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Text Creation Partnership

Through May 20, 2012, the Folger Shakespeare Library is featuring a special exhibit called Shakespeare’s Sisters: Voices of English and European Women Writers, 1500-1700. According to its website, the exhibit:

takes its title from a famous passage in Virginia Woolf’s book A Room of One’s Own (1929), in which Woolf imagines a gifted sister of William Shakespeare, completely thwarted by the social restrictions of his day. Drawing on the breadth and depth of the Folger collection, with additional rare materials from other institutions, Shakespeare’s Sisters presents a far more complex—and fascinating—reality.

The exhibition has received stellar reviews from the New York Times and the Washington Post, and Folger’s Public Programs is offering a variety of related readings, lectures, and concerts.  The accompanying book presents a collection of new work by writers such as Eavan Boland, Rita Dove, Maxine Kumin, Linda Pastan, and Jane Smiley, among others, in response to some of the early women writers featured in the exhibition.  Written, designed, printed, and bound by women, the book is a limited-edition keepsake: Shakespeare’s Sisters: Women Writers Bridge Five Centuries.

In case you can’t make it to Washington, D.C. this spring—or if you can, but would like to see more of the books on display—there are a couple of options. The exhibition’s website contains images of almost all the items, a suggested reading list, and links to a dozen recordings (and transcriptions) made by women scholars, providing more background on some of the writers. We also invite you to further investigate these authors and their works in EEBO-TCP. You can take your time paging through facsimiles of books like those on display at this exhibit, and search their full text to quickly locate passages of interest.  We’re thrilled that Georgianna Ziegler, curator of the Shakespeare’s Sisters exhibit, was willing to collaborate with us to highlight some books from Shakespeare’s Sisters whose full text is available for further study in EEBO-TCP.:


The exhibit features a copy of Marguerite de Navarre’s  A godly medytacyon of the christen sowle, translated from French to English by Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth I) when she was only 11 years old. EEBO-TCP contains a complete transcription of this work, based on a copy owned by the British Library.

In a dedication at the beginning of the book, John Bale praises the work of the young princess:

Of thys Nobylyte, haue I no doubt (lady most faythfully studyouse) but that yow are, with many other noble women & maydēs more in thys blessed age. If que∣styon were axtme, how I knowe it? my answere wolde be thys. By your godly frute, as the fertyle tre is non other wyse than therby knowne, luce. vi. I receyued your noble boke, ryght frutefully of yow translated out of the frenche tunge into Englysh. I receyued also your golden sen¦tences out of the sacred scriptures, with no lesse grace than lernynge in foure no∣ble lāguages,  Latyne, Greke, Frenche, & Italyane, most ornately, fynely, & purely writtē with your owne hande.

In the case of the work above, EEBO-TCP contains a transcription of the exact edition (though not the exact copy) of the book on display. In other cases, the book on display is in a foreign language, but EEBO-TCP contains a version published in English.  Shakespeare’s Sisters features a false memoir of Marie Mancini, published to take advantage of the popularity of this colorful figure. EEBO-TCP contains two English translations of this Duchess’ memoirs. According to Elizabeth Goldsmith, who published the first edition of Marie Mancini’s true memoirs in 1998, this English version is based on Sebastien Bremond’s “significantly revised version” of Mancini’s memoirs, which was published in Leyden in 1678.  (In fact, all editions of Mancini’s memoirs until Goldsmith’s were based on the Bremond rewriting).

The work relates a life of intrigue among aristocracy, beginning with childhood pranks. Here, a young Marie Mancini conspires with her compatriots to convince a six-year-old girl that she was pregnant and had even given birth:

An o∣ther thing that made us Sport about that time, was a Pleasantry of the Car∣dinals, with Madam de Bouillon, which was about six years old. The Court was then at Lafere. One day as he made sport with her about some Gallant that he said she had: at last he began to chide her for being with Child. The Re∣sentment which she shewed, diverted all so, that it was agreed she should be still told of it. They streightened her Cloaths from time to time; and they made her believe that she was growing very big.

This continued as long as it was thought necessary, to perswade her, to the likelihood of her being with Child. Yet she would never believe any thing of it, and denyed it with a great deal of heat, untill the time of her Lying-in came, she found betwixt her Sheets, in the morning, a Child new born. You cannot imagine the Astonishment and Grief she was in, at this sight. Such a thing, said she, never happened to any, but to the Virgin Mary and my self; for I never felt any kind of Pain. The Queen came to con∣dole with her, and offered to be God-mother; many came to Gossip with her, as newly brought to bed: And that which at first was but a Past-time, within doors, came to be the publick Divertisment of all the Court.

The life of Marie’s sister Hortense Mancini  may have inspired the character of Lady Reveller in playwright Susanna Centlivre’s work, The Basset-Table. Shakespeare’s Sisters features a number of plays written by women, many of which are also represented in EEBO-TCP. The Basset-Table, published in 1707, is part of a separate TCP corpus that focuses on 18th-century works.  It is freely available for anyone to read online.

According to the Shakespeare’s Sisters online exhibit, Bathsua Makin was known as the greatest female scholar in England. She was also tutor to Princess Elizabeth, daughter of Charles I. In An essay to revive the antient education of gentlewomen, Bathsua Makin argues that gentlewomen should be more thoroughly educated—if only to provoke men, who will feel inferior to their accomplishments, to higher learning themselves. She argues that historically, women have held an important place in education and art, and that this should be reestablished:

It may now be demanded, by those studious of Antiquity, why the Vertues, the Disciplines, the Nine Muses, the Devisers, and Patrons of all good Arts, the Three Graces; should rather be represented under the Feminine Sex, and their Pictures be drawn to the Portraictures of Damosels, and not have Masculine Denominations, and the Effigies of Men? Yea, why Christians themselves, in all their Books and Writ∣ings which they commit to Posterity, still continue the same practice? Why Wisdom is said to be the Daughter of the Highest, and not the Son? Why Faith, Hope, and Charity, her Daughters, are represented as Women? Why should the seven Liberal Arts be expressed in Wo∣mens Shapes? Doubtless this is one reason; Women were the Inventors of many of these Arts, and the promoters of them, and since have stu∣dyed them, and attained to an excellency in them: And being thus a∣dorned and beautified with these Arts, as a testimony of our gratitude for their Invention, and as a token of honour for their Proficiency; we make Women the emblems of these things, having no sitter Hierogly∣phick to express them by.

These are just a few of the works by women featured in Shakespeare’s Sisters that can be read in full in EEBO-TCP. Based on the Shakespeare’s Sisters Exhibition Item List, below is a summary of more than 20 books on display at the Folger that are also represented in some way in EEBO-TCP. We hope this resource will add to your enjoyment of the Shakespeare’s Sisters exhibit!

  • Amelia Lanyer. Salve Rex Judaeorum. London: Printed by Valentine Simmes for Richard Bonian, 1611. STC 15227 copy 1EEBO-TCP transcription based on a copy held by the Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery.
  • Marguerite de Navarre. A godly medytacyon of the christen sowle. Translated by Elizabeth I, Queen of England. Wesel: Dirik van der Straten, 1548. STC 17320EEBO-TCP transcription based on a copy held by the British Library.
  • Thomas Bentley. The monument of matrones. London: H. Denham, 1582. STC 1892 copy 2EEBO-TCP contains a transcription of Bentley’s 1582 The sixt lampe of virginitie conteining a mirrour for maidens and matrons, which was issued as parts six and 7 of The monument of matrones, based on a copy held by the Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery
  • Georgette de Montenay. Liure d’armoiries en signe de fraternite contenant cent comparaisons de vertus et emblemes Chrestiens agences. Frankfurt: Jean Charles Unckel, 1619. STC 18044.8; EEBO-TCP transcription based on a copy held by the British Library.
  • Margaret Fell. Womens speaking justified. London: [s.n.], 1666. F642 copy 1; EEBO-TCP transcription based on a copy held by the Huntington.
  • Mary Wroth. The Countesse of Mountgomeries Urania. London: Augustine Matthews?, 1621. STC 26051 copy 1EEBO-TCP transcription based on the copy held by the Folger Shakespeare Library.
  • Anna Weamys. A continuation of Sir Philip Sydney’s Arcadia. London: William Bentley, 1651.166- 792q; EEBO-TCP transcription based on the copy held by the Folger.
  • Hortense Mancini, duchess de Mazarin. Memoires de Madame la Duchesse de Mazarin. Cologne: Chez Pierre du Marteau, 1675. DC130 M28 A3 Cage; EEBO-TCP contains transcriptions of two distinct English translations of this work, both published in 1676: One based on a copy held by the Harvard University Library and one based on a copy held by the Huntington.
  • Marie Mancini. Les memoires. Cologne: Chez Pierre du Marteau, 1675. DC130 C61 M4 1676 CageEEBO-TCP contains a transcription of a 1679 English translation of this work, based on a copy held by the Huntington.
  • Madame de La Fayette. The princess of Cleve. London: printed for R. Bentley and S. Magnes in Russel-Street in Covent-Garden, 1688. 154- 944qEEBO-TCP contains a transcription of a 1689 play adapted from this work, based on a copy held by the Huntington.
  • Robert Garnier. The tragedie of Antonie. Doone into English by the Countesse of Pembroke. Translated by Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke. London: P. Short for William Ponsonby, 1595. STC 11623EEBO-TCP contains a transcription based on a copy held by the Huntington.
  • Elizabeth Cary. The tragedie of Mariam. London: Thomas Creede for Richard Hawkins, 1613. STC 4613.2EEBO-TCP contains a transcription based on a copy held by the Huntington.
  • Katherine Philips. Copy of Poems by the most deservedly admired Mrs Katherine Philips, ca. 1670. V.b.231EEBO-TCP contains a transcription of a 1664 edition of this work, based on a copy held by the Folger.
  • Aphra Behn. The widdow ranter. London: Printed for James Knapton, 1690. B1774EEBO-TCP contains a transcription based on a copy held by the Huntington.
  • Mrs. Manley (Mary de la Rivière). The lost lover. London: printed for R. Bently, in Covent-Garden; F. Saunders, in the New-Exchange; J. Knapton, and R. Wellington, in St. Paul’s Church-Yard, 1696. M435EEBO-TCP contains a transcription based on a copy held by the British Library.
  • Catharine Trotter. Agnes de Castro, a tragedy. London: printed for H. Rhodes in Fleetstreet, R. Parker at the Royal-Exchange, S. Briscoe, at the corner of Charles-street, in Russel-street, Covent-Garden, 1696. C4801 copy 2EEBO-TCP contains a transcription based on a copy held by the Library of Congress.
  • Susanna Centlivre. The basset-table. London: printed for Jonas Browne, and S. Chapman, 1706. 153- 587q; displayed frontis (image). The TCP transcribed a 1705 edition of this work as part of its Eighteenth Century Collections Online project (freely available to the public).
  • Mary Pix. The false friend. London: Printed for Richard Basset, 1699. P2328 copy 2EEBO-TCP contains a transcription based on a copy held by the Bodleian Library.
  • Christine de Pisan. Here begynneth the boke of the cyte of ladyes. London: in Poules chyrchyarde at the sygne of the Trynyte by Henry Pepwell, 1521. STC 7271EEBO-TCP contains a transcription of this work based on a copy held by the British Library.
  • Mary Astell. A serious proposal to the ladies, for the advancement of their true and greatest interest. London: Printed for R. Wilkin, 1694. 140- 765qEEBO-TCP contains a transcription based on a copy held by the Yale University Library.
  • Anna Maria van Schurman. The learned maid. London: John Redmayne, 1659. S902EEBO-TCP contains a transcription based on a copy held by the British Library.
  • Bathsua Makin. An essay to revive the antient education of gentlewomen, in religion, manners, arts & tongues. London: John Darby, 1673. M309EEBO-TCP contains a transcription based on a copy held by the Huntington.

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