I first read about the sale of this interesting item a few days ago, and I figured that it would be something that you guys would be interested in too!
The book is being promoted as a volume which explains in detail various ideas on sexual relationships and how to conceive. It is called 'Aristotle's Compleat Master-Piece'"which is rather curious as Aristotle died in BC 322, whereas this book was printed around 1760 AD. The manual has been wrongly attributed to Aristotle, perhaps in an attempt to raise its profile as a trust worthy text by linking it to the great Greek philosopher. It is far more likely that much of the text found in the book was written or at least inspired by the 17th century physician Nicholas Culpeper and the 13th Century thinker Albertus Magnus. Although it is not impossible that some of Aristotle's ideas made their way onto its pages.
This curious little book has now gone up for sale at an Edinburgh auction house with an estimated value of £400. What's particularly fascinating about this book is that it was banned from sale in the UK for around 200 years as it was deemed to be far too graphic and lewd for the sensitive minds of society at that time. Now, we aren't talking the Kama Sutra or the Joy of Sex here, however the images and text within this volume was shocking enough to cause mid-18th Century minds to find it inappropriate enough the ban. The book wasn't reinstated until the 1960s!
Of course it is almost certain that if you'd looked hard enough you would have been able to buy this book 'under the counter', and a busy black market is thought to have grown up around the book which is one of the most printed volumes of its kind.
So what does it contain? Well most of the text is aimed at amateur midwives and young married couples who were looking to conceive. Of course much of the text is now very outdated and some of the images show children who are covered in hair or disfigured, something which was attributed to the sins of the parents. They even say that a black child born to a white woman was caused by her thinking about a black man when she conceived! The book also contains warnings against having extra-marital affairs, and how this can affect the resulting child. Another image shows a woman's torso cut open to reveal a foetus. To our modern eyes there's nothing shocking here (in fact much of it is pretty funny!), but to the mind of an 18th Century lady or gentleman this may have been pretty hard hitting stuff.
The book goes under the hammer on the 16th January, and if I had £400 spare I would love to own this little gem!
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