A Courtesy book or Book of Manners was a book dealing with issues of etiquette, behaviour and morals, with a particular focus on the life at princely courts. Courtesy literature can be traced back to 13th Century German and Italian writers.
In England the vogue for such literature derived primarily from Elizabethan translations of three sixteenth-century Italian texts on courtly manners and morals: Baldassarre Castiglione’s Il Cortegiano (1528), Giovanni della Casa’s Il Galateo (1558) and Stefano Guazzo’s La Civil Conversazione (1574). Thomas Hoby published The Courtyer, his version of Il Cortegiano, in 1561 (although he had made the translation a decade earlier). The work was read widely and influenced the writings of Shakespeare, Spenser and Ben Jonson. Robert Peterson’s translation of Il Galateo appeared in 1576. George Pettie published The Civil Conversation, his translation of the first three books of Guazzo’s text, in 1581; the fourth and final book appeared five years later in a translation by Bartholomew Yonge. A well-known English example of the genre is Henry Peacham’s The Compleat Gentleman of 1622.