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The Treasure of the City of Ladies, or The Book of Three Virtues

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  419 ratings  ·  37 reviews
Christine de Pisan's writing is a valuable counterbalance to most of the rest of our evidence of medieval life which was written by men. She addresses all women, from those at the royal court to prostitutes, painting a vivid picture of their lives in fine detail-and often in a dryly amusing way. Her tone is moral, but also down to earth. A woman's position, as Christine he ...more
Paperback, 180 pages
Published May 7th 1985 by Penguin Classics (first published 1405)
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Christine De Pisan's Treasure of the City of Ladies is a lively compendium of advice on how to live for medieval women of all social classes arranged by social order from the highest to lowest.

The conceit of the work is that the three Ladies of Virtue: Reason, Rectitude and Justice, descend and dictate the work to de Pisan before disappearing leaving her "almost exhausted from writing so long, but very happy, looking at the beautiful work of their worthy lessons" (p180).

It is divide
Emma Getz
Apr 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Men are trash!
This is the sequel or companion piece to Pisan’s City of Ladies. This book is about how ladies of various social levels should comport themselves even when their husbands are being jerks. It is a strange combination of feminist work and endorsement of the stereotype. Pisan does get in some nice zingers about men, not only about how they should also follow this advice, but about why they are more warlike than women. In many ways, it is an anti-Prince.
Nov 15, 2014 rated it liked it
How to Win Friends and Influence People: For Medieval Ladies! Christine de Pisan wants princesses to be virtuous, chaste, and pious but also to realize their power and influence (i.e., how to get men to do things for you). Was it one of the first feminist texts? Who can say. But it is interesting, even if I find her theology way off base. I like it because it reminds me, Hey, women have always known they were people too! If we just let women write, we’d hear more of this opinion.
Kelsey Bryant
Mar 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book fascinated me. I mean, it was published in 1405 and is a rare glimpse into the mind of a talented, wise, intelligent medieval woman, writing a guide to life for women of all ages and classes, though particularly royalty and nobility. As an invaluable historical resource, it shows the accepted beliefs and attitudes of that period in France. I was surprised at how much predominance Christine gave to how her readers should live out their love and devotion for God and demonstrate kindness ...more
Anna Groover
Feminist treatise from the fifteenth century - pretty cool to read!
Dec 12, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can appreciate that Pizan was a rare figure, a woman writing in an era when there were so few female writers or even literate women, but as a modern reader I found myself rolling my eyes at a lot of her ideas, especially the chapter on prostitutes--here she really reveals her privilege and her obliviousness to the way the world worked outside of the court.
I read about half, but I didn't finish it. It would have been brilliant advice in the Middle Ages, and some of it is certainly relevant today. It's just a bit too pious for my contemporary reading tastes. But if some savvy business woman were to extract the best bits of advice and turn them into a modern business book, I would read that.
Feb 15, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Considering this is written in 1405, Miss Christine can be quite savvy and forward-thinking. She often advocates tactics that today can be attributed to modern spin and public relations. This is an advice book for women from the first European professional female writer. It's an revealing window into the world of mostly upper class women in this time period, and things are not cut and dry. One of the strategies most advocated involves striking a happy medium.

Some of the advice, though not inten
Jan 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: school
Christine de Pizan was the first professional woman writer in Europe and was an Italian that spent most of her time in the French Court. This lovely little gem of a book explains how women of "all" classes are to act in the 1400s. I say "all" with quotations because Christine is mainly focused on wealthy women at court. The whole first section is devoted to princesses, and their "princess powers" as my friend Ben called it. The second section is women at Court, and the third is all about the res ...more
Dec 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ma
Translated by Sarah Lawson, this is an advice book written by the first professional woman writer in Europe. Christine of Pisa, Italy, was raised in the court of fifteenth-century France and given access to an education that would rival most men of the day. Multi-lingual, well versed in the art of rhetoric and schooled in philosophy and humanism, her voice is a formidable authority on women in the late Middle Ages. But her advice is not offered as a directive - with a wry humour and wink to the ...more
Nov 07, 2019 marked it as did-not-finish
I really wanted to read this book, but I couldn't seem to get into it. Today, I realized the reason is that the type is so small, my eyes are struggling to really read it. So, I hope to pick up this book in the future, but with larger print.
A Medieval Woman's Mirror of Honor: The Treasury of the City of Ladies (Paperback)
by Christine de Pizan

reading library book
May 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: college-books
Read this for my history class "The Renaissance"
David Ruiz
I do like this book for the majority of it, but then dislike it at times because i feel it gets repetitive. What i mean by this is that Christine does the same thing over and over, sorta like a rinse and repeat. She picks out a stereotype for women to which one of the three ladies who are "magical" tell her otherwise and show her examples of women who prove opposite. I get that its trying to show us readers as well that women can be just as good as men but i felt they could've done that in many ...more
May 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"What in this world is more pleasant or more delectable to those who desire worldly riches than gold and precious stones? But yet those riches cannot enhance an ambitious person as much as virtues do, for virtues are nobler, because they endure forever and are the treasures of the soul; which is everlasting, while the others pass away like smoke..."

The Treasure of the City of Ladies is Christine de Pizan's sequel/follow-up to the former and more widely-known Book of City of Ladies. In essence, it serv/>The
Aug 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A female writer before it was popular to be one, de Pizan broke conventions in not only her choice of occupation but also in her themes. This and "Book of the City of Ladies" are masterful pieces of writing that offer a glimpse into a society where women were often more prized for their ability to have children than for any intellect they might have.

When contrasted with works of the time, de Pizan was more flattering and had a more realistic view of women and their abilities. She had much to sa
Oct 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
This was an amazing primary source from Western Europe's first professional woman author.

An alternate title could be "Lean In for Princesses." Christine wants you to be good, but she also wants you to be smart. On the surface, she is a grumpy moralizer, but a close reading shows she believes deeply in women's abilities and intelligence and wants them to succeed in a world that's rigged against them. She wants women to protect themselves by being on their best behavior, even if she re
Nov 01, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a decent book although it can feel slightly repetitive at times. That may be due to the fact that it has a good dose of religious doctrine in it as the basis for pretty much all the virtues mentioned, which to be frank, is to be expected given that this work was written in the Middle Ages. Although it's not really saying anything profound about a woman's role, this book is to be noted because it is a the first or one of the first books about a woman's role in the home and society actuall ...more
Jul 12, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ma-english
I read this book for class and have to admit, I hated it by the middle of the book. I do not see Pizan as a feminist, though I see why others say she was the first.

As foe her writing, there wete just too many religious standards and too many rules she had for women. Her utopia seems misogynistic to me. I also hated her use of the naive narrator.
Mar 24, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: grad-school
If you would like to know how to lead a good life as a princess, pick up this book. It also has advice for the less royal among us, including a fascinating section on how to lead a moral life as a prostitute. (Hint: You have to quit your job!) Some of it was interesting, but it was not tremendously compelling overall.
A great critic book about gender roles and gender relations in late Medieval times.

The City of Ladies is an interesting book for you to read basically because of 2 points:

1- it was written by a woman about women condition in a time when that was not a common thing.

2- it brings out an important discussion, which is still very contemporary, in a very intelligent and skillful way.
How interesting to learn how ladies lived in the late 1300s and early 1400s. This is a translation with extra notation of the book. This is an instruction book to ladies from the wealthy and powerful to the most lowly. Really interesting!
Christine de Pizan is the first female author who lived from her writtings in the Middle Ages. This book explores her vision of women and how princesses and ladies should behave in different areas. It was a very interesting book and helps to understand how medieval women were viewed.
Jan 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Alas, but my copy is missing, and I haven't finished it. Madame De Pizan's advice on how a princess and her ladies should conduct themselves is timeless. Everyone should read it,and follow it. We'd be much happier people if we did.
Meg F
Jun 19, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An intersting analysis on what it means to be a lady. Written in 1405 it speaks volumes to the "values" that woman are brought up with and still continue to prepetuate in our modern world, some for the better, some to ensure women remain in their place.
Apr 29, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I've enjoyed reading books by Christine. She was a very forward writer and I find myself chuckling while reading her books. but, it does give insight into what life was like back then!
Christine de Pizan dreamed of Wellesley College, down to the messed up class dynamics, some five hundred years before the school was founded.
Jan 12, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: women-s-studies
this book is very interesting. it gives the reader a good look into what life was like for medieval women of various social standings.
L. Rigdon
Dec 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Quite the calculative woman =0)
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Christine de Pizan (also seen as de Pisan) (1363–c.1434) was a writer and analyst of the medieval era who strongly challenged misogyny and stereotypes that were prevalent in the male-dominated realm of the arts. De Pizan completed forty-one pieces during her thirty-year career (1399–1429). She earned her accolade as Europe’s first professional woman writer (Redfern 74). Her success stems from a wi ...more
“Ah, child and youth, if you knew the bliss which resides in the taste of knowledge, and the evil and ugliness that lies in ignorance, how well you are advised to not complain of the pain and labor of learning.” 100 likes
“[The wives of powerful noblemen] must be highly knowledgeable about government, and wise – in fact, far wiser than most other such women in power. The knowledge of a baroness must be so comprehensive that she can understand everything. Of her a philosopher might have said: "No one is wise who does not know some part of everything." Moreover, she must have the courage of a man. This means that she should not be brought up overmuch among women nor should she be indulged in extensive and feminine pampering. Why do I say that? If barons wish to be honoured as they deserve, they spend very little time in their manors and on their own lands. Going to war, attending their prince's court, and traveling are the three primary duties of such a lord. So the lady, his companion, must represent him at home during his absences. Although her husband is served by bailiffs, provosts, rent collectors, and land governors, she must govern them all. To do this according to her right she must conduct herself with such wisdom that she will be both feared and loved. As we have said before, the best possible fear comes from love.

When wronged, her men must be able to turn to her for refuge. She must be so skilled and flexible that in each case she can respond suitably. Therefore, she must be knowledgeable in the mores of her locality and instructed in its usages, rights, and customs. She must be a good speaker, proud when pride is needed; circumspect with the scornful, surly, or rebellious; and charitably gentle and humble toward her good, obedient subjects. With the counsellors of her lord and with the advice of elder wise men, she ought to work directly with her people. No one should ever be able to say of her that she acts merely to have her own way. Again, she should have a man's heart. She must know the laws of arms and all things pertaining to warfare, ever prepared to command her men if there is need of it. She has to know both assault and defence tactics to insure that her fortresses are well defended, if she has any expectation of attack or believes she must initiate military action. Testing her men, she will discover their qualities of courage and determination before overly trusting them. She must know the number and strength of her men to gauge accurately her resources, so that she never will have to trust vain or feeble promises. Calculating what force she is capable of providing before her lord arrives with reinforcements, she also must know the financial resources she could call upon to sustain military action.

She should avoid oppressing her men, since this is the surest way to incur their hatred. She can best cultivate their loyalty by speaking boldly and consistently to them, according to her council, not giving one reason today and another tomorrow. Speaking words of good courage to her men-at-arms as well as to her other retainers, she will urge them to loyalty and their best efforts.”
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