Item #1148 Le Fort Inexpugnable de l’Honneur du Sexe Femenin, construit par. . Françoys de Billon.
Le Fort Inexpugnable de l’Honneur du Sexe Femenin, construit par. . .
Le Fort Inexpugnable de l’Honneur du Sexe Femenin, construit par. . .
Le Fort Inexpugnable de l’Honneur du Sexe Femenin, construit par. . .
Le Fort Inexpugnable de l’Honneur du Sexe Femenin, construit par. . .
Arguing for the Rights and Equality of Women in 16th Century France A Foundational Work in the Field

Le Fort Inexpugnable de l’Honneur du Sexe Femenin, construit par. . .

Paris: Chez Ian d’Allyer, 1555. Item #1148


4to.  225 x 160 mm., [8 ¾ x 6 ¼ inches].  [6], 257, [3] ff.  [A4, e2, A-TTt3]; plus 6 pp. manuscript table of contents bound-in.  First two leaves with early paper repairs to lower margins; final two leaves with paper repairs to the lower corners.



Illustrated with Title-page portrait of the author, repeated once in the text;  a full-page woodcut of a castle showing soldiers at the ramparts and a waving banner of the Virgin and Christ child perched upon a quarter moon, opposite text enclosed within a large woodcut border illustrated with the implements of war and at the bottom a woman firing two canons at once (repeated 6 times in the text); a full-page woodcut of a Goddess of War with symbols of feathers on her uniform addressing a seated conclave of women on version, opposite the woodcut border of the implements of war, repeated twice in the text; the image of the goddess and the woodcut border repeated once as separate images in the text; decorated with woodcut initial letters throughout.


This copy is bound in full red 19th century French morocco, flat spine decorated in blind, with the boards decorated in blind with two borders in blind and two fillet borders in gilt, all edges gilt; blue silk moire pastedowns and flyleaves; some minor wear to the joints and rubbing to the edges. 


First edition of this fundamental text advocating for the rights of women and their equal place under French law and in society. 


Using the theoretical construct of architecture as a metaphor for society De Billon attacks the “impregnable fort” which constricts the lives and development of women and limits their ability to take their place on equal terms with men in 16th century France.  He describes how the structure of society places women in silos where their rights under the law are restricted and act as roadblocks to fulfilling their potentials as free women and equals members of community.


De Billon begins his text with the statement that in all things, women are equals to men.  He provides proofs by citing from history, women who have achieved great things as mothers and teachers of children, as doctors, as poets and authors, etc.  He cites as examples contemporary women from Ferrara, Italy, including Anne and Lucrezia d’Este, daughters of Duke Ercole II and Rene of Lorraine, and the notable Protestant reformer Olympia Morata.  He continues citing women from ancient times and focuses attention on the French history and those extraordinary women who through the power of education were able to contribute to society in politics and in war.  He advocates for the abolishment of arranged marriages, proposes a new educational system for all ranks of society, and insists that women be viewed as equal to men under the law, in marriage, and in family economy. 


Not much is known about François de Billon, even his birth and death dates are uncertain.  From a short biographical sketch in Nouvelle Biographie Universelle, we know that he “was nephew of Artus Billon, bishop of Senlis. He followed Cardinal du Bellay to Rome, as secretary.  B[illon] made himself known by a singular work which he published under the title of: Fort impregnable of the honor of the female sex; Paris, 1555, in-4°; reprinted under this title: The Defense and Invincible Fortress of the Honor and Virtue of Ladies; Paris, 1564, in-4°. Billon still lived in 1566, but the date of his death is unknown.”   


Jacques-Charles Brunet, Manuel des Libraire, I, 945.  Nouvelle Biographie Universelle, VI, pp. 90-91.  Alex Erdman, The Gracious Silence, Women in the Mirror of 16th Century Printing in Western Europe,  p. 159.  Not cited in Mortimer’s French 16th Century Books.

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Price: $7,000.00

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