The first systematic study to address exclusively the education of women

Vives, Juan Luis. Von underweysung ayner Christlichen Frauwen, Drey Bücher.

(Augsburg, Heinrich Steiner, 1 March) 1544.

(4), CXXV, (1) Bll. With two-part armorial woodcut on title-page and 27 woodcuts in the text (8 by H. Schäufelein, 15 (?) by H. Weiditz). Modern marbled boards. Folio (212 x 304 mm).


First German edition of "the first systematic study to address explicitly and exclusively the universal education of women", at the same time a fine and rare woodcut book. Commissioned by the wife of Henry VIII, Catherine of Aragon, who was at the time rearing her own daughter, Mary Tudor, Vives' treatise was translated and adapted by numerous followers (here by the Bavarian Humanist Christopher Bruno) and thus was read in almost every European vernacular, often by women themselves. The present translation is dedicated to Maria Jacobaea of Baden-Sponheim (1507-80), duchess consort of Bavaria, and to her daughter Mechthild of Bavaria (1532–65).

Vives' work consists of 3 books, one for each stage of woman's life: maidenhood, marriage, and widowhood. Although the author specifically adapted his prose style for a female readership, the treatise is hardly pro-woman: "the 'Education' is determined to be both a reference book for men on how to control their women, as well as an edifying treatise for women to absorb as a source of proper behaviour" (Kolsky). Nevertheless, Vives' praise of women's intellectual capacity and his advocation of some form of universal learning for females are viewed as landmarks for modern historians of women and gender. According to Pollie Bromilow, the dozens of vernacular translations were partly aimed at women themselves, who had no knowledge of Latin; and thus a large segment of its readership during the 16th century was in fact female.

Even browning and brownstaining throughout due to paper stock; some light waterstains. A few leaves show repairs in the lower margin and occasionally beyond, and a single leaf has a larger part torn out from the outer margin (no loss to text).

A fundamental document for the role of women in Early Modern society; only two copies in the trade since 1935.


VD 16, V 1867. BM-STC German 899. Hayn/G. VIII, 135. Muther 1126. Musper L 181. Oldenbourg L 215. Not in Adams. Cf. Kolsky, Making Examples of Women: Juan Luis Vives' The Education of a Christian Woman. Bromilow, "An Emerging Female Readership of Print in Sixteenth-Century France?", French Studies (2013) Vol. 67, pp. 155-169.