Il libro del cortegiano, or Book of the Courtier, of Baldassare Castiglione (1478-1529) is arguably one of the most influential books of the sixteenth century and enjoyed an incomparable reputation in its own time. By the end of the century it had been translated into every major European language. The depth of its appeal may be shown by the story that the emperor Charles V kept three books at his bedside: the Bible, Machiavelli's Prince, and Castiglione's Cortegiano.
The work reports a debate among the courtiers of the duke of Urbino on the subject of what conditions and qualities make up the perfect courtier. From this discussion the talk turns to the relationship between men and women, and particularly on what is proper to do in the matter of love.