Predigten fur junge Frauenzimmer von Jacob Fordyce aus dem Englischen. Leipzig: bey Weidmanns Erben und Reich, 1767.
First Edition in German. Two volumes, small 8vo (153 x 90 mm), pp. [xvi], [x], 452; [vi], 458, printed in gothic script, lightly but evenly browned throughout, in contemporary green goatskin, the covers elaborately gilt with a vertical border of two lines supporting a climbing plant, curving in to form the upper and lower borders, with a rococo swag at the top and a floral bouquet at the foot, the spines gilt with six compartments and raised bands, red morocco labels lettered in gilt, the volumes numbered directly in another compartment, edges and dentelles gilt, with pink silk endleaves and gilt edges: some slight wear to head and foot of spine, otherwise a gorgeous copy.
A delightful copy of the scarce first German edition of Fordyce’s Sermons. First published as Sermons to Young Women in 1766, the work was an enormous publishing success and became a symbol of proper reading-matter for young ladies. Highly conservative in nature - criticised by Wollstonecraft as insulting to women - Fordyce’s tracts encourage a meek femininity in women and suggest that they should stick strictly to their own domain. The reading of novels came in for particular condemnation: ‘What shall we say of certain books, which we are assured (for we have not read them) are in their nature so shameful... can it be true that any young woman, pretending to decency, should endure for a moment to look on this infernal brood of futility and lewdness?’. This passage threw the gauntlet down to novelists for years afterwards and the work became a byword for dull propriety. In Sheridan’s The Rivals, Lydia Languish ostentatiously leaves a copy of it lying around while she hides her illicit reading material under the cushions and in Pride and Prejudice, Mr Collins famously subjects the sisters to a reading from it, much to another Lydia’s outspoken irritation.
This is a fabulous copy in contemporary German bindings of green goatskin. The bindings are distinctively gilt with a flamboyant rococo design and were presumably commissioned for presentation. Both volumes are dated at the foot of the spine, ‘M.v.A. den 17 Februar 1774’. Two further editions of this German translation were published in Leipzig, in 1768 and 1774 and are similarly scarce.
OCLC lists a handful of copies in Germany, two in Denmark and one at the National Library of Scotland.