LANDI, Ortensio



Lettere di molte valorose donne

Venice, Gabriele Giolito de’ Ferrari, 1548


FIRST EDITION. 8vo. ff. 161 (iii). Italic letter, little Roman. Woodcut printer’s device to t-p and verso of last, woodcut initials. Slight yellowing, light water stain to some lower outer corners. A very good copy in c.1800 half vellum over marbled boards, gilt-lettered morocco label to spine, c.1800 casemarks to front pastedown, C19 purchase note and Italian ownership inscription to ffep and t-p, C16 underlining and marginalia.

A fresh copy of the first edition of this fictional collection of letters sent to and from important women—‘varying polemic, reproving, instructive, playful and even comic’ (Ray, ‘Writing Gender’, 45), and an important, ahead of its time, stepping stone in the success of women’s writing in early modern Italy. Published anonymously, it concludes with several sonnets by Sansovino, Dolce and Aretino which attributed the work to Ortensio Landi (or Lando, 1510-58), an Italian humanist who, after travelling through Europe, settled in Venice. There he became a ‘polygraph’ involved in editorial and translation work and the authorship of texts from different genres, aimed at the vernacular market. Accused of sympathising with heterodox religious views—including the personal understanding of the Bible and justification by faith alone—Lando saw his works added to the Index of Prohibited Books in 1544 and had to write under pseudonyms. The ‘Lettere’ gathers fictional epistles written by dozens of ‘wise women’, which the editor purported to have collected during his peregrinations. Some of the correspondents were indeed contemporary to Landi, often his patrons—e.g., Isabella Sforza and Isabella Gonzaga—but also invented figures like the Jewish lady of Mantua. Fascinating is the letter by Clara de’ Nobili, the wife of a physician, addressing in unusually physiological language the problems of fecundity and sterility—whether due to the woman’s body or her husband’s semen—and the specifics of conception. She also proposes to her friend and her husband a leisurely visit to their villa to favour conception, with the possibility of aphrodisiac medicaments. In her letter, Mamma Riminalda discusses pregnancy, giving advice and suggesting recipes to women struggling with side effects like swollen feet. In the context of learned debates on female authorship, Lando’s treatise generated a great interest in a book market increasingly keen on women’s writing. The careful early Italian annotator of this copy was studying it for its literary value. He or she was interested in the numerous classical references and mythological episodes, often involving women and gory acts (e.g., King Camble who ate his wife for gluttony one night), as well as in the use of similes, allegories of virtue and vice, and even recipes for medical concoctions. The sections on conception and pregnancy are also marked, especially the physiological descriptions. Was the annotator a young, educated woman?

BM STC It., p. 376; Annali di Giolito, p. 237; Fontanini II, 121; Melzi, Opere anonime e pseudonime, II, 115. Not in Gay. M.K. Ray, Writing Gender in Women’s Letter (Toronto, 2009).


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RUEFF, Jakob

The expert midvvife, or An excellent and most necessary treatise of the generation and birth of man.

London, E[dward]. G[riffin]. for S[imon]. B[urton], 1637


FIRST EDITION thus. 4to. pp. [xvi], 192, 120. A-N⁸, 2A⁴, 2B-2H⁸. Woodcut initials and headpieces, typographical ornaments, very numerous woodcut medical illustrations, several full page, early shelf mark on rear fly. Light age yellowing, first two lines of printed title replaced in excellent facsimile, minor spotting, marginal soiling in places, general light paper browning. A good copy in modern calf, covers bordered with a double blind rule, spine with raised bands, a.e.r. 

First and only edition of this anonymous translation into English of ‘De conceptu et generatione hominis’ the celebrated manual of obstetrics. The text is an improved version of Rösslin’s ‘Der Swangern Frauen’ but its importance to the embryologist lies in Rueff’s illustrations which show contemporary ideas about mammalian embryology, which corrected many of Rösslin’s more fantastic images, and which are copied in this English edition from Jost Amman’s fine woodcuts. The book is addressed not only to midwives, pregnant women and women in childbed but also physicians and scholars in general. “Little is known of Jacob Rueff’s early life except that he was born in 1500. Although primarily known as a physician, surgeon, and lithotomist, he was also a poet and writer of folk songs… His medical writings include a little book on tumours, astronomical notes for an almanac, and charts for blood letting. But easily his most important contribution was the publication of a practical handbook on mid-wifery in 1554. Published simultaneously in Latin and German, De conceptu et generatione hominis … became the required reading for the midwives of Zurich, for whose instruction and examination Rueff was made responsible. In 1637 an English translation was published in London with the title The expert midwife. .. Rueff’s book was for over a century a major source of information for midwives and doctors. As he wrote: “my labours I bequeath to all grave modest and discreet women, as also to such as by profession, practice either physicke or chirurgery. And whose helpe upon occasion of extreame necessity may be usefull and good both for mother, child and midwife.” Much of Rueff’s advice stems from that of classical writers or is taken from Rösslin’s Rosegarten. A great deal is also very primitive to modern eyes. But it made a start at a time when midwifery had previously been strictly a woman’s afair.” Peter Dunn. ‘Jacob Rueff (1500–1558) of Zurich and The expert midwife. Archives of disease in childhood’.

“The following year [1637]a German work, ‘The Expert Midwife’ by Jacob Rueff, was translated into English. Sadler’s work [The Sicke Woman’s Private Looking-Glasse] had drawn heavily on this text; Rueff, a Lutheran physician in Zürich, had published his book in both German and Latin back in 1554. The identity of its English translator remains a mystery, but its publication was clearly linked to Sadler’s book, since Rueff was published by Edward Griffin, the husband of Anne Griffin, who had published Sadler. Rueff had been available for translation into English for decades, but his negative vision of the womb seems to have resonated in England only after the turn of the century. Both Rueff’s and Sadler’s books are important not just in their own right, but because parts of these books were incorporated into many subsequent popular medical works. Rueff and Sadler created a very different female body than that envisioned by Raynalde. Although traces of older ideas about wonder and mystery remain, the female body became a dangerous and unstable entity. In particular the womb, formerly wondrous, was now a threat. Both texts introduced themes into English popular medical manuels: the idea that the womb can threaten a woman’s health and even her life, and a fascination with what happens when reproduction goes awry and monsters are produced” Mary Elizabeth Fissell. ‘Vernacular Bodies: The Politics of Reproduction in Early Modern England’.

A good copy of this rare and most influential edition of the English translation. 

ESTC S101598. STC 21442. Wellcome 5616 Osler 3849. Not in Durling.


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De memorabilibus et claris mulieribus aliquot diversorum scriptorum opera.

Paris, apud Simon de Colines, 1521


FIRST EDITION. Folio. ff. 176 [ii] 177 219 [iii]. a-x8, y10, z8, A-E6, F8. Roman letter. Title with Simon de Coline’s beautiful white on black criblé ‘Rabbit’ device (Renouard 15) fine white on black criblé floriated initials, ‘DUP’ ms at head of first fly, “Claude Gabriel Poquet de Livonniere” on title, early autograph crossed out below, bibliographical note in smaller hand at foot, one or two marginal ms annotations. Light age yellowing, t-p fractionally dusty. A fine copy in beautiful late C17th red morocco bound for Louis Henri Compte de Lomenie, (Guigard II 327), covers bordered with a triple gilt rule Lomenie’s arms gilt at centres, spine with gilt ruled raised bands, gilt ruled in compartments, richly gilt with small tools, tan morocco label gilt lettered, edges with double gilt rule, inner dentelles gilt, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt over marbling, extremities a little rubbed and scratched.

A fine copy of the first edition of this rare anthology of works on the lives of famous women, edited by Jean Tixier, beautifully bound in red morocco, possibly by Duseuil, for the celebrated bibliophile Lomenie de Brienne. Beautifully printed, it is one of the first major works printed by the great French printer Simon de Colines under his own name. “A collection of ancient and renaissance texts dealing with famous women, edited by Jean Tixier de Ravisi (Ravisius Textor), who dedicates the volume to Jeanne de Vuigancourt, wife of Charles Guillart, president of the Parliament. The volume opens with Plutarchs De claris mulieribus (in the Latin version by Alamannus Rinuccinus: first published at Brescia , 1485, and includes the popular work of the same title by Jacopo Filippo Foresti (first published in 1497), the life of St. Catherine of Sienna, by Jean de Pins (Bologna 1505), and a section on scholarly women (including Sappho, St. Elizabeth of Schonau, and St. Hildegard) by Baptista Fregoso. One of the most interesting pieces consists of the Neolatin epic on Joan of Arc (De gestis Ioannae Gallicae) by Valerand de la Varanne (Valerius Varanius) which had first been printed seperately in 1516. .. This is the second printing of this compelling text. See Brunet V, 1085. Tixier has also contributed some original texts, among them an essay on famous prostiutes (fols. B1v – B3v.)” Schreiber. 

“One of the most interesting books in the catalogue tradition is an unfinished, anonymous catalogue that appeared in a 1521 anthology of women’s lives compiled by Jean Tixier de Ravisi. This work consists almost solely of captions without lives. Clearly the anonymous author intended first to slot all known women into one type or another and then to add names and vitae later. Among the authors captions are ‘Poetesses’, ‘Virgins and Martyrs,’ ‘Common Whores,’ ‘Prostitutes Converted to Virtue,’ and ‘illustrious Queens’; also listed under separate headings are ‘Women who wore mens clothes’ and ‘Women who were sometimes Men Sometimes Women.’” Barbara K. Gold ed. ‘Sex and Gender in Medieval and Renaissance Texts: The Latin Tradition.’

Claude-Gabriel Pocquet de Livonnière 1684 – 1762, Angers), was a french lawyer and scholar, who succeeded his father as professor of French Law at the University of Angers where he later became rector. From the extraordinary collection of Louis-Henri de Loménie, comte de Brienne (1635-1698). His madness, brought on by the death of his wife, relieved by periods of lucidity, did not prevent him from writing memoirs which present much invaluable historical information, nor from assembling a fine library, on which he spent almost 80,000 livres. “Presque tous ses livres sortait des mains de Dusseuil” Guigard. After his death, the collection was dispersed by his son in, also named Louis-Henri. “Au grand détriment de la bibliophilie française” (Guigard, 328), it was sold by the London bookseller James Woodman in 1724. Morocco bindings with Loménie de Brienne’s arms are now rare. 

USTC 145382. Schreiber 5. Moreau III 233. Renouard ‘Colines’ p.20-21. Adams R201.


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UBALDINI, Petruccio


Le vite delle donne illustri. Del regno d’Inghilterra, & del regno di Scotia,

London, Appresso Giouanni Volfio, 1591


FIRST EDITION. 4to. pp. [xiv], 117, [iii]. A(-A1+[par.]) B-Q. Roman letter, some Italic. Woodcut ‘Fleur de lys’ device on title, woodcut headpieces and floriated initials, eleven line presentation inscription to William Cecil, Lord Burghley in Ubaldini’s celebrated Italic hand on verso of first fly, 1592, bookplate of Robert S. Pirie on pastedown. Light age yellowing, occasional marginal spotting, one or two quires a little browned, mostly marginal soiling and spotting in places. A very good copy in contemporary vellum over thin boards, covers bordered with a gilt rule, gilt-stamped oval at centre, a little soiled, recased.

A precious copy of the first edition, second issue, of this very rare work, beautifully  inscribed by the author Ubaldini in his fine, clear Italic hand, for presentation to William Cecil,-Lord Burghley. Ubaldini (1545-1599), was born in the Florentine state and was learned in classical languages. He sought patronage in both Venice and England with his writings and settled in London. In May 1574 debts caused him to petition Lord Burghley, the lord high treasurer, for financial assistance from the crown. His inscription, in elegant italic, includes four lines of poetry and a seven-line dedication to Burghley “great treasurer of the Kingdom of England” dated “1592.”

“In Lewis Einstein’s words, Petruccio Ubaldini is ‘an example of the better type of the Italian adventurers then to be found at every European court’ (Einstein, 1902, p 190); and an adventurer he was, like many of the Italian expatriates in Tudor England. What is to be noticed in his self-introduction to ‘Militia del Gran Duca di Thoscana’, his last volume, published in London in 1597, is that Ubaldini emphasises his many years of service to the Tudors, first under Henry VIII in 1545 and later under Edward VI; having left for Italy on Mary’s accession to the throne, Petruccio is intentionally vague here about the date when he got back to England; .. as a matter of fact, he says in the passage referred to that he has been in the service of Queen Elizabeth since 1563. What this service consisted in is not clear at all: since Ubaldini was no longer young enough to be a soldier, a modern critic writes that ‘from 1562 onwards, he was able to fill the vacuum left by the rupture in official diplomatic and ecclesiastical contacts between England and Italy. He became almost the only well-placed Italian reporter of English affairs during the second half of the sixteenth century. … Ubaldini, .. corresponded with the secretaries of the Dukes of Florence and numbered Henrey Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel, Walsingham, William Cecil, Lord Thomas Howard and other important personages amongst his acquaintances. Certainly Queen Elizabeth thought his services were valuable enough to grant him a salary.’ (Bugliani). .. Ubaldini is the author of 12 works, all of them composed and/or published in England between 1564 and 1597.” Giovanni Iamartino. ‘Representations of Elizabeth I in Early Modern Culture.’

This catalogue of the famous women of England and Scotland was a popular form of work at the period; there were many such catalogues such as Garzoni’s “Le Vite delle Donne illustri Della Scrittura Sacra” “Catalogues of women are lists enumerating pagan and sometimes Christian heroines, who jointly define a notion of femininity. They therefore offer a unique perspective on the problem of femininity by presenting women as entities participating in and formed by historical currents. Such an approach is of immense significance at any time of great change, when historical perspectives were under going transformations. G. McLeod. Virtue and Venom: Catalogs of Women from Antiquity to the Renaissance’ This work was written by Ubaldini and presented as a manuscript to Elizabeth I in 1576 (now lost).

William Cecil, Lord Burghley, was one of the great statesmen of the Elizabethan period, the chief advisor of Queen Elizabeth I for most of her reign, at the heart of most of the major events of the period. “From 1558 for forty years the biography of Cecil is almost indistinguishable from that of Elizabeth and from the history of England.” Pollard. He was also a great book collector. On his death in 1598, his will directed that his elder son, Thomas, should inherit ‘all my books in my upper library over my Great chamber in my…. house in Westminster’ together with ‘all my evidence and rolls belonging to my pedigrees’. On a sale of some of the Cecil family’s possessions in 1687, the inventory for books listed some 3,645 books and 249 volumes of manuscripts said to be his. The collection is now in four main parts – a great many are in the Cotton Collection at the British Museum, some are in the National Archive, a substantial portion is at Trinity College, Dublin, of which Cecil was Chancellor, and many remain at Hatfield House.

STC 24488; ESTC S118916. Lowndes 2738. Not in Erdmann.


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De morbis muliebribus praelectiones.

Venice, apud Giunta, 1601.


4to. pp. (viii) 236 (xvi), 125-28 misbound. Roman letter, little Italic. Woodcut printer’s device to t-p, decorated initials and headpieces. Faint waterstaining to lower outer corner of preliminaries, intermittent age yellowing. A very good copy in contemporary vellum, traces of ties, early ms. ex-libris of Jesuit Collegium and Fr. Gregorio Fanti to t-p.

Very good copy of the third edition of this important, scarce treatise on medical conditions affecting women. Girolamo Mercuriale (1530-1606) was an Italian physicist and philologist most famous for his ‘De Arte Gymnastica’ (1569) on physical therapy, exercise and well-being among the ancients. As professor of practical medicine at Padua, he wrote numerous treatises on subjects as varied as pestilence, skin diseases, poison and diseases of children. First published in 1587, ‘De morbis muliebribus praelectiones’ was entirely devoted to the ailments to which women were most prone. The prefatory letter highlighted the relevance of the medical knowledge of female physiology (‘gestation of the womb, birth and miscarriage’) for jurisprudence, quoting from Justinian’s ‘Decretum’ on issues of legitimacy and heredity. The focal points of the work are indeed menstruation, sterility, conception, pregnancy, birth and miscarriage. Each section illustrates a specific condition, its causes, diagnosis and treatment, addressing questions like the effects of different kinds of semen for conception and of ‘coitus’ on pregnant women (too much can cause miscarriage), the perils of blood clots, gonorrhea, several kinds of womb and breast inflammation, and numerous conditions related to menstruation (e.g., discolouration, excessive flux). Mercuriale ‘advocated the use of the vaginal speculum to determine the state of the uterus…and was among the first to refer to the lack of fertility among the noble class’ (Erdmann, 32). A scarce, ground-breaking and incredibly thorough study of female physiology.

Gregorio Fanti S.J. was rector of the College in Rome c.1706-10.

Erdmann, 32 (1587 edition); Not in USTC, Wellcome, Durling, Hull, Brunet, Adams or Heirs of Hippocrates.


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Les triu[m]phes de la noble et amoureuse Dame et l’art de honnestement aymer.

Paris, en la gallerie pro ou on va a la chancellerie par Jehan Longis, 1537.


8vo. ff. [xii], cccxc. Lettre Bâtarde. Woodcut initials in various sizes, engraved armorial bookplate of the Baron de Bellet on pastedown, that of Dr. Andre Van Bastelaer beneath, note in French recording purchase of the vol. in the Beckford-Hamilton sale, lot 78, 1883 -250”, on pastedown. Light age yellowing, t-p slightly dusty, tips of outer corners expertly repaired. A very good copy, crisp and clean and wide-margined, (some lower margins uncut) finely bound by Churton in early C19th diced russia, covers with border of double gilt rules, corners with small gilt fleurons, spine with raised bands finely gilt ruled in compartments, gilt fleuron at center, title and date gilt lettered in Batarde, inner dentelles and edges gilt, a.e.g., spine a little faded.

Rare and beautifully printed edition of the most successful work of the ‘Rhetoriqueur’ poet Jean Bouchet, first published in 1530, a mystical romance in prose and verse on divine love, in which the ‘amoureuse dame’ represents the human soul. Bouchet, 1476-c.1550 was a prolific author of great intelligence and imagination. He acquired fame at the court of Louis XII and Anne of Brittany, had a successful career as a lawyer, was tutor to the Prince de Talmont and became centre of the literary circle in his native Poitiers. He was one of the few poets of his era to live off his writing, without patronage, and thus had great control over the printing of his own works. “In this respect, despite his relative conservatism as a poet, Bouchet anticipates the more apparently personal and less overtly formalist poetics of the mid and late sixteenth century.” Adrian Armstrong ‘Script, Print, and Poetics in France, 1470-1550’. Among his friends was François Rabelais who addressed to Bouchet his first verses in French.

This Parisian edition seems to have been shared by Jean Longis and Jean Macé. “Brunet mentions that ‘ces triomphes sont un ouvrage mystique, en vers et en prose, où il s’agit de l’amour de Dieu: L’amoureuse dame est notre âme. On le voit donc, il n’y a là rien de bien érotique’. However, he omits to state that much of the matter is of more human interest than may be at first supposed. There are chapters on matrimonial conduct, the bringing up of children, (“Comment mary et femme doivent converser en leur lict de mariage; instruction pour les femmes grosses; comment les meres doyuent nourrir leurs enfans en enfance” etc), choice of foods, anatomy of the human body etc.” Fairfax Murray I 60, the 1541 edition. “In this guide for proper moral and social conduct are found many advices addressed to women. The work also contains dietetic advice for a healthy life and an extensive chapter on anatomy, in which are also described the reproductive organs”. Erdman, My Gracious Silence 57 (later edition).

William Thomas Beckford (1760–1844) was an extraordinarily wealthy English novelist, art critic, travel writer and politician, now chiefly remembered as the author of the Gothic novel Vathek and builder of the remarkable Fonthill Abbey, the enormous gothic revival country house, largely destroyed. Beckford’s fame rests as much upon his eccentric extravagances as a builder and collector as upon his literary efforts. The opportunity to purchase the complete library of Edward Gibbon gave Beckford the basis for his own library, which was extensive, and dispersed over two years in 1883-4.

BM STC Fr. C16th p. (Macé edition). IA. 122.891. Brunet (Macé edition). Erdman, My Gracious Silence 57 (later edn.). Fairfax Murray I 60, the 1541 edition.


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Madrigali di Mutio Manfredi il Fermo Academico Olimpico &c. Sopra molti soggetti strauaganti composti, ne men di tre, ne piu di cinquanta sono per ciascun soggetto

Venice, Roberto Meglietti, 1606.


FIRST EDITION.12mo. pp. (x) 374. A-Q12. Italic letter. Title within fine engraved architectural border incorporating the printer’s device below, of two cockerels eating corn, the arms of the dedicatee Luigi Capponi above, putti at sides with the figures of Justice and Beauty above, woodcut initials and headpieces, typographical and woodcut ornaments. Some very light age yellowing in places. A very good copy, crisp and clean, in earlier limp vellum from an antiphonal leaf.

First edition of these madrigals by Manfredo Muzio, dedicated to the Cardinal Luigi Capponi, most of which are addressed to women. Manfredi, a poet and dramatist from Cesena, was a member of the noble Manfredi family of Faenza. He was employed at the French court in Nancy as secretary to the Duchess of Brunswick, where he wrote much of his most famous work. He was extremely well connected in Italian literary circles, Diomede Borghesi in one of his letters refers to having met with Tasso and describes him as “da costumi preclarissimi, e da bellisima letteratura.”

He is best remembered now for his plays however he wrote a considerable amount of poetry, nearly all of which was addressed to, and in praise of, female contemporaries. “Perhaps the supreme exponent in this period of the role of “celebrant of women” was the poet and courtier Muzio Manfredi of Fermo (1535 – 1607), a ubiquitous figure in the academic culture of the time, though now best remembered as a dramatist. (Semiramis [1593]). … In his long career, Manfredi published numerous volumes of poetry, mainly madrigals, almost all devoted to the praise of women. One of his first works published, the anthology ‘Per donne romane,’ of 1575, is prefaced by an open letter “to the ladies” (Alle donne) in which Manfredi speaks of himself as having “placed all my efforts and study in that manner of letters I thought pleasing to you and most fitted to exalt your fame: that is the excellency of poetry, a truly divine art and one appropriate to your divinity.”

This devotion is manifested in four further volumes, ‘Cento donne cantate’ (1580), ‘Cento madrigali’ (1587), Cento sonetti … in lode delle donne di Ravenna (1602), and ‘Madrigali … sopra molti soggetti stravaganti composti’ (1606), the first three entirely devoted to women, the last including a handful of poems to men. … Compositely, these volumes portray Manfredi as engaged in an admiring and flirtatious dialogue not only with the cream of Italian aristocratic womanhood but also with ‘donne virtuose,’ as he refers to them in ‘Il contrasto amoroso’.” Virginia Cox, ‘Women’s writing in Italy, 1400-1650.’

Many of the poems addressed to women in this collection are prefaced by a short note describing their relationship, or an event from her life and many of them are addressed to prominent women writers, actors and singers. An excellent copy of this rare first edition.

BM STC It. C17th p. 527. Not in Gamba. See Axel Erdmann “My Gracious Silence” 16 for a description of another of his collection of Madrigals dedicated to women.


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PLATT, Sir Hugh


Delightes for ladies, to adorne their persons, tables, closets, and distillatories;

London, Printed by H. L[ownes] and R. Y[oung] and are to bee sold by Iames Boler, 1628


12mo. 96 unnumbered leaves. A-H12, (last blank but for border). Roman letter, titles in Italic. Text within decorative four part woodcut borders, typographical ornaments. Light age yellowing, borders on outer margin very fractionally trimmed on a few leaves. A good copy, unusually crisp and clean, in antique-style red morocco, covers bordered with single gilt rule, spine with gilt raised bands, vase tools gilt at centers, green morocco label gilt, combed marble end-papers, all edges gilt.

A very good copy of this very charming, exceptionally rare and important book of recipes of sweets, candies, preserves, (sweet and savory), alcoholic beverages, perfumes, cosmetics and personal decoration, a most successful book in its day; some of the recipes have survived to be in relatively common use 400 years later, in particular the various mixed alcoholic beverages. “Sir Hugh Platt wrote perhaps the most charming and well-written sweets recipe book of all, dedicated to the ladies of leisure who were his target readership. The art of preserving and candying fruit had by this time become a ladylike diversion as well as a professional business — due to the high price of imported sugar, sweets were still an expensive luxury enjoyed only by a few. Among Sir Hugh’s recipes is a way of candying rose petals on the bush by pouring syrup over them and letting them dry in the sun. His dedicatory poem,… is a useful inventory of sweets in favour in the 16th and early 17th century, including sucket (candied lemon and orange peel) and marchpanes: a type of hard marzipan modelled into diverse shapes for the table, and not always edible.” British library.

‘Delightes for Ladies’ was one of several works which Plat published in the genre of how-to books, or books of secrets. It was one of the earliest, if not the first, cookery and household recipe book. Plat divides the work into three parts “the arte of preseruing”, “secrets in distillation” and “cookerie and huswiferie”. His interest in the subject was in part derived from his interest in preserving food for the navy and dwells at some length on keeping meat in brine at sea and includes a recipe for keeping orange & lemon juice for a year. The second section on Distillation starts with a recipe called “How to make true spirit of wine.”. Most of the rest of the recipes in this section, though, are how to make things like rose-water, or how to distill thyme lavender and rosemary for perfumes or ‘waters’. The book also is partly derived from the tradition of ‘Books of Secrets’ and contains recipes such as “to take away the freckles in the face: Wash your face in the wane of the moone with a spunge, morninge and euening with the distilled water of Elder Leaues, letting the same drie into the skinne. Your water must be distilled in Maie. This is of a Trauailer, who hath cured himself therby.”. Read and used to pieces this work has survived in very few copies and is very rare.“The reader is left in no sort of doubt about what went on in the Elizabethan kitchen, and few could put the book down without some regret for the passing of those most leisurely days. … It is not surprising that some of these have survived in single copies only, and some have probably disappeared altogether … Most surviving copies are pretty grubby and often incomplete.” Bent Juel-Jensen, ‘Some Uncollected Authors XIX, The Book Collector”.

STC 19983.7 (Recording only 3 other copies B.L., Lincoln Cathedral and Folger). Bitting 373. Vicaire under ‘Closet’ 183. “One of the early practical guides to include beauty hints and cosmetic recipes” Hull, ‘Chaste, Silent and Obedient.’ pp. 43, 194. Ferguson V p. 43. Cagle 930. Not in Oberle.


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DE BILLON, François


Le Fort inexpugnable de l’honneur du sexe femenin.

Paris, Ian d’Allyer, 1 April 1555.


FIRST EDITION. 4to., pp. 257, (vi). Woodcut portrait of the author within architectonic cartouche (repeated), full-page allegorical woodcut of a fort (resembling the Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome) with female figures and soldiers beneath the Virgin and Child supported on a crescent (repeated for 6 chapter openings), chapter openings within woodcut borders of artillery with two cannon being fired by a matron, flaming cannonballs and barrels of gunpowder, full-page woodcut of Athena addressing an all-female audience (repeated for 3 chapter openings), woodcut head and tail pieces, several woodcut marginal pointers in the shape of cannon, woodcut initials. Very skilful small repairs to upper blank margins of two leaves, a little light age-yellowing, a very good copy in crushed purple morocco gilt by Thibaron Joly, spine gilt in six compartments, a.e.g, gilt dentelles (small dampstain to lower corner of upper cover). Stamp c.1800 of the Bibliotheque du Grand Juge de la Republique Francaise in blank lower corner of title.

FIRST EDITION of the “most enthusiastic and passionate panegyric [on the rights and merits of women] to have been written between 1450 and 1550” (Albistur & Armogathe, Histoire du feminisme du Moyen-Age à nos jours), Billon’s strenuous early defence of the equality of the ‘second sex’. Another edition was apparently published with the same date and different title but without giving the printer’s name, either a shared or pirated issue. Little is known about his life, but Billon was born in Paris, the nephew of Artus Billon, Bishop of Senlis. He was an author ‘in the Italian style’, and accompanied Cardinal Bellay to Rome as his secretary in the mid-1550s, where he wrote the present treatise, dedicated to Catherine de Medici. Billon died around 1566, and was one of the principal theorists of feminism in the 16th century, and the work forms part of the literary canon of the ‘Women’s Quarrel’ (‘La Querelle des Femmes’), which was a Europe-wide literary battle that raged for over 300 years between various authors attacking, and defending women (hence the martial imagery), reflecting the sometimes serious and sometimes jocular nature of scholarly argument from 1500-1800; these texts were often reliant on theological sources. The work appeared again in 1564, with a slightly different title.

Built up as an ‘impregnable fort’ of separate ‘bastions’ (chapters), the work is a robust defence of the role of women, peppered with allegorical references, but arguing strenuously for improvements in female education, encouraging women to abandon home and convent for traditionally male-dominated professions, including politics and the military. Billon also advocates the dissolution of arranged marriages and the ending of a woman’s legal subjugation to her husband. He notes that in Europe, where he says women are held in the greatest subjugation, men are also more subjugated, and argues for the qualities (such as honesty, magnanimity, piety and devotion) and achievements (arguing, i.a., that women make better singers: the ‘angelic sweetness’ of the female voice) of women throughout the ages, even disputing with the Bible. The book also includes the first appearance of the word ‘atheism’ (in the context of a people’s lack of belief) and contains probably the first bio-bibliography of female writers and inventors.

BM STC Fr. p. 69; Adams B-2047; IA. 119.358 (six locations); Gay II, p. 342; Brunet I, 945; Graesse I, p. 426; Cioranesco 4010; not in Mortimer or Erdmann.


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Trois livres de la santé, foecundité et maladies des femmes.

Paris, Jacques du Puys, 1582.


FIRST EDITION thus. 8vo. pp. (xvi) 923 (i) (xvi). Roman letter, some Italic. Woodcut printer’s device to title page, depicting Christ with the Samaritan woman at the well, fine woodcut initials and head-pieces. One or two later manuscript marginal notes. Very light water staining, mostly marginal, to first few leaves and index. Small worm hole to title page, not affecting text. A very good, clean copy in contemporary vellum, a little soiled, fore-edges chewed, lacking ties, in modern box.

First French edition (translated from the Latin De sanitate, faecunditatae et morbis mulierum of the same year) of this gynaecological handbook by Jean Liébault (c.1535-1596), doctor and agronomist. It was one of the very first vernacular works, designed for the laywoman, about the female physical condition. Liébault was born in Dijon but moved to Paris to study medicine, where he became a successful doctor, highly esteemed by both colleagues and patients. He married Nicole Estienne, daughter of the great Parisian printer Charles Estienne (1504-1564), who had himself studied medicine under Jacob Sylvius alongside the young Vesalius. Liébault completed and translated his father-in-law’s Praedium rusticum into French as La maison rustique (1564); a translation of Gesner’s Quatres livres des secrets de médecine followed in 1573.

Trois livres de la santé was the first of two works on feminine health and beauty he published in 1582. De l’ornement & beautez des Femmes is advertised in the present work. Madame Liébault, a noted femme des lettres, was herself the author of Misères de la femme mariée, mises en forme de stances, and the manuscript Apologie pour les femmes, contre ceux qui en médisent. She predeceased her husband by some years; the contemporary diarist Pierre de L’Estoile records that Liébault died suddenly, after sitting down to rest on a stone in the rue Gervais-Laurent.

Liébault’s introduction to the present work laments the infinite number of maladies which accompany any person through his or her life, ‘mais plus griefues en affliction tormentent le corps de la femme comme celuy de l’homme.’ Woman, he takes care to emphasise, ‘n’est animant mutile ny imparfaict, mais foible & maladif.’ His work describes and suggests causes and remedies – often more than one – for a range of gynaecological complaints, in chronological order from childhood to motherhood; Liébault does not advise on the maladies of women beyond child-bearing age. Young girls, he notes, may be subject to nervous illnesses, nausea, headache and neuralgia. He deals with menstruation, venereal disease and various renal and gastro-intestinal problems, before proceeding to the subject of conception and childbirth, which occupies the greatest portion of the book.

Obesity, male and female, is listed among the causes of infertility; common birth defects are described, along with less common ones such as hermaphroditism. Alongside a discussion of family resemblance in young children (with a gentle reminder that even animals and plants have an urge to reproduce in their own image), Liébault also addresses the question of when a child receives his or her soul. Of particular interest is the chapter devoted to the performance of caesarean section, which, given the high mortality rate, is advised only as a last resort. The first modern caesarean section which the mother is known to have survived had been performed as recently as 1500. Liébault concludes with advice on the treatment of the newborn and the new mother. The work contains a detailed table of contents and index, and a brief list of errata.

BM STC Fr. 266; Brunet III, 1074; Wellcome I, 3800; Durling 2959 (attributed to Giovanni Marinelli); not in Adams, Heirs of Hippocrates, Osler, Garrison and Morton or Erdman.


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