Friday, November 9, 2012

How to do it

  The University of Chicago Press does a free e-book a month and this month's is How to Do it: Guides to Good Living for Renaissance Italians by Rudolph M. Bell.  It is a really fun book full of information on How-To manuals published in the 15h and 16th century.  I bought it a couple of months back and have really enjoyed it.  The footnotes are exceptional and have already sent me on a variety of tangents from which I've learned a great deal.  The book itself is pretty entertaining, as it looks at all sorts of manuals, starting with important issues like how to conceive a son.  The info on that is rather illuminating, as Bell discusses how Classical sources were used, shared, and also abandoned and modified. The look at Italian publishing in general and publishing directed at women in particular was really useful to me and I now have a new stack of books on that.  Bell is wonderful at setting up context and the writing is very, very readable. 

Anyway, if you are interested in daily life in the 16th century, women's issues, cooking, child raising, popular views of science and medicine, publishing, middle class mores, and 30 or 40 other topics, this is a good read.  And it is free, which makes it even better.  Go get a copy.  If you don't think you want it now, you may find some reason for it later.

Also, while you're having a look at the University of Chicago Press, have a poke through the 60 or so titles of their "The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe" series.  They just finished it's run this year.  The books are translations of a huge variety of writings that were not previously available in English.  I've been working my way through the Italian women poets and writers and most of the books in my bibliography for the classes I just taught on poets and on the Querelle des Femmes (the question of women) is books from this amazing series.  It's astounding to realize what has become available for the everyday, non-academic, researcher in the last couple of decades. 


  1. Aw, that looks like a hoot!

  2. This is a fun one! Like you, it sent me on fun research tangents. Definitely a good choice for someone interested in a day-to-day view of period attitudes/thought processes! :)