This article examines the manuscript practices of Sister Cecily Joseph (Elizabeth) Cornwallis, an Englishwoman and Poor Clare sister who served as the scrivener for her Rouen convent from 1688 to 1737, when she created many beautiful and eclectic prayer books for the use of her order. These prayer books, I argue, constitute a form of “devotional authorship” that registers authorial presence while paradoxically effacing the author, through the devotion that the books both facilitate and enact. To give context for this analysis of Sister Cecily Joseph's work, I survey the broad outlines of the “bookscape” of the Poor Clare convents founded in the seventeenth century on the Continent to allow young English women to pursue a religious vocation that was proscribed at home. Typical of the broader book culture of continental English convents at the time, the libraries of the Poor Clares included not only printed works but also numerous manuscripts—many of them translations—that fostered a devotional culture drawing on diverse strands of continental Catholicism. Sister Cecily Joseph's prayer books, often highly miscellaneous in their contents, shed light on how manuscripts were used to cultivate a dynamic devotional life in the English convents.

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