Around 1680, a publication titled Aristotle’s Compleat Master-Piece began to pop up wherever pamphlets/books were being sold in ye olde Londontown. A racy little piece, it was a reference guide for young married couples getting their freak on for the first time.
And, you know, trying to make some babies… or whatever.
But the little book was considered too risqué for the delicate constitutions of the day, and it ended up banned in the mid-18th century (only in the UK- you could still snag a copy elsewhere).
So, what makes the little books so very naughty?
…Not much, actually. To our eyes (our filthy, degenerate, immoral eyes), the little book doesn’t contain anything all that dirty. One of the book specialists at the auctioneers, Cathy Marsden, called it, “funny more than anything.”
The little book contains warning about what could happen if *le gasp* you conceived a baby out of wedlock. Apparently, your baby could be born all hairy or be Siamese twins.
O, THE PERILS OF YOUR HIDEOUS SIN SEXING!
Actually, most experts believe it is the images in the little book that led to its ban (a ban that lasted until the 1960s, when morality imploded):
The images aren’t so much graphic as strange- children with mouths for navels, ladies blossoming open to reveal babies, and men with extra limbs dancing around.
The book is interesting for a few reasons. First, it showcases the 17th century notion that women are supposed to enjoy sex as much as men (say it isn’t so!), because they believed a woman’s pleasure directly tied into the ease with which she conceived. This is an idea that gets squashed in the Victorian era after it’s learned women can conceive without orgasming, making female enjoyment of sex not only less important, but generally looked down upon (those wanton hussies).
But the little book is also interesting because, despite being attributed to Aristotle, none of his work appears in the text. Nothing is known about its actual author. Marsden speculates it was attributed to Aristotle because they were “trying to make it sound better or more worthy than it might have been.”
Regardless, the little book was very popular, even after the ban. It thrived on the black market and could easily be obtained under the counter all over the UK.
An amusing example of this is a newspaper clipping from the 1930s. An author of an advice column was asked where a copy of the book could be obtained, to which the author replied, ”You may not buy a copy of Aristotle’s Complete Masterpiece. You may expect to pay three-and-sixpence.”
The edition going up for auction in a few weeks at Lyon and Turnbull, an Edinburgh auction house, is from the 1760s. They expect to fetch up to £400 for it.
Not too shabby for faux-Aristotle’s not-terribly-naughty guide to making love at a woman.