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"Be fruitful and multiply": Genesis and generation in Reformation Germany *.

In 1545, Walther Hermann Ryff (ca. 1500-48), a sometime apothecary turned writer, published a book on the "secrets of nature" which he called the New Albertus Magnus. (1) The first part of this work was devoted to the "secrets of women" and consisted of a discussion of human reproduction. (2) Ryff began this section with a discussion of the causes and cures of infertility. He described conception and the stages of development of the unborn child. (3) He gave the reader techniques for determining whether or not a woman was pregnant, whether a pregnant woman was carrying a boy or a girl, and how a couple could increase their chances of conceiving a boy. He detailed the kinds of foods pregnant women should eat and gave remedies for common physical ailments associated with pregnancy. The material on reproduction in the New Albertus Magnus was drawn from various ancient and medieval authors, including Albertus Magnus, Aristotle, Galen, Pliny, and Avicenna. (4) The New Albertus Magnus went through more than thirty editions in the sixteenth century alone, making it one of the most popular sources of information on reproduction in this period. (5)

Eight years later, in 1553, Otho Korber (d. 1553), a Lutheran pastor, composed a small pamphlet entitled, A brief account [of] how pregnant women should comfort themselves before and during childbirth, and entrust themselves and their child to the Good Lord through Christ. (6) Korber, like Ryff, offered his readers information and advice on conception, pregnancy, and birth. He began by quoting Paul's words: "Woman will be saved through childbearing, provided she continues in faith, love, holiness and virtue." (7) Korber reminded women that the sufferings of pregnancy and childbirth were a punishment imposed on all women for Eve's transgression in the Garden of Eden and advised them to accept these physical trials with patience and recognize them as the "punishment of a merciful father." Korber admonished pregnant women to trust in God and to turn to Him in their distress. This booklet was typical of the numerous Lutheran devotional treatises produced in the sixteenth century that offered spiritual comfort and advice to pregnant women.

The texts of Ryff and Korber are just two of the many vernacular works dealing with reproduction that rolled off German presses in the sixteenth century. At first glance it might seem that they have little in common other than a purely nominal concern with human generation. What, after all, does advising an infertile woman to ingest the testicles of a boar have to do with telling a pregnant woman to pray for the soul of the child she is carrying? However, closer examination reveals a common reservoir of metaphors and images used to describe and imagine the female body and the mysterious and fascinating processes of procreation. It also uncovers a set of common underlying assumptions about the meaning and significance of human generation. This article explores representations of reproduction in the vernacular print culture of sixteenth-century Germany. It examines religious texts, including sermons, devotional treatises, and sections of church ordinances written specifically for and about pregnant women. It al so analyzes medical texts such as midwifery manuals, books on the "secrets of nature," and anatomical works. These texts were written for, and available to, a broad lay audience, literate in German but not in Latin. They both shaped and were shaped by this audience's views of reproduction and the reproductive body. Such books can provide insight into the ways in which sixteenth-century Germans made meaning our of the bodily and social events of conception, pregnancy and childbirth.

This work builds on studies of popular understandings of pregnancy and childbirth in early modern Germany by Ulinka Rublack, Eva Labouvie and Barbara Duden. Using sources such as court documents, letters, diaries, and medical case histories, these scholars have recovered the language ordinary men and women used to describe pregnancy and childbirth. Such sources reveal much about the status of pregnant and laboring women within their communities and the ways in which early modern Germans imagined the inside and inner workings of the pregnant female body. While such work is crucial to our understanding of "how early modern people gave meaning to their physicality and their needs in social interaction, and how different those meanings were from ours," (8) printed sources suggest another important layer of meaning. Vernacular texts on reproduction indicate the tremendous symbolic and spiritual significance ascribed to procreation in early modern Germany. For vernacular authors, discussions of reproduction often s erved as a starting point for meditations on original sin, human mortality, and the relationship between body and soul. Such authors articulated a complex view of sex and reproduction rooted at once in the Bible and the body; a view in which the cosmic myth of creation entered the intimate space of the marital bed. The texts analyzed in this article indicate that, for sixteenth-century people, the physical and spiritual meanings of generation were inextricably intertwined. (9)

Reproduction is clearly a profound experience, and it is no surprise that it should have been invested with deep spiritual as well as physical meaning. Nor was scholarly and popular interest in reproduction unique to the sixteenth century. As Ryff's frequent use of ancient and medieval authorities indicates, there was much continuity between the ideas expressed in printed texts and their medieval predecessors. Clearly prayers had been said by and for laboring women long before Lutheran writers like Korber came along. This study explores the specific forms that the connection between physical and spiritual meanings of generation took in the sixteenth century. This period is particularly interesting for two reasons. First, controversies about marriage lent reproduction a new significance. Debates about the nature of marriage were not entirely new in the sixteenth century; but they intensified as a result of Protestant polemics against clerical celibacy and in defense of married life. (10) Protestants rejected t he notion that virginity was a spiritually superior state and advocated marriage and childbearing for both clergy and laity. Martin Luther (1483-1546), for example, argued that pregnant women, women in labor, and nursing mothers were all doing God's work. He famously (or infamously) proclaimed that women should have as many children as possible: "And even if they bear themselves weary -- or ultimately bear themselves out -- that does not hurt. Let them bear themselves out. This is the purpose for which they exist." (11) By contrast, "[monks and nuns] cannot boast that what they do is pleasing in God's sight, as can the woman in childbirth, even if her child is born out of wedlock." (12) Luther's suggestion that an unwed mother was more righteous in the eyes of God than a celibate nun was, of course, a radical reversal of the Catholic exaltation of virginity as a spiritually superior state. Bearing children was the godliest work a woman could do.

However, many Catholic writers also praised marriage and procreation as both necessary for the preservation of human society and sanctified by God. In fact, Joel Harrington suggests that "the true Protestant innovation was less in theology and imagery of marriage and much more in the elimination of the rival religious ideal of celibacy." (13) For both Catholics and Protestants, marriage was indissolubly linked with procreation, the one always presupposing the other. Thus the increased attention given to the institution of marriage gave reproduction new importance. While numerous scholars have explored the impact of competing views of marriage on attitudes toward sexuality and gender roles, (14) the connection between religious controversies and views of procreation has not been as thoroughly analyzed, a gap this essay seeks to fill.

The second distinctive feature of the sixteenth century is the tremendous flourishing of vernacular printing. (15) The flood of vernacular texts on reproduction in the sixteenth century was part of a general expansion of vernacular print culture. This literature was shaped to appeal to a lay audience. Many of the works went through multiple editions; some might even be called "best sellers." These texts share a common set of themes and subject matter as well as a common language. Although one cannot assume that readers shared the ideas expressed by the authors of these texts, the prevalence of certain topics and metaphors suggests that they touched a chord with readers. Vernacular texts on generation can indicate the kinds of questions and issues that sixteenth-century people found interesting and significant.

Religious language and imagery pervaded vernacular literature on procreation, a consequence of the heightened visibility and significance accorded to reproduction in this period. Both religious and medical writers linked procreation to the narrative of the creation, fall, and redemption of mankind. In the creation of a child in the womb, sixteenth-century authors saw an echo of the original divine act of creation. While elements of this juxtaposition of Genesis and generation were clearly present in late medieval culture, they were first systematically developed in the vernacular literature of the sixteenth century. This linkage of heaven and earth was powerful and pervasive, and it played an important role in shaping ideas about both.


Many vernacular authors began their discussions of reproduction by invoking the story of creation from Genesis. Almost all referred specifically to God's first words to the newly created Adam and Eve: "Be fruitful and multiply." Korber, for example, quoted this passage and then interpreted it to mean that "fertility is God's blessing, and children are God's gifts," and that "the state of fertile and bearing women is a holy [and] divine state which God himself has established." (16) In another devotional work for pregnant women entitled, A little book to comfort pregnant women and those in labor (1564), Lutheran pastor Thomas Gunther also emphasized that in telling Adam and Eve to, "Be fruitful and multiply," "The Creator blessed marriage so that the human race would be increased in honor and discipline." (17) The authors of texts on medicine and natural history used strikingly similar language. Jakob Horst (1537-1600), author of the popular Wonderful Secrets of Nature, (18) began the section of his book on pr ocreation as follows:

After God the Almighty had created heaven and earth and everything under the stars, and had prepared all things with wonderful wisdom and art,... he formed man and placed him in the world and gave to him, so that he would not have a friendless life, a wife as a helpmate and companion and implanted in both a special force of love and a natural desire to beget children. (19)

A 1592 Frankfurt edition of Ryff's New Albertus Magnus had a picture of Adam and Eve on its title page (Fig. 1). While religious authors offered their readers prayers and spiritual advice, and medical writers offered their audience information on the practical aspects of conceiving and bearing a child, both their discussions of reproduction consistently were framed by the Genesis narrative.

The biblical reference worked at a number of levels. In devotional texts it certainly reinforced the Lutheran position that marriage and childbearing were divinely instituted and that celibacy was an unnatural state. In texts on medicine and natural history it served in part to justify the writing of a text on the potentially problematic subject of sex and reproduction. Horst, for example, was at pains to point out that the section on reproduction in the Secrets of Nature was only for "married people, for whom it is necessary and useful." (20) He admonished

honorable, pious spouses, to read and study this material with all fear of God and honor, not without shame and discipline, and to use it properly at the correct time in their marriage. But those who live outside the estate of marriage should heed their honor and either leave this chapter or material entirely unread or bring to it a chaste heart. Because otherwise flesh and blood, prematurely inflamed by even the slightest hearing or reading, can err (21)

In other words, sex and reproduction were divinely ordained and thus legitimate and necessary topics for a medical author to cover, but they were permissible only within the context of marriage.

However, the invocation of the biblical account of the origins of human reproduction was not simply a rhetorical strategy designed to reinforce normative views of human sexuality, or of the proper status and role of women, or even the Lutheran position on marriage and childbearing. The link between Genesis and generation was much closer and more complicated than this. Sixteenth-century authors connected the creation of a child in the womb to God's creation of the world and the first human beings. They imagined God forming and shaping the unborn child just as He had formed and shaped Adam and Eve. Procreation was invested with cosmic significance. In the gradually swelling belly of a pregnant woman, God's creative power was made visible and visceral. For example, Johann Hiltprand, author of the Useful Instruction for Midwives and Pregnant Women (1601), described the growth and development of a child in the womb as analogous to the formation of Adam and Eve. God, he noted, did not create Adam and Eve in a singl e instant. Instead, He formed Adam first, and then made Eve out of one of Adam's ribs. "So also," he concluded, "the fruit in the mother's body is formed and created by the power of God, not all at once and quickly, but at distinct times... one part after the other until the fruit is perfect and complete." (22) Hiltprand's point was not simply that the development of an unborn child is slow and gradual, but that each unborn child comes into being "by the power of God." Each stage of development, from conception to birth, was at once natural and miraculous, human and divine.

Numerous vernacular authors shared this sense that God Himself fashioned each child in the mother's body. The connections between divine creation and human procreation profoundly shaped the ways in which sixteenth-century people described and imagined the processes of generation. Walther Ryff's anatomical treatise of 1541 illustrates this point. The text is entitled True description or anatomy of the most excellent, highest and noblest of all creatures, fashioned by God the Master and Creator of all things on earth, that is, man. As the tide indicates, Ryff set his description of human an anatomy within an explicitly biblical context. He began by invoking the story of creation from Genesis and reminded his readers that, "the eternal, almighty [and] gracious God, by His divine will, for His unending glory and majesty, has created all things well, so that through [His creation] He would be glorified, honored and praised." (23) In describing the structure of the human body, Ryff was demonstrating the omnipotence of the Creator. His anatomical treatise was meant to invoke awe, wonder, and reverence.

Ryff began his account of human anatomy with "A thorough description of [the] marvelous origins, conception in [the] mother's body, creation and growth of the most exalted, highest and noblest creation of all the earthly creatures, created by God the Lord, Creator and preserver of all, out of earth." (24) In this passage, Ryff made a tight link between the creation of the child in its mother's body, and the creation of human beings by God. In a small way, the miracle of conception reenacted the miracle of creation. Although sixteenth-century anatomical works, both in Latin and in vernacular languages, typically included sections on reproduction, Ryff was unusual in placing this material at the beginning of his treatise. This arrangement reinforced the connection Ryff drew between human procreation and divine creation. Rather than beginning with an elucidation of the structure of the body, Ryff began with a narrative about its origins.

Ryff's description of human generation is typical of sixteenth-century texts. Conception occurs when the father's seed and the mother's seed mix together in the womb. (25) The warmth of the uterus causes a thin skin to form around the seeds. Inside the skin, the combined seeds begin to grow and differentiate. The liver, heart and brain, as the principal organs of the body, are the first parts to form. The developing "fruit" (Frucht) is nourished by the mother's menstrual blood. Ryff noted that boys form faster than girls because they have more heat. The offspring is fully formed, though not fully grown, by around the forty-fifth day after conception. Once the "fruit" is fully formed, it receives a soul. According to Ryff, "around the 45th day the soul is poured into it, then it is no longer called a fruit, but a child." (26) In this narrative of the origins of human life in the womb, Ryff traced the development of a child from formless "first material" to a fully formed and ensouled human being. Each human be ing who is conceived and born reenacts the original formation and ensoulment of Adam. Ryff implied that contemplating the topic of procreation would lead the reader to a deeper understanding of the divine act of creation.

In the Wonderful Secrets of Nature, Horst also emphasized that the conception of a child was a miracle and should inspire wonder and reverence. He explained that one of the reasons he wrote this section on procreation is so that,

pious married couples will be overwhelmingly inspired by the contemplation of this great miracle, [that is] how artistically the human being is fashioned in the mother's body, to [the] honor, glory and praise of the Almighty Creator and to constant thanksgiving. (27)

The description of conception, pregnancy, and birth in this text was not only supposed to inform couples about the physical processes of pregnancy and birth, but was supposed to move them to religious awe and piety.

Horst's description of the stages of gestation was longer and more detailed, but very similar in outline to Ryff's. And like Ryff, Horst subtly reinforced his point about the moral and religious significance of generation by using language that echoed the biblical account of creation. For example, he noted that it is God who shapes the child in the womb, transforming it from the undifferentiated material of the seed to a fully formed human body. It is God alone "who confers on the seed this inexpressible formative power." (28) And when the child is fully formed and grown too large for the womb, Horst wrote that the new human being "emerges [from die womb] a lord of all things and an ornament of the whole world." (29) For Hiltprand, Ryff, and Horst, the hand of God shapes each and every child like it shaped the first human being at the beginning of time.

Religious authors like Gunther expressed a similar view of reproductionn. In his devotional treatise, Gunther wrote that, "Although the LORD God ordained that children be born into the world by the joining together of man and women, this does not happen through their [own] power; rather it is the work of the LORD and his gift." (30) According to Gunther, the creation of a child is not a human act, but a divine one that follows from God's blessing of Adam and Eve. As proof of this, Gunther noted that some couples live together for many years but have no children. The human act of intercourse will not result in pregnancy unless God directly intervenes and grants a couple children. Like the medical authors so far examined, Gunther resisted a purely natural explanation of conception and pregnancy. God works through nature to carry our His divine plan for the human race. Conception and gestation, properly understood, are evidence of the divine creative power at work. Gunther urged his readers to think of the conce ption of a child as a miracle. As soon as a woman realizes that she is pregnant, her first response should be to "sincerely thank God in heaven that He has blessed [her] with fruit of the body, because children come from the LORD, He gives and bestows them." (31) For both medical and religious authors, reproduction was a topic that could inspire contemplation of the creative power of God. At the same time, connecting procreation to the story of creation offered women a way of making meaning out of the physical experience of pregnancy. Both medical and religious writers used language and imagery drawn from the Book of Genesis to discuss human reproduction.


The metaphors used by sixteenth-century vernacular authors to describe conception, gestation, and birth reinforced the links between procreation and the biblical story of creation. Two sets of metaphors dominated vernacular discussions of reproduction in the sixteenth century. One cluster of metaphors was drawn from craft production and the other was drawn from agriculture. (32) Reproduction was often imagined using metaphors drawn from craft production. The craft metaphor could be used to describe the way in which God, as the divine Master Craftsman, shaped the material provided by the male and female seed into a child. For example, in the passage cited above, Hiltprand described God shaping the raw material of the parental seeds into a new human being. And when Horst referred to the unborn child as "artistically fashioned in the mother's body," he too linked God's creative powers to an artisan's. A Prussian church ordinance of 1568 described mothers as "the workshop and tool of our lord God since the first creation of the world." (33) The text urged women "to praise the eternal God because He uses them for this exalted work of creation." (34) This use of the craft metaphor resonated with sixteenth-century understandings of the biblical story of creation. The second chapter of Genesis described God creating Adam "out of a lump of earth" and "building" Eve from one of Adam's ribs." (35) God is described as shaping man in the same way a potter might shape clay, or building Eve from a rib as a carpenter might build a house.

The craft metaphor also was used to describe the way in which the father's seed acted on the passive matter of the mother's blood to fashion a child. This metaphor was clearly articulated in the popular text Aristotle's Problems, a book about the structure and function of the human body, which included detailed sections on sex, conception, pregnancy, and birth. (36)

The dominant metaphor in this text for describing procreation was craft production. The text described sex as the "work of love," (37) and informed readers that the purpose of this "most natural work" (38) is to produce offspring after one's own likeness. (39) The reproductive organs were referred to as "the tools that are ordained for such work." (40) The terms "marital work" or the "work of love" were the most common ways of referring to sex in sixteenth-century German texts. More than a quaint and euphemistic circumlocution, the phrase "marital work" connected the production of a baby through sexual intercourse to the production of objects through craft processes.

Whereas most of the authors discussed so far believed that both male and female seed formed the material or substance of the child, the anonymous author of Aristotle's Problems rejected this view. Instead, the author cited Aristotle's theory of generation, and claimed that "the male seed does not become part of the essence of the fruit, because it is the effective beginning of the young child, just as the carpenter is an efficient cause and beginning of the house." (41) Aristotle's Problems compared the male seed to a carpenter and the female menstrual blood to the wood out of which the carpenter builds a house. This metaphor implied that the female played an entirely passive role in reproduction: wood does not help the carpenter build a house.

In comparing reproduction to a craft process, vernacular authors drew on the theories of reproduction laid out in Aristotle's On the Generation of Animals, in which he stated that the male "seed" provided the formal and efficient cause of the child and the female menstrual blood provided only the material cause. Aristotle had used the analogy of a craftsman manipulating material to describe the way in which the active male seed acted upon the passive female blood in the creation of a new human being. (42) However, vernacular texts were not merely watered down or simplified versions of Latin and Greek medical texts. Rather, Aristotle's craft metaphor was transformed in vernacular texts because it had a specifically Christian set of meanings and associations for sixteenth-century vernacular readers. Note that in this use of the metaphor, it is the father who creates offspring "in his own image and likeness." The father manipulates blood and seed to create a child just as God crafted Adam our of earth. When sixt eenth-century authors used the Aristotelian metaphor of a craftsman manipulating material to describe conception and gestation, they reinforced the symbolic connections between procreation and God's creation of the first human being.


The second set of metaphors used to describe generation was drawn from agriculture. We have already seen how sixteenth-century writers thought in terms of male and female "seed" and referred to the developing child as a "fruit." The connections to agriculture were elaborated on in many texts. The physician Johannes Dryander (1500-60) expressed a commonly held view when he wrote in his Mirror of Medicine of 1541: "Just as other creatures and plants have their seed as the first beginning, cause and origin, so also the human being has his beginning from the seed." (43) The anonymous author of Aristotle's Problems wrote that: "When the fruit of the apple [tree] is ripe, it drops off readily. The baby also does the same thing when it is [the] proper time." (44) Similarly, Horst declared that the child left the womb when it is ready "as a ripe apple" falls from the tree. (45) The connections between agriculture and procreation are represented in a charmingly literal way in an anonymous broadside of 1520 that depict s Adam and Eve "sowing" (Fig. 2). The picture in the middle register shows Adam and Eve planting "seeds," which are miniature human beings. The top register shows the resulting crop emerging from the soil. This "crop" is a representative sample of humanity: men and women, clergy and laity, rich and poor rise up from the earth. The lower register depicts Cain and Abel, the first seeds of Adam. Throughout the poem accompanying this picture, mankind is referred to as Adam's seed.

Another way in which agricultural language was used in descriptions of reproduction was in comparisons of the womb and the earth. Hiltprand, for example, called the womb "the field of human generation." (46) And Horst stated that:

For what the earth is in the fruitfulness of grain, [so] is the womb in the begetting of children and offspring. Thus just as the earth in which the seed should become a good plant must be properly tempered, not too hard, not too loose, not too moist, etc., so must the womb be properly tempered. (47)

Just as the seed draws nourishment from the soil as it grows into a mature adult, so the developing "fruit" in the womb draws nourishment from the mother's body. The analogy between human and plant reproduction was part of a much broader analogy between human life and vegetable life. For example, the human body was often described as an inverted tree. Women's menstrual periods were referred to as "flowers" (Blumen). Men were said to go bald in old age like trees losing their leaves in winter. (48) For Horst and for other sixteenth-century writers, the processes of generation in the womb mirrored the processes of generation in the larger world.

This analogy was part of a worldview that linked the macrocosm -- the greater world -- and the microcosm -- man. As Dryander put it in his Mirror of Medicine, "The human being is called by many minor mundus, the smaller world." Everything that is part of the greater world, or macrocosm, is contained within the smaller world, or microcosm. The human being "has growth in common with the plants, sensation and feeling with all animals, and reason with the angels." Everything in the "smaller world" corresponds to something in the greater world. However, because man is the most exalted creation of God, because he was "made in the image of God, everything temporal belongs under him and is subject to him." (49) While everything in the macrocosm corresponds to something in the microcosm, the relationship is not one of equals. The microcosm -- man -- has dominion over the macrocosm.

The analogical relationship between the womb and the world lent enormous symbolic significance and religious meaning to the processes of conception, pregnancy, and birth. As Michel Foucault argues, "Up to the end of the sixteenth century, resemblance played a constructive role in the knowledge of Western culture.... The universe was folded in upon itself: the earth echoing the sky, faces seeing themselves reflected in the stars, and plants holding within their stems the secrets that were of use to man." (50) The resemblances between things in the macrocosm and things in the microcosm -- for example, the resemblance between the development of a baby in the womb and a seedling in the soil -- led human beings to an understanding of the correspondences between microcosm and macrocosm, between man and his environment. Paracelsus (1493-1541), for example, wrote that:

It is not God's will that what he creates for man's benefit and what he has given us should remain hidden...And even though he has hidden certain things, he has allowed nothing to remain without exterior and visible signs in the form of special marks -- just as a man who has buried a hoard of treasure marks the spot that he may find it again. (51)

To comprehend these correspondences was to penetrate the divinely created order of the universe.

In her classic work, The Death of Nature, Carolyn Merchant, like Foucault, explores the ways in which pre-modern Europeans linked man and nature and the resemblances they saw between human beings and the environment. Unlike Foucault, Merchant argues that macrocosm-microcosm imagery was gendered. Specifically, she argues that nature was understood as female. "Mother earth" generated plants and minerals in her "womb" as human mothers generated babies in theirs. This female earth nourished all of her "offspring" as human mothers nourished theirs. (52) The language of macrocosm-microcosm and the analogical relationship between humans and plants in vernacular texts demonstrate that discourse on procreation was not just about babies, but was part of a whole way of thinking about the relationship between God, man, and nature, about the divine order and the place of humans in this order.

Both the craft metaphor and the agricultural metaphor reinforced the connections between creation and procreation in vernacular treatments of reproduction. Such connections are particularly clear in Paracelsus' Liber de matrices (1566), a book on the nature of women. Paracelsus' description of human generation was idiosyncratic and differed in significant respects from those of other vernacular authors such as Ryff and Horst, yet he used very similar language and imagery. While his account of procreation was unique, he articulated views of reproduction often left implicit in the writings of his contemporaries. Paracelsus used both sets of metaphors in his account of procreation in this text. Like many other authors, Paracelsus began by paraphrasing the story of creation from Genesis. In the beginning, he wrote, the spirit of God moved over the water, and out of this water, God created heaven and earth. Paracelsus called the water the "matrix" in which heaven and earth were formed. This word choice is signific ant because the Latin word matrix has a number of meanings, including "source, origin or cause," "womb" and "mother." (53) Once God had created heaven and earth, they formed the matrix in which Adam was created. Adam himself formed the matrix out of which Eve was created, because she was formed from his rib, and Eve became the matrix or mother of all human beings. Thus Paracelsus made a series of analogical relationships, linking the formless void out of which God created the universe to the womb in which the unborn child is formed.

Paracelsus complicated the traditional understanding of the correspondence between the macrocosm and microcosm. In De matrice, he argued that there is yet a third, smaller world: "For the world is and was the first creature, man was the second, woman the third. Thus the world is the largest, man the next, woman the smallest and last." (54) Woman is the microcosm of the microcosm. The woman's body nourishes the developing child just as the world nourishes the creatures in it. (55) Paracelsus also explicitly linked God's creative power with man's procreative power: "The [greater] world has a hole through which God's hand reaches down out of heaven and makes in it what he wants. And he made the woman to be a world in which human beings would be born. Man is there [in relation to the small world, woman] in the place of God." (56) Not only did Paracelsus connect the male contribution to reproduction with God's formative powers, but in this highly charged image he compared God's creative activity to sexual intercou rse.


If sixteenth-century discussions of conception and generation recalled the biblical account of divine creation, they reminded readers no less forcefully of the Fall. Early modern people were keenly aware that pregnancy and childbirth were difficult and dangerous for both mother and baby. They also understood that death had come into the world as a result of the disobedience of Adam and Eve. If Adam and Eve had not sinned, no mother or child would ever die in the birth process. If human procreation was a reminder of the original divine act of creation, it was also a clear sign of how far removed human beings were from their original state of perfection. Texts on reproduction often referred to the very real prospect that either the mother or the child or both might perish in the ordeal of birth. Religious authors offered numerous prayers for laboring women and their attendants to say; prayers that beseeched God to let the mother and the child be safely delivered. One such prayer included the poignant line, "Lor d, do not let my body become my child's grave." (57)

However, the link between birth and death was figurative as well as literal. Death and birth were passages from one state to another; both were simultaneously a beginning and an end. In his 1519, "Sermon on Preparing to Die," Luther made an explicit analogy between death and birth: when a person leaves this life it is "just as a child is born, with danger and anxiety" As a newborn emerges from the "small dwelling of its mother's body," into the wider world, so the dying person departs this earth for the infinitely greater realm of heaven. (58) While sixteenth-century people were mindful of the real dangers of childbirth, they also saw in the mother and child, balanced between life and death, between birth and the grave, a powerful arid resonant symbol of the human condition.

Discussions of conception and birth were often transformed into meditations on human mortality and the brevity of life. This is apparent in the title page illustration of the 1592 Frankfurt edition of the New Albertus Magnus (Fig. 1). The picture shows Adam and Eve at the moment of their fall, standing beside the tree of knowledge of good and evil with the forbidden fruit in their hands. The tree is a skeleton whose legs are twisted together to form the trunk, and whose outstretched arms are covered with leaves and end not in hands, but in branches. The serpent is coiled around one of the skeleton's arms and the rib cage. This image makes a strong association between birth and death. That is, this picture on the title page illustrates the historical origin of human mortality, and when the page is turned, the first part of the text encountered is about birth. This connection would have been particularly obvious to a sixteenth-century reader because the word "fruit" links the developing child described in the t ext to the forbidden fruit Adam and Eve are plucking. This association between death and birth reminded the reader that human beings were mortal: we were born to die.

A similar link between birth and death is made in an illustration from the German translation of Andreas Vesalius' (1514-64) De humani corporis fabrica librorum epitome of 1543 (Fig. 3). On the left is a skeleton, symbol of death and mortality. It is depicted contemplating a skull, a common sixteenth-century artistic convention signaling meditation on the brevity of life. The couplet to the right of the skeleton reads, "Death takes all beauty and honor / the infernal ocean courses through the body." On the right side of the illustration are the female reproductive organs. Their placement on the page is such that the skeleton appears to be contemplating nor only the skull under its hand, but the womb immediately to the right. While both images are familiar from the De humani corporis fabrica libri septem (1543), the juxtaposition of the skeleton and the womb, of the symbols of death and birth, is unique to this vernacular edition. It is a juxtaposition, however, that would have made perfect sense to sixteenth- century readers.

If human procreation mimicked divine creation, it was a pale and imperfect imitation. Texts on reproduction emphasized that many things could go wrong. Children could be born too early; they could be stillborn; or they could be hideously deformed. Vernacular texts frequently addressed the causes and meanings of monstrous births. According to Aristotle's Problems, the reason children are sometimes born with a large head or six fingers on one hand or four arms is that there is an excess of material, and this excess is transformed into an overly large head or extra digits or limbs. Conversely, if there is too little seed, the child will have too few limbs or they will be smaller than normal. (59) Monstrous births were thus explained using metaphors of craft processes gone awry. If craft metaphors resonated with the biblical account of creation, such an account of the causes of deformity reminded readers that, while God had produced two flawlessly perfect human beings, human reproduction could result in monstrous and misshapen creatures. In A little book to comfort pregnant women, Gunther included a chapter on the causes of miscarriages and misbirths. The first reason he gives for the occurrence of monstrous births is, "Peccatum originale, original sin, and the fall of our first parents, because if they had nor sinned, such misbirths would be unknown." (60) Monsters are reminders of the fallen state of mankind.

Monstrosity could also be explained with reference to maternal imagination, the idea that the mother's imagination could shape the developing fetus. (61) For example, if a pregnant woman desired a particular kind of food, like cherries, and she was denied them, her baby could be born with cherry-shaped birth marks on his or her body. If a pregnant woman was startled by a rabbit, her baby could be born with a hare lip. In the Wonderful Secrets of Nature, Horst tells a story about a pregnant woman who desired to rake a bite our of a young man's thigh. This young man, knowing how dangerous it was to the unborn child to deny a pregnant woman's desires, allowed her to bite him. She ripped a good chunk of his flesh our with her teeth and devoured it. Unsatisfied, she asked for another bite, but this time he refused her. She gave birth to twins, and one of them was dead. According to Horst, this was because she had been denied the second bite of the man's thigh and her unsatisfied desire had caused the death of the second twin. (62)

Maternal imagination was threatening because the father's seed was supposed to shape the fetus, forming it out of the passive material provided by the mother. The father, godlike, was supposed to be able to produce a child in his own image. For the mother to usurp this creative function was as subversive as a craftsman's wife taking over his workshop. The disruptive character of the maternal imagination is illustrated in the following set of examples, all drawn from Horst's Wonderful Secrets of Nature. If a woman is thinking about her husband while they have sex and conceive a child, the child will resemble the father, and the resemblance of the father and child will be proof of the wife's fidelity and the child's paternity. If however, the woman secretly thinks about another man while having sex with her husband, and they conceive a child, the child will look like the other man. In this case the resemblance of the child to the other man will expose the mother's adulterous desires. Finally, if a woman is havi ng an adulterous affair, and is worried about being caught by her husband, she might think about her husband while having sex with her lover, so if they conceive a child, he or she will resemble the husband, not the lover who is the real father. In this case, resemblance is no proof of paternity (63) and, of course, there is no conclusive way to know the difference between real and false resemblance. Just as Eve had disrupted and corrupted the perfect order of nature by coveting a forbidden fruit and fantasizing about equality with God, so mothers could disrupt patriarchal order through the power of their imaginations, fantasies, and desires.

A third way in which vernacular texts on reproduction reminded readers of the fall was by referring to the pain of childbirth, because this was God's punishment of Eve and all her female descendants. However, most vernacular authors do not dwell on the transgression of Eve at any great length. The pain of childbirth was a reminder of the sinful, fallen state of mankind, but it was also invested with other meanings. The pain of childbirth also was imagined as redemptive. In The Estate of Marriage (1522), Luther gave advice on how to comfort a woman in labor:

This is also how to comfort and encourage a woman in the pangs of childbirth, not by repeating St. Margaret legends (64) and other silly old wives' tales but by speaking thus, "Dear Grete, remember that you are a woman, and that this work of God in you is pleasing to him. Trust joyfully in his will, and let him have his way with you. Work with all your might to bring forth the child. Should it mean your death, then depart happily, for you will die in a noble deed and in subservience to God. If you were not a woman you should now wish to be one for the sake of this very work alone, that you might thus gloriously suffer and even die in the performance of God's work and will. (65)

Luther was not merely objecting to the late medieval devotion to saints; he was advocating a new way for women to think their way through the pain of childbirth. Rather than calling on intercessory saints for succor and relief, Luther advised women to think of their sufferings as "glorious." Death in childbirth was almost as holy as a martyr's death.

Lutheran devotional texts for pregnant women often encouraged them to think of their sufferings as analogous to the sufferings of Christ. Lutheran authors referred to childbirth as a "cross" given to women by God. A 1543 Protestant church ordinance from Pfalz-Neuburg, for example, referred to labor pains as "a holy [and] blessed cross." (66) The pain of childbirth was not simply a punishment for Eve's sin, but a path to holiness. By referring to labor as a cross, Lutheran writers sanctified the sufferings of childbearing women. Devotional texts did not suggest that women pray for relief or for an easy delivery Instead, they advised women to pray for the fortitude to endure the pain and the humility to accept suffering willingly. They offered prayers such as, "O Lord, grant me patience and strengthen my faith. Preserve me through your Holy Spirit that I may carry my cross willingly and patiently." (67) A Wurtemberg church ordinance of 1552 suggested that when a woman was in labor, the whole household should as k God to "help the mother of the house through her pains, [and to] give her strength and patience to bear the obligatory cross and burden willingly." (68) Again and again, the authors of devotional literature admonished women to face their suffering meekly, not to lose faith, and to trust in God in the midst of pain and anguish. Their model should be the patient suffering of Christ on His cross.

One devotional text for pregnant women is even titled, Cross-School for Pregnant and Bearing Women (1612). The "cross-school" of the title was the pain of pregnancy and labor. That is, there were specific moral and spiritual lessons to be gained from this experience. The author, Jakob Zader, a Lutheran pastor, devoted roughly half of the text to instruction on the meaning and significance of the physical pain of childbearing and the other half to prayers for pregnant and laboring women. Zader began with the standard reminder that if Eve had not eaten the forbidden fruit in Paradise, neither she nor any of her daughters would have had to endure pain in childbirth. (69) The pain of labor was a punishment on all women for Eve's transgression, but it was only a "fatherly chastisement." (70) Eve's disobedience should by rights have earned mankind eternal damnation. Instead God punished us with temporal, corporeal pain rather than "eternal hellish." (71) Women should reflect that their birth pangs are nothing compa red to the eternal torment to which God should have condemned us. The "cross" of birth, properly understood, should lead women "to recognize and acknowledge their unworthiness and their sins [and] to humble themselves before God." (72) To modern readers, these sentiments have a misogynistic ring, but the theme of mankind's sinfulness and abjection before God was a standard one in Lutheran writing. Zader's advice to pregnant women to accept suffering with humility and patience was not so different from the counsel given in Lutheran devotional treatises for the sick. "Taking up one's cross" was the duty of every Christian. All pain and suffering, of which the trials and tribulations of childbearing women were but a subset, were reminders of the fallen and sinful state of mankind, and all Christians were judged according to how patiently and willingly they accepted their particular cross.

Zader advised women not only to take up their cross obediently, but also to pray to God for the ability to bear it. According to Zader, only God could grant a woman the strength to endure labor and only God could ensure a safe delivery. Zader recommended that a woman in labor pray the same prayer that Jesus prayed as He was dying on the cross: "O Lord, on the holy cross you said, 'Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.' So I also now commend my soul into your hands." (73) By suggesting this prayer, Zader encouraged women in labor to identify with the crucified Christ. Such identification with Christ reinforced the idea that childbearing was righteous and godly work, but it did more than this. While any kind of suffering might be dignified by calling it a cross and linking the sorrows of the sufferer to those of Christ, the pain of childbearing women was unique and special. For sixteenth-century people, Christ's anguish on the cross had a peculiarly maternal quality. Christians had, after all, long thoug ht of themselves as being reborn through Christ's death on the cross. This language of rebirth or new birth through suffering and death meant that laboring women were connected to Christ not only through shared corporeal experience of excruciating pain, but through symbolism and metaphors which linked agony and death with birth and new life. The childbearing woman, patiently and willingly suffering to bring forth new life, could be a living reminder of Christ's supreme sacrifice.

Gunther, for example, explicitly connected laboring women to the figure of the suffering Jesus. In his devotional treatise, he advised the woman in labor to

remember the bitter suffering and death of Jesus Christ, how his enemies the Jews and heathens dealt with him so miserably, hideously and wretchedly. [She should recall] that they imprisoned, beat, mocked, spat upon, scourged [him and] wove a crown of thorns and set it on his holy head and nailed him to a high cross as [if he were] an evil doer and heinous murderer between two wicked knaves and rabble rousers and finally also [gave him] bitter gall and sour vinegar [to drink]. [She should also remember] how he was so completely patient in the midst of such difficult and cruel torment. (74)

The purpose of such contemplation of the sufferings of Christ was to help the woman bear her own sufferings more patiently. As Gunther put it, "such contemplation of the suffering of the LORD serves laboring women in this way, that they should be that much more patient in [bearing] their cross of painful birth, because their LORD and Savior also had to suffer so much and was so completely patient." (75) According to Gunther, if a woman in labor, "truly focuses on the crucified Christ and sincerely considers his torment and death, she will regard her own pain and distress as nothing." (76)

When Gunther advised women in labor to identify with Christ, he drew on a specific set of devotional practices centered on the sufferings of Christ. As Esther Cohen argues, many fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Christians embraced physical suffering as a way of imitating Christ, a phenomenon she calls "philopassianism." For such people, imitating Christ meant imitating his Passion, not his life. Such imitation might be achieved by inflicting physical pain on one's own body, or by meditating on the agonies of Christ and praying to be granted the same experience. While such extreme identification with Christ's Passion was confined to a handful of saints and mystics, ordinary Christians were encouraged to contemplate Christ's pain and sacrifice as well. This new emphasis on Christ's Passion is reflected in fourteenth-and fifteenth-century iconography. In the art of this period, Christ is depicted bleeding and broken with stigmata, wounds, crown of thorns, and the various instruments of the Passion. According to Cohen, "By the end of the Middle Ages, the love of Christ's passion and the search for individual purification through pain merged in a perception of the human body as the one and only medium for salvation and identification with Christ." (77) While Gunther appropriated an already existing devotional practice with which his readers were most likely familiar, he transformed it into a practice with new and different meanings. An ascetic discipline that was once associated with a special and select group of extraordinarily pious people was now associated with the humble housewife.

Texts like Zader's and Gunther's are not only about the ways in which women should understand their own sufferings, they are also about the meanings of pregnancy for the entire godly community. If pregnancy and labor are to be understood as a "cross" which women must bear, all who witness the suffering of pregnant women should draw moral instruction from their example. For example, Gunther claimed that, "when a woman is in labor, she provides faithful Christians with a public sermon on the cross." (78) He elaborated:

just as the birth of a child can not occur without birth pangs, but rather, a woman, when she is ready to give birth has sorrow and inexpressible fear and pains..., thus do Christians, when they have received [empfangen: the word also means "conceived"] Christ the LORD through the preaching of the Gospels and are pregnant [with the word of God] and are to be born again through the Holy Spirit, can not be without the cross, because the devil is there and all the world is against them so that they have not a single good hour. They must be subjected to all kinds of sorrows and afflictions, they must constantly have one cross and misfortune after the other, and Christians certainly have no paradise and pleasure garden here on earth, but rather a true vale of tears. (79)

However, "just as the fear and pains of a laboring woman do not last forever, but lead to a good and joyful end, for when the child is born, then the woman has . . . such joy that she forgets all the previous pain . . . . Just so the sorrow, cross and afflictions of Christians do not last forever, but lead finally to a blessed and happy end, pure joy follows [the pain], but not a poor and transitory joy, but rather a completely elevated, great and eternal joy." (80) Just as no woman can become a mother without suffering through pregnancy and labor, so no Christian can enjoy the delights of heaven without suffering through the trials and afflictions of this earthly life.

This study has examined the ways in which sixteenth-century authors described the processes of conception, pregnancy and childbirth and the meanings they ascribed to these events. Vernacular writers connected human procreation to the biblical story of the creation and fall of mankind. They moved back and forth easily between discussions of the mundane and ordinary aspects of reproduction -- from the physical signs of pregnancy, to the common discomforts of pregnant women, to the right kind of bed linen to have on hand -- and discussions of the symbolic and spiritual aspects -- from the moment the child received a soul, to the ramifications of original sin, to the redemptive nature of suffering. For sixteenth-century Germans, the physical and the spiritual, the tangible and the intangible, the temporal and the eternal, the corporeal and the psychic were all densely interwoven. Vernacular texts suggest the importance of religious discourse in shaping understandings of the body and indicate that ideas about the body were changed by the religious controversies of the period. Historical analyses of pregnancy and childbirth have tended to be the purview of social historians and medical historians rather than historians of religion. Yet these events were no less sacred to sixteenth-century Germans than any of the religious rites and rituals that they witnessed or in which they participated. The body and bodily life was integral to religious and spiritual experience in this period. Examining the ways in which sixteenth-century people understood and gave meaning to their own corporeality can thus provide new insight into the impact of the Reformation on everyday life.

* It gives me great pleasure to thank Mary Fissell, Pamela Long, Lorna Jane Abray, and Hunter Crowther-Heyck for their very insightful comments and criticisms on drafts of this article. Earlier versions were presented at the Colloquium of the Department of the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology of the Johns Hopkins University, in February, 2000, and at the German Historical Institute's Young Scholars Forum in March, 2001. I am grateful for the helpful responses of the participants on both occasions.

(1.) Ryff, 1545. For biographical material on Ryff, see Benzing, 1-10, and Eamon, 96-1 02.

(2.) "Alle Heimligkeit de[beta] Weiblichen geschlechts." The next three books describe the powers of herbs, stones, and animals. The fifth book is a tract on the plague and gives both a regimen to follow to avoid plague as well as treatments for those already afflicted. Various Latin manuscripts titled Secrets of Women (Secreta mulierum or De secretis mulierum) and attributed to Albertus Magnus circulated in late medieval Europe. While modern scholars have rejected this attribution, the question of authorship remains unresolved. See Lemay, Thorndike, Ferckel, and Kusche. Kusche notes that various vernacular texts also circulated under the title "secrets of women" (Ces sont les Secres des dames deffendus a reveler, Der vrouwen heymelykheid, and Von den Geheimnussen der Weiber), but these were substantially different from the Latin versions. (Kusehe, 109-10).

(3.) Throughout I avoid the use of the modern terms "embryo" and "fetus," because these have meanings and connotations that would have been utterly foreign to sixteenth-century Germans. In current usage, the human organism up to the third month after conception is called an embryo, thereafter a fetus. Sixteenth-century Germans did not divide up pregnancy in this way, as this study will make dear. Instead, I will use the terms found in the texts I use, which refer to the unborn human as the "fruit" or simply the "child." Sixteenth-century German had no equivalent of our words "baby" or "infant."

(4.) This eclecticism was also characteristic of learned texts on reproduction in the medieval and early modern periods. See Cadden and Maclean.

(5.) Benzing lists 33 editions, though he notes that this is not a complete list (Benzing, 11-17). Eamon describes the New Albertus Magnus as "one of the most popular German scientific books of the sixteenth century" (Eamon, 97).

(6.) This text was published posthumously by the author's son Elias Korber.

(7.) "Das weib wird sehlig durch kinder zeugen / so sie bleibt im glauben / in der lieb / und in der Heyligung sainpt der zucht." Korber, sig. Aii.

(8.) Rublack, 110.

(9.) My sense that corporeal experiences were invested with religious significance is also heavily indebted to Lyndal Roper's groundbreaking work, I have found particularly useful Roper's explorations of the ways in which anxieties and ambivalence about motherhood and mother-child relationships could be articulated in narratives of magic, witchcraft and diabolic intervention. See Roper, 1994, especially the story of Appolonia Mayr in the introduction and ch. 9, "Witchcraft and Fantasy in Early Modern Germany."

(10.) Ozment; Wunder; and Roper, 1989, describe and analyze Lutheran views of marriage and childbearing. Harrington compares Catholic and Lutheran theological and legal positions on marriage and sets them in the context of a long running debate about marriage that began in the twelfth century.

(11.) Luther, 46.

(12.) Ibid., 41.

(13.) Harrington, 73.

(14.) For a useful summary and synthesis of such work, see Wiesner-Hanks.

(15.) On the history of printing and reading in the early modern period, see Engelsing, Hirsch, Eisenstein, and Chrisman.

(16.) "sollen die schwangere weyber wissen und glauben wie die fruchtbarkeit aus Gottes segen sey / unnd die kinder Gottes gaben sindt / das der stand der fruchtbaren unnd geberenden weiber ein heyliger Gottlicher standt sey / den Gott selber gestiffret." Korber sig. Av.

(17.) "Der Schopffer hat den Ehestand gesegnet in ehren unnd zucht / das Menschliche Geschlecht zu mehren." Gunther, 32v.

(18.) The Wonderful Secrets of Nature went through at least ten editions in the second half of the sixteenth century, and continued to be published on into the seventeenth century. This book was based on the Latin work Occulta naturae miracula of 1559 by the Flemish physician Levinus Lemnius. Horst translated Lemnius' text, but he also considerably augmented it with material of his own.

(19.) "Nach dem Gott der Allmachtige Himmel und Erden / und alles was unter dem Gestirn ist / geschaffen hatte / auch alle Ding durch wunderbarliche WeiBheit unnd Kunst zugerichtet /... Hat er... den Menschen in die Welt / als in seinen Sitz / gestalt / unnd ihm / damit er nicht ein unfreundtlich Leben hette / zum Gehulffen und Gesellen ei Weib zu geben / und hat allen beyden eyngepflantzet eine sonderliche Krafft der Liebe / und eine naturliche Begierde Kinder zu zeugen." Horst, 435.

(20.) "den Eheleuten / welchen es noth und nutzlich [ist]," Ibid., 438.

(21.) "Darumb erbare fromme Eheleuce ich hiemit vermahnet haben will / daB sie mit aller Gott forchtigkeit und Erbarkeit / nicht ohn Schaam unnd Zucht diese Lehr lesen / erforschen / unnd zu bequemer Zeit ihres Ehestandes recht anwenden. Welche aber ausser Ehe leben / sollen ihr Ehre wol in acht haben / und diese Capitel oder Lehre entweder gar ungelesen lassen / oder keusche Hertzen darzu bringen. Denn sonst Fleisch und Blut / auch vom geringsten horen oder lesen unzeitig entzundet irren kan." Ibid.

(22.) "Also wirdt auch die Frucht in Mutterleib durch die Krafft Gottes nit zugleich auff ein mal / und geschwindt / sondern zu underschiedlichen Zeiten / ... ein Glied nach dem andern / biB ein recht vollkomliche Frucht darauB wirdt / formiert und erschaffen." Hiltprand, 51.

(23.) "der ewig almechtig guttig Got I hat durch seinen Gotlichen willen / von wegen seiner unendtlichen glori und Maiestat / alle ding gut erschaffen / das er dardurch glorificient wurde / geehret unnd gepreiset." Ryff, 1541, i.

(24.) "Des aller furnambsten hochsten und Adelichsten geschopffs aller irrdischen Creaturen / von Gott dem Herren / Schopffer und erhalter aller ding / auff erden erschaffen / das ist / des menschen (oder dein selbst eygen) grundtliche beschreibung / seins wunderbarlichen ursprungs / entpfengniB in muter leib / schopffung und zunemmen." Ibid.

(25.) Ryff also described the Aristotelian model of conception in which only the male produced seed. According to Aristotle, this seed provided the form of the offspring, or more precisely, it was the formal and efficient cause of the offspring. The male seed shaped the passive matter of the female menstrual blood in the same way that a craftsman shaped wood or stone. Ryff, along with most medical writers of this period, brought up the Aristotelian one-seed model only to refute it. He espoused Galen's model, in which both male and female parents produced seed which combined to form the "first material" (erst materi). Ibid., ii.

(26.) "das im umb den xlv. tag die seel eyngegossen werde / dann wirt es nitt meer ein frucht / sunder ein kindt genant," Ibid., v. For the stages of gestation, see iv-v.

(27.) "fromme Eheleute auB Betrachtung dieses grossen Wunderwercks / wie kunstlich der Mensch inn Mutter Leib gebildet wirdt / zu ehr / rhum und preiB deB Allmachtigen Schopffers / auch steter Dancksagung / uber die massen sehr verursacht werden." Horst, 438.

(28.) "der diese unauBsprech1iche Krafft der Bildung dem Saamen vorleiht," Ibid., 458.

(29.) hierauB komme der Mensch / ein Herrscher aller Ding / und eine Zier der gantzen Welt." Ibid., 437.

(30.) "Ob es wol Gott der HERR also geordnet / daB durch beywohnen Mannes und Weibes die Kinder in die Welt geboren werden / so geschicht es doch nicht durch ire krafft / sondern / es ist deB HERRN werck / und seine gabe." Gunther, 32v.

(31.) "Fur das aller Erst sollen schwangere weiber das thun / daB sie Gott im Himmel hertzlichen dancken sollen / daB er sie mit Leibes frucht gesegner / denn die Kinder kommen vom HERRN / er gibt und bescheret sie." Ibid., 32.

(32.) My analysis of the metaphors used to describe pregnancy and childbirth in early modern Germany is informed by the work of Gelis and Fissell.

(33.) "unseres herrn gots werkstett und werkzeug nach erster erschaffung der welt." Sehling, 93.

(34.) "Darfur sollen die lieben freulein den ewigen gott loben, der sie zu solchem hohen werk der erschaffung ... gebraucht." Ibid.

(35.) The verb in Luther's German translation of the Bible is bauen.

(36.) According to Blair, this text, or a version of it, was first composed anonymously sometime in the thirteenth or fourteenth century. Over one hundred Latin and vernacular (German, French and English) editions were printed between the late fifteenth and nineteenth centuries. (Blair, 226-27). Blair also notes that the German editions of Arirtotle's Problems are distinctive because they include more material on sex, conception, and pregnancy than the Latin, French, and English editions. Also, many German editions of Aristotle's Problems were bound with the Secrets of Women of pseudo-Albertus Magnus. (Blair, 205-06)

(37.) "Werck der Lieb," Problemata Aristotelis, 101 and passim.

(38.) Ibid., 101.

(39.) "ihnen selbst in der Gestalt ein gleiches gebaren," Ibid.

(40.) "den Zeug zu solchem Werck verordnet," Ibid.

(41.) "Darumb folget / daB deB Mans Same nicht in das Wesen der Frucht gehet / dieweil er ein wirckender Anfang deB jungen Kindleins ist. Gleich wie der Zimmermann ein wirckend Ursach und Anfang deB HauB ist." Ibid.

(42.) Siraisi, 110.

(43.) "Gleich wie andere creaturn unnd Erdgewachs iren samen / als ersten anfang / ursach / und ursprung / haben / Also auch hat der mensch seinen anfang von dem samen." Dryander, 3.

(44.) "Wann die frucht der opffel zeytig ist / so fallent sie gern ab. Zu gleicherweyB thut auch die geburt / wann ihr rechte zeyt ist." Proplevmata Aristotiles, Dv.

(45.) "wie ein zeitiger Apffel," Horst, 461.

(46.) "der Acker menschlicher Geburt," Hiltprand, 25.

(47.) "Denn was da ist das Erdreich in Fruchtbarkeit deB Getreydes / das ist die Mutter in dem Zeugen der Kinder und Nachkommen. Darumb gleich wie die Erde / darinn der Saame zu einem guten Gewachs werden soll / muB recht temperiert seyn / nicht zu harte / nicht zu loB / nicht zu feuchte / etc." Horst, 448.

(48.) The prevalence of the body/plant analogy in late medieval and early modern Europe has been discussed by Pouchelle, 164-67, and Camporesi, chap. 1 and 2.

(49.) "Der mensch ist von vilen / Minor mundus / die kleiner welt gnant / darumb / das er von allem so die welt ist / ein antheyl und gemein hat / und Gort gleich em bild zusamen gesetzt / alles zeitlich under in gehoret / und im underworffen ist. Das in im em auB den Elementen vermischter leib und Himlischer geyst und Gottes gleichnus gesehen und gemerckt wirt. Das wachsen hat er mit den pflantzen / die sinnlicheyt und empfinden mit allen thieren / Und die vernunfft mit den Engeln gemein." Dryander, 4. This passage comes at the end of a description of conception and pregnancy.

(50.) Foucault, 17.

(51.) Quoted in Foucault, 26.

(52.) "The female earth was central to the organic cosmology that was undermined by the Scientific Revolution and the rise of a market-oriented culture in early modern Europe." Merchant, xx.

(53.) For more comprehensive discussion of Paracelsus' use of the term "matrix," see Amy Eisen Cislo's forthcoming dissertation on this subject.

(54.) "Dan die welt 1st und war die erste crearur, der mensch war die ander, die frau die drit. Also ist die welt die groBte, der mannen die nechste, der frauen die kleineste und hinderste." Paracelsus, 179.

(55.) Ibid., 210.

(56.) "das die welt ein loch hat, dadurch gottes hant aus dem himel in sie greift und macht in it was er wil, und das er also die frauen zu einer welt gemacht hat, in der der mensch geboren sol werden, und das der man da ist an der stat gottes." Ibid., 195.

(57.) "Hilff mir HERR I daB nicht...mein Leib meines Kindes Grab werden mus," Zader, 224.

(58.) Quoted in Karant-Nunn, 145.

(59.) Problemata Aristotelis, 129.

(60.) "Peccatum originale die Erbsunde / und der fall unser Ersten Eltern / denn hetten dise nicht gesundiger / so weren dergleichen mibgeburt nicht erfahren warden." Gunther, 83. As Daston and Park have shown, in the sixteenth century, monstrous births of humans and animals were associated with sin. They were interpreted as signs of God's wrath at the sinfulness and corruption of the world, harbingers of divine retribution, and warnings to repent and reform. Usually monstrous births were related to the collective guilt of a community rather than to the individual transgressions of the parents. While Daston and Park look primarily at the ways in which monsters figured in learned writings on wonders and marvels, I focus here on the place of monsters in vernacular writings on reproduction. See Daston and Park, chap. 5.

(61.) On the concept of maternal imagination, see Huet.

(62.) Horst, 475.

(63.) Ibid., 468-69.

(64.) Saint Margaret was the patron saint of women in childbirth. According to legend, before she died a martyr's death for refusing to worship pagan gods, she prayed to God that, "any woman who invoked her aid when faced with a difficult labor would give birth to a healthy child." This story comes from the thirteenth-century text, the Golden Legend (ca. 1260) by Jacobus de Voragine. Voragine, vol. I, 370.

(65.) Luther, 40. My emphasis.

(66.) "einem heiligen gebenedeiten creuz," Sehling 1966, 81.

(67.) "O Herr / verleihe mir Gedult / unnd stercke meinen Glauben. Erhalte mich durch deinen H. Geist / daB ich mein creutz willig und gedultig trage." Zader, 240.

(68.) "das er der hauBmuter auB irem schmertzen helfen wolle, ir kraft und gedult verleihen, solch auferlegtes creutz und burde williglich zu tragen." Sehling, 1977, 35-36.

(69.) Zader, 4.

(70.) "eine Vaterliche zuchtigung," Ibid., 23.

(71.) "ewigen hellischen Pein," Ibid., 24.

(72.) "ihre unwurdigkeit unnd Sunde zuerkennen unnd zubekennen / sich vor Gott zu demutigen," Ibid., 23-24.

(73.) "O Herr / hastu am Stan [sic] des heiligen Creutzes gesprochen Vater in deine Hande befehl ich meinem Geist. So befehl ich ich [sic] jtze auch meine Seele in deine Hande." Ibid., 244.

(74.) "sollen auch die Weiber in Kindes noten sich erinnern deB bittern leydens und sterbens Jhesu Christi wie seine feinde die Juden unnd Heyden so elendig I greuwlich und erbermlich mit im umbgangen / daB sie in gefangen / geschlagen / verspottet / verspeyet / gegeisselt / eine dorne Kron geflochten / und auffsein heyliges Haubt gesetzer / und in / als ein Ubeltheter und Ertzmorder zwischen zween bose Buben / und Auffhrurer an ein hohes Creutz geschlagen / und in endlich auch mit bitter Gallen / und saurem Essig / da er mit dem Tode rang / gettrcncket und gequelet / und wie er inn solcher schweren und grausamen marter so gar gedultig gewesen." Gunther, 52v-53.

(75.) "und solche betrachtung deB leydens deB HERREN dienet den geberenden Weibern darzu / daB sie in ihrem Creutz der schmertzlichen geburt desto gedultiger seyn sollen / weil ihr HERR unnd Heyland auch so vil hat leyden mussen / und so gar gedultig gewesen." Ibid., 53.

(76.) "unnd gewiBlichen ein Weib / so da kreistet / wenn sie den gecreutzigeten Christum recht ansihet / und sein Marter unnd Tod von hertzen bedencket / so acht sie dargegen ir angst unnd not / wie groB unnd geschwind diese auch ist / for nichts / und ist gantz freudig und getrost darzu." Ibid., 53v.

(77.) Cohen, 61. See also A.A. MacDonald, Bernhard Ridderbos and R.M. Schlusemann.

(78.) "wenn em Weib in Kindes noten ist / da thut sie den Christ glaubigen ein offentliche Creutzpredigt." Gunther, 24v-25.

(79.) "Denn Erstlich / wie die Kinder geburt one wehtungen nit geschehen mag / sondern / ein Weib / wenn sie geberen sol / da hat sie trawrigkeit / und unauBsprechliche angst und schmertzen / denn da ist die stunde der verfluchung / Also konnen die Christen / wenn sie dutch die predigt deB Evangelii / den HERREN Christum empfangen / und schwanger sind / unnd von neuwem dutch den heyligen Geyst sollen geboren werden / one Creutz nichr seyn / denn da ist der Teuffel / unnd alle Welt wider sie / daB sie keine gute stunde haben / allerley trubsal und widerwertigkeit mussen sie unterworffen seyn / haben immer ein Creutz und ungluck uber das ander / und haben gewiBlichen die Christen kein ParadeiB unnd Lustgarten hie auff Erden / sondern ein rechtes Jammerthal." Ibd., 25v-26.

(80.) "wie die angst und schmertzen eines geberenden Weibes nicht ewig weren / sondern zu einem guten unnd frolichen ende gelangen / denn wenn das Kind geboren ist / da hat das Weib widerumb freude / und soiche freude / daB sie der vorigen schmertzen aller vergisset / . . . Also wehren der Christen trawrigkeit / Creutz und trubsal nicht ewig / sondern / gewinnen letzlichen ein seliges und froliches ende / eitel freude folget darauff / nicht aber eine schlechte und vergengkliche freude / sondern eine gar hohe / grosse / und ewigwerende freude." Ibid., 27v-28.


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