Frauen-Zimmer Bibliotheckgen oder Thuelicher Vorschlag / Wie und Auff was Ahrt / für ein Deutsches Frauen=Zimmer / mässigen Vermögens / unterschiedene / außerlesene / und recht nützliche Bücher / zu ihrem Vergnügen / zeitlichen und ewigen Wohlseyn / gar leicht und auff wenig Kosten / angeschaffet werden können. Mit einer kleinen Beylage: Als einem beweglichen Schreiben einer Mutter an ihren zum abgöttischen Pabstthum übergangenen Sohn; und etlichen sonderbahren Denck=Sprüchen / dadurch das Herz in dem Wandel für Gott zu befestigen. Güstrau: Zu finden im Rüdigerschen Buchhandlung, 1705.
The Frauen-Zimmer Bibliotheckgen or Ladies’ Little Library is an instruction manual for ladies on book collecting and was published in 1705. The anonymous male author begins his advice on planning a personal library with a dressmaking analogy. He argues that personal libraries, like dresses, must suit their owners; before sewing, the seamstress examines, age, status, wealth, and temperament of the woman for whom it will be made – and the wise lady will do the same when creating a personal collection of books.
The anonymous author gives some universal advice – in his opinion, it is important to take care of both intellectual and spiritual needs (“Gemuth und die Seele” – 7). At the least, one ought to own a Bible and several devotional texts. Beyond this, a lady might acquire books on history, and housekeeping. He discourages the purchase of “böse Bücher” or “bad books,” such as romances, books on etiquette or the occult. In addition, the author explains the care of books and suggests women share their books with friends and family. Perhaps most interesting is the author’s suggestion that women create, save and pass down their own manuscript materials.
On the frontispiece of the Frauen-Zimmer Bibliotheckgen, we see a young lady in her study, which opens out onto a spacious French garden. In addition to her collection of books, her study also contains an elegant, cloth-draped desk with a notebook, quill and ink set and what appears to be a bookstand at the ready. Her books are arranged by size in a grand, curtained bookcase – there are large folios on the bottom shelf and smaller books above. The young lady herself appears contented and proud; clutching a sheaf of papers in one hand, she gestures confidently toward her books with the other.
Although this engraving shows quite an imposing library for an 18th-century woman, the author took an egalitarian view to book collecting, writing that almost anyone could own at least the essentials and that every woman ought to buy as many good books as she can afford.
Before the advent of publisher’s bindings, it was common for customers to have several books bound together in a single binding. This small volume contains three slim books.
Contributed to Early Modern at the Beinecke by Bryn Savage, a doctoral student in the Yale University Department of Germanic Languages & Literature. Bryn was a pre-prospectus research fellow at the Beinecke Library in the summer of 2008, working on the development of literary criticism in Germany in the late eighteenth century.
From the Reading Room: This series of postings highlights the research of graduate students, research fellows, and other scholars working in the Beinecke’s early modern collections.