The Book of the City of Ladies


Christine de Pisan (circa 1364–1430) was born in Italy and came to France at the age of four with her father. Arguably the first woman in Europe to earn a living as an author, she is widely regarded as an early feminist who spoke out for the rights of women and espoused female achievement. She wrote poems and prose texts that were often allegorical and philosophical and that reflected her own original and engaged personality. She prepared the books with the aid of copyists and illuminators and offered them to patron princes and kings. Le Livre de la Cité des dames (The book of the city of ladies) is perhaps the best expression of Christine’s lucid and humanist feminism. An implied response to St. Augustine's City of God, and also inspired by the work of Boccaccio, the book was written as a dialogue between student and master. The allegorical figures of Reason, Justice, and Rectitude enter into a conversation with Christine and invite her to build a city for famous women of the past and virtuous women of all times in a world made for men. Among the approximately 30 known copies of the text, this well known and beautifully illustrated copy contains the signature of its owner, Jean de Berry (1340–1416), a great bibliophile of the House of Burgundy.

Last updated: February 12, 2016