Treatise of Housholde.

London, In ædibus Thomæ Bertheleti typis impress, 1544.


8vo. ff. 62, [ii]. Signatures: A-H. [without last blank]. Black letter. title within woodcut border, historiated woodcut initials, stamp of “Rothamsted Experimental station” on fly. Light age yellowing, title page a little dusty, the odd marginal mark or spot. A very good copy, crisp and clean, in speckled calf c. 1700, covers bordered with a single gilt rule, rebacked to match, spine with gilt ruled raised bands, a.e.r.

Beautifully printed and very rare edition (probably the third) of the translation of part of Xenophon’s ‘Oeconomicus’ into English by the French theologian and Greek scholar Gentian Hervet. This was the most popular English work on women’s household duties of the C16th in England going through six editions by 1573. It was also the first translation anywhere of Xenophon into the vernacular. “Chapters 7 to 10 of Xenophon’s Oeconomicus contain a dialogue between Isomachus, a rich property owner, and his young wife, whom he instructs in household management. The work was much admired in the Renaissance and was translated into English in 1532 by Gentian Hervet, a member of the household of Lady Margaret, countess of Salisbury, who was Queen Catherine’s friend and governess. Xenohphon’s treatise of Householde was the first direct translation of any work from Greek into English that can be dated.” Charles Fantazzi. ‘The Education of a Christian Woman: A Sixteenth-Century Manual By Juan Luis Vives.’ “Initially educated in France, Hervet spent some of his early career in the 1520’s and 1530’s in England where he developed a close association with the Pole family. .. and in 1526 he translated into English a copy of Erasmus’ ‘Dei immensa misericodia’ at the request of their mother, the countess Margearet of Salisbury. In 1532 Hervet dedicated another English translation, this time to Xenophon’s Treatise of Householde, to Geoffrey. Hervet was a proficient linguist, and fluent in English.” Isabel Davis. ‘Chaucer and Fame: Reputation and Reception.’ Hervet updated the language and customs in the work to a contemporary period, changing things such as translating slaves as servants etc.

The Oeconomicus by Xenophon is a Socratic dialogue principally about household management and agriculture.It is one of the earliest works on economics in its original sense of household management, and a significant source for the social and intellectual history of Classical Athens. Beyond the emphasis on household economics, the dialogue treats such topics as the qualities and relationships of men and women, rural vs. urban life, slavery, religion, and education. Scholars lean towards a relatively late date in Xenophon’s life for the composition of the Oeconomicus, perhaps after 362 BC. Cicero translated the Oeconomicus into Latin, and the work gained popularity during the Renaissance in a number of translations. Hervet’s English version was particularly influential in England.

ESTC S120529. STC 26072. Lowndes 3013. Hull, Chaste Silent & Obedient p. 219 1st edn. (see also page 49). Not in Erdmann.


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