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Agrippa Von Nettesheim.

Female Pre-eminence…


Female Superiority Proved
Agrippa Von Nettesheim, Henry Cornelius. Female Pre-eminence: or the Dignity and Excellency of that Sex, above the Male. An ingenious Discourse: Written originally in Latin, by Henry Cornelius Agrippa, Knight, Doctor of Physick, Doctor of both Laws, and Privy-Counsellor to the Emperour Charles the Fifth. Done into English, with Additional Advantages by H.C. [Henry Care]. London: Printed by T.R. and M.D. and are to be sold by Henry Million, at the Sign of the Bible in Fleet-Street, 1670.
12mo.; bookplate of Arthur John Booth on the front pastedown; lower edges and lower outer corners throughout very nearly restored (the only loss of print is from the rule border of the title page which has been carefully filled-in); contemporary sheep, neatly rebacked and restored. In a specially made cloth slipcase.
Second edition of Henry Care's translation of De nobilitate et praecellentia foeminei sexus (1529), the earliest work by the German occultist and mystic Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa Von Nettesheim. Agrippa, deriving his arguments from cabalistic lore, seeks to prove not woman's equality, but woman's superiority. Blaming masculine tyranny for the oppression of womankind, he founds his theories on such premises as body hair, missing ribs, and original sin.
The first English translation-Treatise on the Nobility of Womankind-appeared in 1542, in a version prepared by the poet, political writer and journalist Henry Care, whose used the occasion of his first book to include a fulsome dedication to Queen Katherine intended to promote his credentials as a royalist (p. 3-4). The present edition, which includes a two page tribute to Henry Care and a five page address "To the Ladies, on this Ingenious Discourse of Female Pre-eminence," both by "T.M.," was "licens'd Septem. 1. 1670," by Roger L'Estrange, according to the notice opposite the title page; and includes two pages of ads in the rear of books sold by Henry Million. A sampling from the translator's preface will convey the spirit in which the translation was undertaken:
In this giddy Age wherein each extravagant opinion finds a welcome, and Conceits more wild than any Bedlam-frenzy, have been entertained with zeal, and promoted with passion, an innocent Paradox may fairly hope for Pardon at least, if not Applause.
Since (1) Tyranny, (2) Injustice, (3) Ugliness, and (4) Folly itself, have not wanted their respective Advocates among the Learned, I see small reason why Asserting the Pre-eminence of the Female Sex, should too severely be censured. But 'tis unjust to debar Readers of that tickling delight they take in finding faults, it being often-times all the consideration they have for laying out their Money. The Stationers humor and mine agree, Let them but buy the Book, and then (being their own) use it as they please. I shall not therefore waste time, either in Courting or Hussing the Reader, (for both ways are now commonly used to surprise his good opinion,) but only endeavor to give an Impartial Account of the Author, and Design of the ensuing Discourse.
To say much of the noble Agrippa, were to put an Affront on the Reader, (if he pretend at all to traffic in the Commonwealth of Learning) by supposing him a stranger to that Man, who was justly admired as the Prodigy of his Age, for all kind of Science. That vast progress he made, Tam Marte quam Mercurio, in Arms no less than Arts; the Titles and Honors he acquired, the respect paid him by most of the Grandees, and famous Men, his Contemporaries; and those Monuments of Learning, wherewith he has obliged Posterity; all speak him a Person above the ordinary level of mankind; to be ranked only among those few noble Heroes;
…'Tis true, (like all great Wits) he took no little pleasure in stemming the impetuous Tide of popular opinion, as if nothing had been impregnable against the puissance of his parts. Hence he made that desperate (5) Onset, to prove in particular, what Solomon was content to affirm in the lump, That all things are Vanity; and with an excess of Gallantry undertook singly to duel all Arts and Sciences.
 Nor was this present Essay any other than a sally of the same Generosity, that delights to engage on disadvantages, and bravely to assist the weaker party. After so many slanders (like ungrateful Mules, turning their brutish heels to kick those Paps whence they received their first Nutriment) had dipped their keen Pens in Gall, and filled their black Mouths with Calumnies, to sully the Repute of this fair Sex, our Author was too noble, not to think himself concerned in its Vindication; Common Justice, no less than point of Honor, obliging all to succor oppressed Innocency. Hereupon the Generous Agrippa enters the Lists, to assert the Honor of the Female Party, against the immerited obloquies of the Male, which he chooses to attempt, not after the low, timorous method of an Apology, the shallow Invectives of the Adversaries being unworthy the refute of his Pen; but like a politic General, carrying the War into the enemy's Country, startles them with an expected Invasion, and lets them know this noble Sex ought to be the object of their veneration, not contempt, being in all respects their superior.
 How prudently this Design was undertaken, or how well performed, I shall not foretell the Reader's opinion, so far as to determine; but must confess myself pleased with that Diversion I met with in reading the Original; and thereupon to have attempted the Translation, not without some Additions, and variation, to render it more smooth and grateful to the present Age, thinking I could scarce better devote my vacant hours, than to the service of that sweet Sex, which every one deserving the Name of Man, cannot but love; and to whom, whoever has not forgot he had a Mother, is obliged to pay a reverential esteem.
Yet is it no part of our Design to flater Women, but to put some check to the rude, undeserved reproaches, cast on them by the Men: To acquaint the fair Sex with its natural Dignity, that they may scorn to act any thing unworthy of themselves: to treat them with variety of real (not Romantic) Examples of true Piety, exact Chastity, sincere, unalterable Affection, and other rare, sublime qualities; whence inspired with a generous emulation, they may strive to out-vie these ancient Heroines, and transcend the excellent Patterns here recommended; finding, that it is Virtue alone that can embalm their Memories, and render them still fresh and amiable, even then when Age of Sickness has plowed their Faces with wrinkled furrows, and swept away the sparkling Glories of their Eyes.
To conclude: If the captious world shall a while lay aside irsus?al severities, (A3) and vouchsafe any Acceptance of these our inconsiderable pains, (now confusedly huddled up in hast,) we shall use our utmost endeavors in the second Edition to deserve that favor, by some further Additions and Embellishments.
Though not unheard of in institutional collections, Female Pre-eminence is rare in commerce. Wing A784.

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