For science, the beginning of the 1700s marks the consolidation of the scientific method and the beginning of mathematical formulas to explain natural phenomena. We have Newton, Halley, Sophia Brahe, and Gottfried Leibniz. However, understanding of biology during that time was extremely limited. And this can be seen in a peculiar sex manual that will go under the hammer next month.
The book is with auction house Hansons and is titled Aristotle’s Masterpiece Completed In Two Parts, The First Containing the Secrets of Generation. It was written in 1720 and focuses on reproduction and fertility, although its advice is questionable at best.
For example, it suggests that the best way to conceive a boy is for the man to lie on the right side of a woman after sex or on the left if they are hoping for a girl. It describes men as being above all natural things and considers semen a "divine gift abundantly endued with vital spirit."
Based on this alone, it's easy to expect that the author of this book was a man. Although we don’t know much about him, he attributed this work to the famous Greek philosopher Aristotle, who was seen as a sex expert in early modern England.
The manual is divided into two parts. The first is about anatomy, intercourse, and marriage. The second one is about pregnancy and midwifery. There are some correct ideas in there (including the fact that a torn hymen doesn’t mean a woman is not a virgin), but it is mostly a mixture of superstitions and Christian doctrine. It blames any birth defects on a woman’s impressionable imagination.
“Some children are born with flat noses, wry mouths, great blubber-lips, and ill shap’d bodies; and most ascribe the reason to the imagination of the mother who hath cast her eyes and mind upon some ill-shap’d creature,” read the manual. But all is not lost. The work suggests how women can easily avoid having children with birth defects: “Therefore, it behoves all women with child to avoid such sights if possible or at least not to regard ‘em.” Ladies, you have been warned.
If this wasn’t enough, it also goes and articulates how “women unnatural lying with beasts” have led to monstrous children. The unknown author included several illustrations of some of these “beast-like” children, which kept the book on the banned list until 1960.
The book also suggests what to eat and drink to have powerful seed (pheasant, hen eggs, pine nuts, and wine) and what it is good for an erection (artichokes and candied ginger). The book will be auctioned on March 27 and it has an estimated value between $110 and $165 (£80 and £120).