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Louise Bourgeois

Louise Bourgeois's oeuvre and the texts we are studying

Louise Bourgeois published a number of works. Her major contribution to the field of midwifery is the Observations diverses sur la stérilité, perte de fruits, fécondité, accouchements et maladies des femmes et enfants nouveau-nés, first published in 1609 and subsequently expanded in two further editions (1617 and 1626) prior to her death in 1636. The Observations is a very large work that documents Bourgeois's hands-on experience as a practising midwife in the form of numerous case studies and 'recipes' for ailments. In addition, editions 2 and 3 of the Observations include the publication of two smaller works that are more personal / autobiographical in nature:

  • Instruction à ma fille, which first appears in 1617 (and is also referred to as the Introduction à ma fille at this time).
  • Récit véritable de la naissance de messeigneurs et dames les enfans de France, which first appears in 1617.

We will study these two more personal texts, along with two very short prefatory texts from the Observations: the Au lecteur and A La Royne.


The Reading List gives you access to online contemporary editions of the above texts. You will also see that they are both available in Winn and Rouget's modern edition in the library:

  •  Récit véritable de la naissance de messeigneurs et dames les enfans de France, Instruction a ma fille et autres textes. Edition critique par Colette Winn (Geneva: Droz, 2000).

You may purchase this edition if you wish, but it is expensive. You will be given a photocopy of a modern print version of the Instruction in the first class.

The old-print version of the Récit Véritable has now been transcribed and is available to download here.

The old-print version of the A La Royne and Au Lecteur prefaces have been transcribed and are available to download here.

useful web sites

An excellent new web site is currently under development. Click below to take a look:


Albrecht Durer: Birth of the Virgin (from the Life of the Virgin series), 1511