The Book of the Courtier

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The Book of the Courtier (Italian: Il Cortegiano) is a courtesy book. It was written by Baldassare Castiglione over the course of many years, beginning in 1508, and published in 1528 by the Aldine Press just before his death. It addresses the constitution of a perfect courtier, and in its last installment, a perfect lady.

The Book of the Courtier remains the definitive account of Renaissance court life. Because of this, it is considered one of the most important Renaissance works.



The book is organized as a series of fictional conversations that occur between the courtiers of the Duke of Urbino in 1507 (when Baldassare was in fact part of the Duke's Court). In the book, the courtier is described as having a cool mind, a good voice (with beautiful, elegant and brave words) along with proper bearing and gestures. At the same time though, the courtier is expected to have a warrior spirit, to be athletic, and have good knowledge of the humanities, Classics and fine arts. Over the course of four evenings, members of the court try to describe the perfect gentleman of the court. In the process they debate the nature of nobility, humor, women, and love.


The Book of the Courtier was one of the most widely distributed books of the 16th century, with editions printed in six languages and in twenty European centers.[1] The 1561 English translation by Thomas Hoby had a great influence on the English upper class's conception of the gentleman.[2]

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