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The Book of the Courtier

The Book of the Courtier (Italian Il Cortegiano) was written by Baldassare Castiglione in 1528. Baldassare was inspired to write the Courtier by debates that occurred in Urbino on what makes a well rounded person (l'uomo universale).

The book is organized as a series of fictional conversations that occur between the courtiers of the Duke of Urbino in the year 1507 (when Baldassare was in fact part of the Duke's Court). In the book, the courtier is described as having a cool mind, a good voice (with beautiful, elegant and brave words) and proper bearing and gestures. At the same time though, the courtier is expected to have a warrior spirit, to be athletic and to have good knowledge of the humanities, classics, and how to draw and paint.

During his visits to Italy, Francois I of France read Baldassare Castiglione's The Book of the Courtier. That text so inspired the king that he had it translated into French. He had several copies made, which he then brought back to France to distribute amongst his courtiers. He felt that this book portrayed the model royal court and he strove to create this type of court for himself.

To this day, the Book of the Courtier remains the definitive account of Renaissance court life. In its own day, however, it was used as a manual on how to be the "Perfect Courtier" and the consummate "Court Lady."

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