Callipædia, seu de pulchræ prolis habendæ ratione, poema didacticon.

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Claude Quillet (1602–1661).


Callipædia, seu de pulchræ prolis habendæ ratione, poema didacticon.


London: J. Bowyer,




This unrecorded book from Alexander Pope’s library is the first London edition of a didactic poem published by the French physician and neo-Latin writer Claude Quillet in 1655.

The volume reflects a paradox at the core of my collecting and scholarship: focus generates breadth. I came to the book through my pursuit of anything Popean; this discovery then became an interest in itself. I have now identified and collected most editions of Quillet’s poem in Latin, English, and French across four centuries (including the 1655 Chatsworth copy with manuscript notes by the collector Thomas Dampier).

The work’s connection with Pope helps to explain some lines in his poem An Essay on Man and also offers a poignant hint of his inner life. Pope seems to have purchased this book when he was about twenty and presumably near the peak of his physical powers. Meanwhile, his 4' 6" frame was bent from tuberculosis of the spine, and his literary enemies would soon describe his appearance in the vilest terms. It was in such circumstances that he was reading Callipædia, or (as one translation had it), The Art of [be]Getting Beautiful Children.


David L. Vander Meulen