In 1415, Francesco Barbaro produced a marriage manual intended at once for his friend, a scion of the Florentine Medici family, and for the whole set of his peers, the young nobility of Venice. Countering the trends of the day toward dowry chasing and dowry inflation, Barbaro insisted that the real wealth of wives was their capacity to conceive, birth, and rear children worthy of their heritage. The success of the patriciate depended, ironically, on women: for they alone could ensure the biological, cultural, and spiritual reproduction of their marital lineage. The Wealth of Wives circulated in more than 100 manuscript versions, five Latin editions, and translations into German, Italian, French, and English, far outstripping in its influence Leon Battista Alberti’s On the Family (1434).
About the Author
Margaret L. King, professor of history emerita, Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York, is author of Venetian Humanism in an Age of Patrician Dominance (1986); Women of the Renaissance (1991); The Death of the Child Valerio Marcello (1994); and How Mothers Shaped Successful Sons and Created World History (2014).