Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Morale Philosophique , ca. 1800

Finding aid created by
Rob S. Cox, September 1997

Summary Information
Title: Morale Philosophique
Creator: Anonymous
Inclusive dates: ca. 1800
Extent: 356 pages
This anonymous commonplace book, written in French, contains quotations on moral topics from widely read French authors of the later 18th century.
Language: The material is in French
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1997. M-3382.3.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


No copyright restrictions.

Preferred Citation:

Morale Philosophique , William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The practice of extracting pithy sayings, words to the wise, and inspirational poetry into a personal anthology was as common among the educated elite in 18th century France as it was in America. Such commonplace books provide evidence of the range of authors and the types of literature enjoyed by members of the elite, but in what they include -- and exclude -- these books may also be revealing of the personal beliefs and moral principles of the individual compiler. Presumably, if the compiler felt a passage worth recording, he or she felt that it contained some literary, philosophical, or moral merit. The act of recording passages from scripture and from orthodox religious writers, for example, fairly clearly distinguishes that compiler from one who chooses to cite secular writers or at times anticlerical philosophers.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The unidentified author of this commonplace book extracted quotations on moral topics from some of the most popular, widely read French authors of the later 18th century, including Voltaire, Corneille, Rousseau, LaFontaine, Sédaine, and Béranger. While there is no indication of when the book was assembled, the handwriting appears consistent with a late 18th century origin, though the inclusion of a work by Béranger (1780-1857) and a work by Chemin-Dupontès published in 1798 suggests that it must have been at the very end of the period.

An unusually elegant piece, great care was lavished on the preparation of this commonplace book, suggesting that it was valued as an object, as much as for its literary worth. Bound in leather with gold tooling at the edges, 16mo, the book is written in a meticulous hand, with red borders around the text on each page, presenting a highly attractive, even impressive appearance.

The first section, the longest devoted to a single writer, is taken from Jean-Baptiste Chemin-Dupontès' Morale des sages de tous les pays et de tous les siècles, ou collection épurée des moralistes anciens et modernes (Paris, 1798). This is followed by selections of poetry in various genres, songs, and a section of riddle-like word games.

Subject Terms

    • Chemin-Dupontès, J.-B. (Jean-Baptiste), 1760 or 61-1852?
    • Commonplace books--France.
    • Conduct of life--France--Quotations, maxims, etc.
    • French poetry.
    • Philosophy--France.
    • Riddles, French.
    • Social values--France--Quotations, maxims, etc.
    • Songs--France.
    Genre Terms:
    • Commonplace books.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Volume   1  
    Morale Philosophique , ca.  1800 [series]
    Page   1  
    Morale des sages de tous les pays et de tous les siècles...
    Page   25  
    Page   53  
    Pièces de vers, choisies parmi les meilleures auteurs
    Page   187  
    Pièces de vers libres
    Page   223  
    Tables choisies
    Page   251  
    Chansones diverses
    Page   301  
    Recueil de charades, d'enigmes, et de logogryphes
    Page   303  
    Page   317  
    Page   339  
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Partial Subject Index
    Chemin-Dupontès, J.-B. (Jean-Baptiste), 1760 or 61-1852?
    • 1-22
    Commonplace books--France
    • passim
    Conduct of life--France--Quotations, maxims, etc.
    • passim
    French poetry
    • 25-248
    • passim
    Riddles, French
    • 317-337
    Social values--France--Quotations, maxims, etc.
    • passim
    • 251-294