 18th century).
[Provence, 18th century].
Manuscript on paper.
(BRMS 134)

Soeur Marie Julie de Saint Paul de Thomassin (fl. 18th century).
[Provence, 18th century].
Manuscript on paper.
(BRMS 134)