The Birth of Mankind Otherwise Named, The Woman's Book
Between 1540 and 1654, The Byrth of Mankynde was a huge commercial success. Offering information on fertility, pregnancy, birth, and infant care, and written in a chatty, colloquial style, it influenced most other literary works of the period bearing on sex, reproduction, and childcare. Until now, this important text has been unavailable except for a microfilm of the 1654 edition. For this new annotated edition of the 1560 version, Elaine Hobby has modernized the spelling and included informative notes. In her critical introduction, she not only traces the development of the book from its German origins, but also shows how early-modern ideas about the reproductive process combined ancient, medieval, and contemporary conceptions. Combining editorial rigour with a concern for the needs of the informed non-specialist, Hobby has made available a text that will be useful to scholars and students in a range of academic disciplines, including literature, history, and women's studies.
’... (an) outstanding new edition...Copiously but unobtrusively annotated, and scrupulously presented, Hobby's edition does a marvellous service to scholarship. She provides a clear account of the book's complicated textual history... Thomas Raynalde was committed to bringing hidden knowledge to light, and to making abstruse arts accessible to general readers. Elaine Hobby's own achievements are similar.’ Times Literary Supplement ’The great merits of Elaine Hobby’s meticulous edition are that she not only unravels the details of the multiple authorship, sources and printings of Birth of Mankind but also leaves open so many interesting routes for future scholars to take. The footnotes giving current English equivalents for word or phrases, and examples where the book is clearly reusing earlier sources, allow the modern reader not only to understand the details of the language but also to explore the relationship between the book and its precursors. ...Those interested in book history, the reception of ancient medicine, sexuality, midwifery, recipes, language and childhood will find a wealth of possibilities in this important and timely edition.’ The British Society for Literature and Science ’The exhaustive volume of material Hobby has added to the book makes her edition of Raynalde’s The Birth of Mankind the definitive text for the modern reader. Furthermore, Hobby encourages her readers not just to enjoy Raynalde’s book passively, but to engage with its medical and philosophical notions by comparing it to the classical medical ideas formulated by the Greek Hippocratic corpus and the Galenic anatomy. She even recommends subject matter for future research. Overall, Hobby has transformed a neglected Early Modern curiosity into a notable work, which deserves its place alongside established Renaissance medical classics such as Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621) and Jacques Ferrand’s A Treatise on Lovesickness (1623).’ Parergon '