Jane Sharp 1641-1671

K.30.17. The midwives book, or, The whole art of midwifery discovered (1671)

This book was the first manual for midwives to have been written and published by an Englishwoman. She was an experienced and educated midwife, having followed the studies of students of Hippocrates, Aristotle and Galen, for example, and claims on the title page to have been practising for over 30 years. Until the 17th century although midwifery was practised by women, books on midwifery had been written by men with no practical experience.

The book is divided into six sections covering reproduction, conception, birth and post-natal care of both mother and child. Practical advice is given, as well as a few illustrations, and it is thought that the book may have been intended not only for the medical practitioner but also for the use of the layman, which is probably why it was extremely popular and sold well. It had reached its fourth edition by 1725.