L'escholle des filles (1668)
July 2, 2013 5:50 AM   Subscribe

The School of Venus, or the Ladies Delight, Reduced into Rules of Practice (digitized by Google Books) is a delightfully raunchy sex manual from 1680, captured in wonderfully engaging detail.

Translated to English from a French edition notorious womanizer and diarist Samuel Pepys (previously on MeFi) called in 1668 “the most bawdy, lewd book that ever I saw”, the manual is summarized in The Appendix article This Mysterie of Fucking as “a surprisingly modern exploration of sexuality written in the form of a dialogue between a teenage girl and her more experienced cousin”, and is illustrated with some of the earliest mezzotints offering full halftone proof of “the benefits of variety”. With its 1600s meets 2000s take on female sexual autonomy, the book even wonders what would happen “if Women govern'd the world and the Church as men do.”
posted by Skeuomorph (15 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite

Aw heck, this has nothing on Fanny Hill. Which also contains some pretty hilarious descriptions of sex written as a parody of classic literature.

The more things change, etc.
posted by kinnakeet at 5:58 AM on July 2, 2013

This is fascinating on a number of levels. Thanks!

(If only The Mysterie of Fucking had contained a Method! I would have settled for a lithograph of a man in a befeathered stovepipe hat, with a pair of spectacles atop it.)
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:00 AM on July 2, 2013

That is fexy.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:37 AM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by peagood at 6:42 AM on July 2, 2013

It's ſ, not f.
posted by grouse at 6:55 AM on July 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

@item: There are selected pictures in the summary writeup, or page further in the original book.

@item: Ne'er mind, I ∫ee you found them.
posted by Skeuomorph at 7:06 AM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's amazing what you can find on Google Books these days. This is the only surviving copy (from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich), most of its early readers having presumably followed Pepys's example and 'burned it, that it might not be among my books to my shame'. The illustrations are discussed here, including the engraved frontispiece (easy to miss on Google Books unless you scroll up from the title page) 'which depicts a modestly-dressed woman standing behind a booth selling dildoes, while two potential buyers appear to be discussing the relative merits of those on offer'.

Other 'curious' titles digitised from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek include A Dialogue Between a Married Lady and a Maid (1740), A Complete Guide to the Temple of Venus in Portsmouth (1781), and a very early edition of Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (1749), better known as Fanny Hill. All these are from the library of Franz Krenner (1762-1819), a Bavarian civil servant, identifiable by the 'Bibl. erot. Fr. Krenneri' label at the back.
posted by verstegan at 7:13 AM on July 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

I admit, I always have trouble reading the long s without mental hiccups ("the thing with which he piffeth"? Oh, wait.). Practife, practife, practife.

"the thing he had in his hand, appeared to be like a white hogs pudding of a reaſonable length, which was joyned to his Body, which made me admire I had not the like."

...hogs pudding envy.
posted by theatro at 7:16 AM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

grouse: It's ſ, not f.
He was being ſlippant.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:33 AM on July 2, 2013 [7 favorites]

I inevitably read long s as a lisp. Practithe, practithe, practithe.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:52 AM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

The more I see that cover, the more I wonder, like... Were there actually 18th-century dildo stalls in country markets?
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:22 AM on July 2, 2013

There is nothing new under the ſun.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:52 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

grouse: "It's ſ, not f."

More to the point, long s is never used at the end of words. I have no idea why this bothers me as much as it does.
posted by Proofs and Refutations at 4:01 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

That Pepys quote in full:
"I to my chamber, where I did read through “L’escholle des filles,” a lewd book, but what do no wrong once to read for information sake (but it did hazer my prick para stand all the while, and una vez to decharger); and after I had done it, I burned it, that it might not be among my books to my shame; and so at night to supper and to bed."
--Sunday 9 February 1667/68
I love how Pepys always attempts to veil anything about sex in a mixture of bad Spanish and bad French. It's like PEPYSPERANTO.
posted by Pallas Athena at 6:15 PM on July 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

This is great. I only knew a little bit about this book from reading Pepys. Great post, Skeuomorph.
posted by homunculus at 12:03 AM on July 3, 2013

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