Banned 'Aristotle' sex manual to auction in Scotland's capital

An early manual for sex and pregnancy that was wrongly (and somewhat perplexingly) attributed to Aristotle, and which was banned in the United Kingdom until the 1960s, is to cross the auction block in Edinburgh on January 16.

Entitled Aristotle's Compleat Master-Piece, it contains cautionary advice for copulating couples as well as amateur midwives.

First published in 1684, the later edition at auction is from circa 1766.

Aristotle's sex manual to auction in Edinburugh
The book contains numerous strange images of children, which are to be read as an 18th century warning against having sex outside of marriage

Considered lewd, the book was banned in the mid 19th century and remained so until traditional notions of obscenity were challenged during the 1960s. Cathy Marsden, a specialist in antiquated books at the auction house presiding over the sale, commented: "There's nothing in it that would really be considered dirty in our society now. It's funny more than anything.

"It's fascinating reading. It tells an amazing story about the changing perspectives on sex.

We don't really know why it was attributed to Aristotle but one possibility is that they were just trying to make it sound better or more worthy than it might have been."

The historic sex and relationships manual is heavily illustrated with images of hirsute and many-limbed children - deformities thought at the time to be the result of parents' sins. Although the strange images would not be considered graphic by any reasonable contemporary observer, they are believed to be the main contributory factor in the book's subsequent banning.

Images of "hairy children or children with their mouths were their navels are" pervade the text, acting as a warning to anyone considering in indulging in sex outside of marriage.

Among the dubious and often comical counsel on offer, however, there are surprising insights into 18th century medicine, such as the idea that it was beneficial for a woman to enjoy sex if she sought to become pregnant.

The unusual book carries a £300-400 ($482-642) presale estimate.

De Laude Verginitatis, a sex guide intended for nuns, and written around AD800, brought £337,250 ($504,891) at Sotheby's in January last year, suggesting there remains a healthy market for such niche tomes.   

Here at Paul Fraser Collectibles we also have a number of investment grade books and manuscripts for sale.  

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