Item of the Day: Alexander’s History of Women (1779)

Full Title:

The History of Women. From the Earliest Antiquity, to the Present Time; Giving Some Account of almost every interesting Particular concerning that Sex, among all Nations, ancient and modern. By William Alexander, M.D. In Two Volumes. Vol. 1 and Vol. 2.

Written by William Alexander, M.D., d. 1783. 2 volumes bound as 1. Missing pp. 3-6 in introduction to Vol. I. 368 p.; contains table of contents and index for each volume. Printed in London for W. Strahan, and T. Cadell, in the Strand, 1779.
The advertisement reads:

AS the following Work was composed solely for the amusement and instruction of the Fair Sex; and as their education is in general less extensive than that of the men; in order to render it the more intelligible, we have studied the utmost plainness and simplicity of language; have not only totally excluded almost every word that is not English, but even, as much as possible, avoided every technical term.

As we persuade ourselves, that nothing could be more perplexing to the sex, or to which they would pay less attention, than a long list of authors on the margin, to shew from whence we have derived our information, and as a great part of such list would refer to books in other languages, we have entirely omitted it, and contented ourselves with sometimes interweaving into our text, the names and sentiments of such authors as have more peculiarly elucidated the subjects we were investigating.

WE have not vanity enough to recommend our Work to the learned, they must have met with every anecdote related in it; but as the generality of the fair sex, whose reading is more confined, now spend many of their idle hours in poring over novels and romances, which greatly tend to mislead the understanding and corrupt the heart, we cannot help expressing a wish, that they would spare a part of this time to look into the history of their own Sex; a history, which we flatter ourselves will afford them no irrational amusement, and which will more gratify the curiosity of the female mind in whatever relates to themselves, than any thing that has hitherto been published.

WE do not mean by this to praise ourselves; we submit with the utmost diffidence to the judgment of the Public. If we have any merit, it is only in collecting together, and presenting in one view, a variety of anecdotes concerning the sex, which lay scattered in a great number of authors, ancient and modern, and not within the reading of the Sex themselves; recourse to larger libraries might have made these anecdotes more numerous, and better judgments would have selected them more judiciously; on these accounts, none can be more sensible of the imperfections of the Work than we are, but we hope our candid Readers will make some allowances for our having trod a path which has never been attempted before; and the Ladies, we flatter ourselves, will treat us with some indulgence, when we assure them, that we have exerted our utmost abilities to put their history into the most engaging dress, and to mingle pleasure with instruction.

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Filed under 1770's, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt, Women

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