Paterfamilias literature is a special type of literature, dating from between the 15th and the late 18th centuries. The household economy handbook, which was also sometimes a lexicon, comprehensively informed the educated, privileged, and frequently aristocratic paterfamilias, on how to make the best financial gain from his land and property.
Paterfamilias literature can be regarded as the handbook and manual of the paterfamilias, the head of the family, who demanded obedience and hard work from all members of the household. The term for this type of literature has its origins in the 19th century, and prior to this period, the books were referred to as "Economic" or "House books".
Paterfamilias literature primarily provided information about land or domestic affairs. In the books, the paterfamilias could find instructions on managing, land, growing fruit, making wine, and gardening, on keeping animals, as well as hunting and fishing. The books also contained information on treating illness, and medical prescriptions. Interestingly, paterfamilias literature was the precursor to today’s cookery books, in that they frequently contained a collection of recipes.
German paterfamilias literature was often written by protestant priests, and also contained moral and religious instruction and rules for the family, as well as marriage guidance and information on children’s education. Two works of note are W. Helmhard von Hoberg’s "Georgica curiosa" from 1682, and Johannes Coler’s (1570-1639) "Oeconomia ruralis et domestica" (1665). Over time, paterfamilias literature began including detailed instructions on running domestic affairs, and the target audience was no longer only men, but also bourgeois housewives, who were the economists and providers of the household. An example of a book dating from this period is Christian Friedrich Germershausen’s encyclopedia "The Mother of the Household" (1782). There is no specific bibliography of paterfamilias literature, although there are various bibliographic references to it in the German and Dutch hunting literature by K.Lindner (1480 to 1850).