Symphorien Champier: The Ship of Virtuous Ladies

The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe: The Toronto Series, Vol. 61

Symphorien Champier: The Ship of Virtuous Ladies

Edited by Todd W. Reeser
2017 | 978-0-86698-585-7 | Paperback 6 x 9 in
MRTS 528 | $39.95 |

OVEME v.61.
First published in 1503 in Lyons, Symphorien Champier’s The Ship of Virtuous Ladies helped launch the French Renaissance version of the querelle des femmes, the debate over the nature and status of women. The three books included in this edition include arguments for gender equality, and a catalogue of virtuous women modeled on Boccaccio’s Famous Women and Jacobus de Voragine’s Golden Legend. Titled “The Book of True Love,” book 4 is especially important in gender history, importing and transforming the male-centered Neoplatonic philosophy of Marsilio Ficino for pro-woman ends.


Symphorien Champier’s La nef des dames vertueuses (The Ship of Virtuous Ladies), a central text in the debates about women in early modern France, has at last been translated into English by Todd Reeser (following the first complete modern French edition by Judy Kem in 2007). Champier’s Ship explicitly sets out to defend women, although this professed aim is complicated in ways that the editor explains. Preceded by a first-rate introduction situating the work both historically and rhetorically, the volume demonstrates a version of Neoplatonism in which women can participate, offers advice to new wives, praises countless legendary and historical women, and proffers medical counsel. Students of early modern culture, women’s studies, and medical history will doubtless applaud Reeser’s meticulously researched and elegantly presented edition.
—Cathy Yandell
W. I. and Hulda F. Daniell Professor of French Literature, Language, and Culture, Carleton College