Essex nuns' sex guidance manuscript set for auction

A sex guidance manuscript, reminding nuns in Essex, UK to avoid wearing titillating outfits, is coming to a Sotheby's auction next month.

The De Laude Virginitatis, written in circa 800 AD by the cleric Aldhelm to the nuns of Barking Abbey, warns them against the perils of dressing to attract the boys.

Essex nuns manuscript
Essex nuns: the ruin of young men

"If you dress yourself sumptuously and go out in public so as to attract notice, if you rivet the eyes of young men to you and draw the sighs of adolescents after you, and nourish the fires of sexual anticipation... you cannot be excused as if you were of a chaste and modest mind," he writes in Latin.

Aldhelm, a respected scholar, added that "chastity of the spirit" was imperative if the Essex sisters were to avoid "untamed impulses of bodily wantonness".

It remains unclear what prompted Aldhelm to take the nuns of Barking so heaviliy to task.

Sotheby's specialist in western medieval manuscripts, Timothy Bolton, told the UK's Telegraph newspaper: "Aldhelm's work is remarkable because there simply aren't any texts by English authors addressed to women before this.

"He expects the nuns to study and understand his sophisticated writings, raising the bar of education for women to the same level of men, becoming the first English feminist author."

The abbey, situated just a few miles from London, was established in AD 666, and home to nuns for over 800 years.

The manuscript has an estimate of £300,000-500,000 ahead of the July 10 auction in London.

The lot forms part of 60 rare documents coming up for auction from the celebrated collection of Martin Schøyen. The collection also features the earliest surviving example of St Paul's Epistle to the Romans. Written around the third century AD, the Wyman Fragment, scribed in ancient Greek, is expected to sell for £150,000-200,000.

Later the same day an extraordinary archive of personal letters and documents relating to the life of Gandhi, will auction at Sotheby's with a £500,000-700,000 estimate.

View Paul Fraser Collectibles' collection of stunning manuscripts for sale here.

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