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The Courtier in English

Cultures in Translation

Hoby began his translation of the Libro del cortegiano by translating the third book, which discussed the role of the courtly lady. He records in his journal that he did this at the request of Elizabeth Parr (1526–1565), first Marchioness of Northampton (sister-in-law to Katherine Parr, Henry VIII’s final wife), while he was staying in Paris in 1552. We know less about when the other three books were translated, but it seems likely the that they were completed in or before 1556, since that is the year which is given at the bottom of the dedicatory epistle at the front of the printed volume. It was not, however, until 1561 that the work was actually printed. The cause of the delay is unknown, but it probably owed something to the death of Thomas Hoby’s half-brother Philip in 1558. The impact of this event on Hoby’s scholarly pursuits may have been especially great because Philip had made him both the executor of his will and its main beneficiary.

The printed work seems to have enjoyed moderate success, although it was never a bestseller. Following its initial publication in 1561, it was reprinted in 1577, 1588, and 1603. Its slow but steady sales may in part have been a reflection of the esteemed section of society at which the work was aimed.