Skip to main content

Livre de Raison (Commonplace book)

 Collection — Box: CLX-A-354
Identifier: Coll-1854

Content Description

This outlandish and colourful manuscript volume is an exceptional resource to understand and study French popular culture in the late 18th-early 19th centuries. Its contents are extremely varied, and include poems, oracles, lyrics of popular songs, proverbs and maxims, recipes, legal document templates, a formulary of letters, calendars, little stories and anecdotes, an account of Napoleon's return to France after his exile on Elba, and a dictionary for the interpretation of dreams. It refers to important historical events such as the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars.
pp.45-54: short 'oracles' drawn from Ovide and Greco-Roman mythology, giving predictions for different situations, mainly relating to love and marriage.
pp.54-60: lyrics of popular songs such as Romance de Pauline ('Love song of Pauline'), or De sur le pont de nante ('On the Bridge of Nantes').
pp.61-73: Traité des songes et des visions d’aprés les Egiptiens et les perses ('Treatise of dreams and visions according to the Egyptians and the Persians'). Dictionary for the interpretation of dreams, with numbers at the end of each entry to play lottery.
pp.74-84: recipes and remedies, for example to 'turn red wine into white wine and vice versa', 'to kill shield bugs', 'to soothe your cough', 'to make an infusion against scabies', and 'to dye threads the colour of dawn', etc.
pp.85-86: charades, riddles, and epigrams.
pp.86-88: legal document templates, including certificate of apprenticeship and its receipt, a notarial act, a form for a 'mutual gift', and a transaction on the behalf of a minor.
pp.89-108: poems, anecdoctes, little stories, charades, epitaphs, etc. It includes titles such as Réponse d'une d'ame à la servant de sa rival ('Reply of a Lady to her rival's maid'), Réponse dun paysan à deux jeunes Ecolier qui allait à paris pour etudier ('Reply of a peasant to two young schoolboys who were going to Paris to study'), le maitre amoureux de sa servante ('The Master in love with his maid'), ), and ce qui faut pour composer une belle femme ('What is needed to make a beautiful woman').
pp.109-115: legal document templates, including but not limited to a contract of marriage, template relating to boundary marking of a community, deliberation of a family to authorise an orphaned minor to marry, etc.
pp.115-123: formulary of letters, including bills and reimbursement notes, but also 'letter from a daughter to her mother', 'letter for the first day of the year', 'letter to a benefactor on the first day of the year', etc. Some letters use the French Republican Calendar.
pp.124-131: Les maxime de l’honnête homme, ou de la sagesse ('Maxims of a Honest Man, or of Wisdom'). 122 short sayings such as ne plaisantez jamais ni de dieu, ni des saints; laissez ce vil Plaisir aux jeunes libertin ('Never joke about God or the saints; leave this vile pleasure to young libertines'), or qui n’a pas de sens à trente ans n’en n’aura jamais ('He who has no common sense at 30, will never have any').
pp.131-132: text entitled Notise [sic] sur la mort de Bonaparte extrait d’une lettre de Sainte Hélène du 13 mai 1831 ('Notice on the Death of Bonaparte from a letter from Saint Helena, 13 May 1821').
pp.132-136: chart listing different towns and cities in France and in Europe, and their distances from Paris in French leagues.
pp.136-145: text entitled Retoure de S. M. l’empereur à paris depuis son départ de lile d’elbe jusqu’au moment de l’entré dans la capitalle ('Return of his Majesty the Emperor [Napoléon] from his departure from Elba to his entrance in the capital'), followed by a list of every French general.
pp.145-157: calendar relating to the Napoleonic Wars listing the dates, the days, the saints of day, the battles and/or captures that happened on this day, the years, and the names of the foreign kingdoms involved, from 1793 to 1815. Arranged by days of the years instead of chronological order.
pp. 158-168: practical recipes to make glue, to make floor wax, to soften ivory, to dye bones in green, to make inks of different colours, etc.
pp.170-535: lyrics of popular songs such as Eloge de la folie ('In Praise of Foly', unrelated to Erasmus's essay), Ronde de prôfession venerienne ('Round dance of the venereal profession'), Battaille du mont St jean ou la journe de Waterloque ('Battle of Mont-Saint-Jean, or the day of Waterloo' - song about Waterloo, p. 266), A l'infidelle julie ('to the unfaithful Julie'), Chanson Eroticobachique ('Erotico-bacchic song'), etc. This section also includes c. 40 illustrations, see the section below for a detailed description.
Writing Dense but legible text. The script is neat and regular but it is countered by chaotic grammar and spelling.
Illustrations 40 pen and gouache illustrations in a rather rough and 'naïf' style. They can be divided in three main categories: emblematic illustrations of love, friendship, and different virtues; memorial portraits of individuals who were killed during the French Revolution massacres; and a series of character sketches of selected inhabitants of the world.
Illustrations p.169: emblematic illustration representing flowers bouquets and an escutcheon between two dogs, with the words trophé damour ('love trophy')
Illustrations p.175: emblematic illustration representing flower bouquets, two dogs, two burning hearts, and two birds in a vase, with the words amittié / fidelitté / rose damour / pleureur / constance / dogue / rénard / corbeau ('friendship', 'faithfulness', 'love rose, 'weeper', 'constancy', 'dog', 'fox', 'crow')
Illustrations p.177: illustration representing flower garlands forming a knot, with the words le neux du mariage ('the knot of marriage')
Illustrations p.179: emblematic illustration representing flowers, burning hearts, two couples of birds, a black sheep, and a dog, with the words union / douleur / fidelité ('union', 'pain', 'faithfulness')
Illustrations p.181: illustration representing a long garland of flowers forming a spiral with two hearts in its centre, with the words La Chaine du mariage ('The Chain of marriage')
Illustrations p.183: illustration captioned La Sagesse ('Wisdom') representing a long garland of flowers forming a heart, with the following poem written above: Conservez bien cette fleur / Sitôt qu'elle est fanné / adieu toute les faveur / et le beau temps et pacé ('Take good care of this flower / As soons as it's withered / Farewell to all favours / and fair weather has passed').
Illustrations p.185: symbolic illustration representing two burning hearts pierced by a sword above a handshake, with the words chagrin et paine / douleur / la bonne foi / obscurité / la pancé du coeur ('sorrow and anguish', 'pain', 'good faith', 'darkness', 'the thought of the heart')
Illustrations p.187: illustration representing a vase with flowers, with the caption Vase de fleure ('flower vase')
Illustrations p.189: emblematic illustration representing a winged heart between two dogs and below a crow, with the caption linconstance gardé par la fidélité et logriome(?) ('inconstancy guarded by faithfulness and [?]')
Illustrations p.191: illustration on the laft side of the page representing a leaning column.
Illustrations p.281: memorial portrait representing the Princesse de Lamballe, with the caption Madame la princesse de lamballe, massacrée à Paris le 9 decembre 1790 ('Madame the Princesse de Lamballe, massacred in Paris on 9 December 1790'.) NB: the Princess de Lamballe actually died on 3 September 1792, during the wave of killings in Paris known as "the September Massacres".
Illustrations p.283: two memorial portraits representing Monsieur Moncontour(?) and Monsieur Duplessis, with the captions: Monsieur moncontoure massacré a versaille dans la rue lorangerie en 1790 ('Monsieur Moncontour, massacred in Versailles in the Rue de l'Orangerie in 1790') and Monsieur dupléci massacré a bordeau dans lan 2 la republique ('Monssieur Duplessis, massacred in Bordeaux in the year 2 of the Republic') NB: the caption refers to the French Republican calendar, used from 1793 to 1805.
Illustrations p.285: three memorial portraits representing a general, General Gustiné(?), and Monsieur Dumont, with the captions: [Koo Kario] générallé de Gréc ; a eut le tete tranchée, de lordre du grand visir, en 1799. ('[Koo Kario], General from Greece[?], who was beheaded, from the Order of Grand Vizier, in 1799'); général gustiné giotiné à paris dans lan 2 de la république, an 1792 vieux stille ('General Gustiné, guillotined in Paris in the year 2 of the Republic, in 1792 old style'); and Monsieur dumont négociant noyé à nante dans lan de [sic] de la republique an 1792, vieux stille ('Monsieur Dumont, merchant drowned in Nantes in the year 2 of the Republic, in 1792 old style') NB: the captions refer to the French Republican calendar, used from 1793 to 1805. 'Old style' refers to the Gregorian Calendar.
Illustrations p.287: four memorial portraits representing Monsieur Monbazon [probably 'Montbazon'], a Capuchin friar, Monsieur Duvalle [probably 'Duval'], and Madame Pineau, with the captions: monsieur monbazon guiotiné a nante dans lan deux la republique an 1792 vieux stille ('Monsieur Monbazon, guillotined in Nantes in the year 2 of the Republic, in 1792 old style'); le père gardien des capucin giotiné a bordeau, dans lan 3 de la république an 1793 vieux stille ('the "guardian Father" of the Capuchins guillotined in Bordeaux, in the year 3 of the Republic, in 1793 old style'); Monsieur duvalle, négociant giotiné à nante, pour opinion dans lan 3 la republique an 1793 vieux stille ('Monsieur Duval, merchant guillotined in Nantes, for [his] opinion, in the year 3 of the Republic'); and Madame pineaux noyez à nante dans lan deux la république francais an 1792 vieux stille ('Madame Pineau, drowned in Nantes in the year 2 of the Republic, in 1792 old style'). NB: the captions refer to the French Republican calendar, used from 1793 to 1805. 'Old style' refers to the Gregorian Calendar.
Illustrations p.289: four memorial portraits representing Madame Thibeau, Madame Gasparp [possible 'Gaspard'], Madame Dutertre, and Monsieur Duclos, with the captions: Madame Thibeau, noyes a nante dans lan deux la republique, pour opinion, an 1792 ('Madame Thibeau, drowned in Nantes in the year 2 of the Republic, in 1792, for [her] opinion'); Madame gasbarp noyé a nante dans lan deux la republique francaise 1792 vieux stille ('Madame Gaspard, drowned in Nantes in the year 2 of the French Republic, in 1792 old style'); Madame duterte, noyé a nante dans lan 2 la republique, 1792 ('Madame Duterte, drowned in Nantes in the year 2 of the Republic, 1792'); and monsieur duclos guiotiné à nante dans lan 4 republique pour opinion an 1794 vieux stille ('Monsieur Duclos, guillotined in Nantes in the year 4 of the Republic for [his] opinion, in 1794 old style'). NB: the captions refer to the French Republican calendar, used from 1793 to 1805. 'Old style' refers to the Gregorian Calendar.
Illustrations p.291: six memorial portraits representing Monsieur Martin, the Mother Superior of Nantes Hospital, the General Cesserd(?), Madame Petitot, Madame Cassin, and Monsieur Landrin [or Laudrin] with the captions: monsieur martin marichal de coyee[?] noyé a nante pour avoir sauvé degent(?) de la noyage – a nante (‘Monsieur Martin, Maréchal of Coye(?), drowned for saving people from drowning, in Nantes’); La supérieur de lopitalle de nante noyé dans la 2 de la république, en 1792 (‘Mother Superior of Nantes Hospital, drowned in the year 2 of the Republic, in 1792’); géneral Cesserd(?), guiotiné dans lan deux a paris 1792 (‘General Cesserd(?), guillotined in the year 2 in Paris 1792’); Madame petitot noyé a nante dans lan 2 de la république, 1792 pour opinion ('Madame Petitot, drowned in Nantes in the year 2 of the Republic, 1792, for [her] opinion’); Madame Cassin noyé a nante dans lan 2 de la republique pour avoire crié vive le roi an 1792 vieux stille ('Madame Cassin, drowned in Nantes in the year 2 of the Republic, for shouting “Long Live the King”, in 1792 old style’); and Monsieur Landrin noyé a nante dans lan deux la republique 1792 (‘Monsieur Landrin, drowned in Nantes in the year 2 of the Republic, 1792’). NB: the captions refer to the French Republican calendar, used from 1793 to 1805. 'Old style' refers to the Gregorian Calendar.
Illustrations p.293: six memorial portraits representing the Duc D’Enghien, Mademoiselle Daurion(?), Louis XVII, Madame de Beauharnais [possibly Joséphine de Beauharnais, first wife of Napoléon I], the Duc of Brissac, and the Duc de Berry, with the captions: le duk damguin fusilié dans les suterin de Vincenne proche paris (‘the Duke of Enghien, shot in the underground passages of Vincennes near Paris’); mademoiselle daurion noyé a nante dans lan 2 de la republique 1792 (‘Mademoiselle Daurion(?), drowned in Nantes in the year 2 of the Republic, 1792’); Louis 17 ayant été enpoisonné (‘Louis XVII, who was poisoned’); Madamme boharnais morte an 1813 ('Madame de Beauharnais, died in 1813’); le duk de brisaque massacré à versaille en 1790 vieux stille (‘the Duke of Brissac, massacred in Versailles in 1790 old style’); and le duk de berris assassiné le dhymanche gras en 1820 par Louvelle, a ut la tete tranchée (‘The Duke of Berry, assassinated on the Dimanche Gras in 1820 by Louvelle, was beheaded’).
Illustrations p.295: six memorial portraits representing Madame Périer and Monsieur Lainé, Madame Moduis and Monsieur Gassin, Madame Colasse and Monsieur Edare, Monsieur Daveau, Madame Dupleci (probably Duplessis), and Madame du Paty with the captions: madame perier, monsieur lainé tous les deux noyés a nante en 1792 (‘Madame Périer, Monsieur Lainé both drowned in Nantes in 1792’); madame moduis, monsieur gassin tous les deux noyés a nante an 1792 (‘Madame Moduis, Monsieur Gassin both drowned in Nantes in 1792’); madame Colasse, monsieur Edare noyés a nante an 1792 (‘Madame Colasse, Monsieur Edare drowned in Nantes in 1792’); monsieur daveau capitaine des dragons du 7e régiment, guiotiné a paris dans lan 4 de la republique 1794 ('Monsieur Daveau, Captain of the Dragoons of the 7th Regiment, guillotined in Paris in the year 4 of the Republic, 1794’); madame du pleci noyé a nante dans lan 2 de la réublique an 1792 (‘Madame Duplessis, drowned in Nantes in the year 2 of the Republic, in 1792’); and Madame du Paty, noyé a nante dans lan 2 la république 1792 (‘Madame du Paty, drowned in Nantes in the year 2 of the Republic’). NB: the captions refer to the French Republican calendar, used from 1793 to 1805. 'Old style' refers to the Gregorian Calendar.
Illustrations p.377: illustration representing a crudely drawned helf-naked woman with snakes in her hair, with the caption: La femme en furie dans la mauvaise collere ('Furious/enraged woman in a bad anger')
Illustrations p.379: illustration representing a woman with beams coming out of her head in every direction, with the caption: La femme à tous vents et mauvais la prise ('Woman to the four winds and in a bad temper'). Written inside the beams are the words: : ‘vent tétu’ ‘vent médisance’, ‘vent de jalousie’, ‘vent malicieux’, ‘mauvaise lune’, ‘vent inconstant’, ‘vent de vengeance’, ‘vent de coquetterie’, ‘vent de contrarieté’, ‘vent legé’, ‘mauvaise foi’, ‘insasiable’ ('stubborn wind', 'slander wind', 'jealousy wind', 'malicious wind', 'bad moon'(that is to say bad mood), 'inconstant wind', 'vengeance wind', 'vanity wind', 'vexation wind', 'light wind', 'bad faith', 'insatiable')
Illustrations p.381: illustration representing two women standing, wearing regional clothes, with the captions: femme danjou ('woman from Anjou') and marchande de legume de paris ('Vegetable seller from Paris').
Illustrations p.383: two illustrations; the upper one represents two women standing, wearing regional clothes, with the captions: bourgeoise de douvre en engleterre ('townswoman from Dover, in England') and marchande dhuytre de granville ('oyster seller from Granville'). The lower illustration represents a woman and a man standing, wearing regional clothes, with the captions: femme de la Castille en espagne ('woman from Castile in Spain') and habitant de la Castille en espagne ('inhabitant of Castile, in Spain').
Illustrations p.385: two illustrations; the upper one represents three children between two men, wearing regional clothes, with the captions: habitant de libourne en gascogne and la famille piemonté ('inhabitant of Libourne in Gascogne' and 'the Piemonté family'). The lower illustration represents a cupid holding a flower crown over a couple of birds, themselves standing on two burning hearts pierced by an arrow, with the caption: Cupidon couronne la mittié ('Cupid crowns friendship').
Illustrations p.387: two illustrations; the upper one represents a man and a woman standing, wearing regional clothes, with the captions: parisien and parisienne ('Parisian man' and 'Parisian woman'). The lower illustration represents a black child between a black man and a black woman, wearing regional clothes, with the caption: négre et negresse de la Cotte de guinée ('Black man and black woman from the Guinean Coast').
Illustrations p.389: two illustrations; the upper one represents a man and a woman standing, wearing regional clothes, with the captions: bourgeois englais and bourgeoisse englaisse ('English townsman' and 'English townswoman'). The lower illustration represents one woman standing and one woman sitting, both in regional clothes, with the captions: femme de la Cirie haute egipte ('Woman from Syria and Upper Egypt'), and femme de la basse egipte ('woman from Lower Egypt').
Illustrations p.391: two illustrations; the upper one represents two women standing, wearing regional clothes, with the captions: femme de la Tosquane en Italie ('Woman from Tuscany in Italy') and bourgeoise de génève ('Townswoman from Geneva'). The lower illustration represents one man standing and holding a rifle, and one crowned man sitting, both in regional clothes, with the captions: chasseur autrichien ('Austrian Hunter'), and le roi de maroque ('the King of Marocco').
Illustrations p.393: two illustrations; the upper one represents a woman and a man standing, wearing regional clothes, with the captions: femme de lastragon ('Woman from Aragon(?)') and habitant du Moncény ('inhabitant of Moncény'). The lower illustration represents two men standing facing each other, wearing red Phrygian hats and chained together at the ankles, with the caption: esclave de France ('Slave of France', or 'Slave from France').
Illustrations p.395: two illustrations; the upper one represents two women standing, wearing regional clothes, with the captions: femme davignon ('Woman from Avignon') and Cochoise ('Cauchoise', that is to say a woman from the Pays de Caux, an area in Normandy). The lower illustration represents two women sitting, wearing regional clothes, with the captions: femme de portugal ('woman from Portugal'), and femme du brési ('woman from Brazil').
Illustrations p.397: two illustrations; the upper one represents one woman standing and holding a crown of flower, and one woman sitting, both wearing regional clothes, with the captions: femme de vénise ('Woman from Venice') and femme génoise ('woman from Genoa'). The lower illustration represents one man and one woman standing facing each other. The man is holding a bottle and they are both wearing regional clothes. Caption: jeunesse de livourne en Ithallie ('Youth from Livorno in Italy').
Illustrations p.399: two illustrations; the upper one represents one woman and one man standing, facing each other and wearing regional clothes, with the captions: femme provensalle ('Woman from Provence') and matélot provensalle ('sailor from Provence'). The lower illustration represents a woman and a man standing, facing each other and wearing regional clothes, with the caption: homme et femme de la basse bretagne ('man and woman from Lower Brittany').
Illustrations p.469: two emblematic illustrations; the upper one represents two cherubs holding trumpets, surrounding the words nous aportons la libertée des coeurs ('we are bringing freedom of hearts'). The lower illustrations represents two burning hearts pierced by an arrow under the words tristesse et chagrin ('sadness and sorrow'), and a couple of birds under the words Amittié fidellitté ('Friendship and faithfulness').
Illustrations p.471: two illustrations; the upper one represents a family with a couple and two children, walking from a hill on the left and going to a house on the right. Caption: les Savoyard partant des montagne ('the Savoyards leaving the mountains'). The lower illustration is emblematic and represents a vase with the words: vase qui renferme le baume damour ('vase which contains the love balm'); a quiver with the simple caption carquois ('quiver'); and two burning hearts pierced by an arrow under a flower crowna dn thw words amour sinceritté ('love sincerity').
Illustrations p.475: two illustrations; the upper one represents one man and one woman standing in regional clothes, with the caption: habitant de la vandalouzie ('Inhabitant of Andalusia'). The lower illustration represents a small village with a house and what could be a church tower, with the caption: habitation de la merique ('Habitation of America').
Illustrations p.479: two illustrations; the upper one represents one man and one woman standing, in regional clothes, with the caption: habitant de laragon ('Inhabitant of Aragon'). The lower illustration represents one man and one woman sitting on Roman ruins, in a urban setting, with the caption: habitant de rome ('inhabitant of Rome').
Illustrations p.481: illustration representing two men walking on stilts, surrounded by trees. There is a little man under one of them, and a sheep under the other. Caption: habitants des l'andes ('Inhabitants of Landes').
Illustrations p.483: two illustrations; the upper one represents one woman and one man standing, in regional clothes, the woman is carrying two buckets and the man is holding a cane. Caption: paysanne englaisse and paysant englais ('English farmers'). The lower illustration represents one man and one women walking together in a forest. The man is holding a rifle. Caption: habittant de Corse ('inhabitant of Corsica').
Illustrations p.485: two illustrations; the upper one represents two women standing, wearing regional clothes, with the captions: femme du mercie(?) ('woman from Mercie(?)'), and femme de la chine ('woman from China'). The lower illustration represents a woman wearing traditional clothes and jewellery. Caption: femme de lazié ('woman from Asia(?)').
Illustrations p.487: two illustrations; the upper one represents one man and one woman, wearing regional clothes and carrying farming tools, with the caption: habitant de la forée noire ('inhabitant of the Black Forest'). The lower illustration represents a man and a woman wearing regional clothes. The man is carrying a sword and the woman is holding a handkerchief. Caption: habitant de lisle de Sardaine ('inhabitant of the island of Sardinia').
Illustrations p.489: two illustrations; the upper one represents one man and one woman in wearing regional clothes, standing in an urban setting, with the caption: habitant de la suice ('inhabitants of Switzerland'). The lower illustration represents two persons covered in hair, with the words: sauvage ('savage'), and anachelotte(?) (unknown meaning).
Illustrations p.491: two illustrations; the upper one represents one woman standing with a naked child in her arms, and one woman sitting, breastfeeding a child. Captions: femme de la haute egipte ('woman from Upper Egypt') and femme de la gresse ('woman from Greece'). The lower illustration represents a mausoleum between two trees, with the caption: mozôlé ('mausoleum').

Dates

  • c 1820-1830

Creator

Language of Materials

The book is written in French, often phonetically and with spelling mistakes.

Foliation and number of lines to a page

243 folios. Pp.1-44, pp.176-174, pp.473-474, and pp.477-478 are missing. Between 30 and 40 lines to a page, mostly in two columns.

Conditions Governing Access

Open to bona fide researchers, but please contact the repository in advance.

Biographical / Historical

The author is not known - perhaps his or her name was written on one of the 44 preliminary pages that were lost. It is possible that the maker was a clerk or an official, but a closer study of the manuscript might reveal more about his or her identity.

Extent

1 volume

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased in November 2017. Accession no SC-Acc-2017-0230.

Material

Paper

Foliation and number of lines to a page

243 folios. Pp.1-44, pp.176-174, pp.473-474, and pp.477-478 are missing. Between 30 and 40 lines to a page, mostly in two columns.

Binding

Contemporary parchment covered boards.

Dimensions

260 mm x 190 mm

Processing Information

Catalogued by Aline Brodin in December 2017.

Creator

Repository Details

Part of the Edinburgh University Library Special Collections Repository

Contact:
Centre for Research Collections
University of Edinburgh Main Library
George Square
Edinburgh EH8 9LJ Scotland
+44(0)131 650 8379