America’s First Sex Manual, From 1766, Is Full of Monsters

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Photo: Corbis

If you think the drawings in The Joy of Sex are quaint, check out the wood-carvings in Aristotle’s Complete Master-Piece, published on Open Culture today. North America’s first sex manual, Aristotle's was written by self-described English “professor of physik” William Salmon and first published in Boston in 1766. Although the book, which gets name-checked in Ulysses and Vile Bodies, was mostly sold under the counter, its illustrations are far from sexually explicit. They mostly show the “monstrosities” that will befall your children if you look at “images” while having sex, including birth defects, full body hair, or being a different race. So, yes, the colonists didn’t have everything quite figured out, but there is at least one happy error therein. “It suggests that both men and women should enjoy sex,” auction house Lyon & Turnbull’s book specialist Cathy Marsden observes. “That’s interesting because much later on, when they realised that a woman didn’t have to climax in order to conceive, the idea of a woman enjoying sex was considered far less important.” Read some excerpts, including the colonial definition of “clytoris,” at Book Tryst.