Notes: A well-known example of the popular 18th century British genre of collective biographies of women, with more than a hundred short entries on women dating back to ancient times. The subjects include Cleopatra; Sappho; the poet Anne Killigrew, described as "a great genius"; the painter and calligrapher Esther Inglis; the poet Aphra Behn, and so on.
The editor of this collection has never been identified, but it was most likely a man who puts forth a novel argument in the preface that while men were clearly superior to women in the Garden of Eden, a greater equality of the sexes was a consequence of Adam and Eve's fall from grace. The reason for the book is to show by historical example the ideals of womanhood and to counter "these days of vanity and profusion" when upperclass women spend their time in "the theatres, assemblies, the gardens, and card tables."
Two volumes: xxii, [errata leaf], 261, [blank], [blank leaf]; [ii], 272,  pages. No half-titles present but the collation appears complete without them.
Somewhat scarce in commerce. The only set to appear in the book auction records in recent times sold for $2880 in 2009.
Edition + Condition: First edition. A very good set bound in contemporary calf and marbled paper-covered boards. Outer joints cracking. This copy has the bookplate of Eliza Gulston, a second-generation book collector and artist. Her father dissipated a vast fortune (£250,000) in large part by buying books prints, which were sold over 38 days in 1786 to pay his debts.
Publication: London: Printed for S. Crowder, and J. Payne, 1766.
Item No: #308186