“Aristotle’s Sex Manual” Going to Auction

courtesy of Lyon & Turnbull

courtesy of Lyon & Turnbull

A manuscript dated to the 17th century and inaccurately attributed to the Greek philosopher Aristotle is going up for auction at Lyon and Turnbull.

“Images in this “master-piece” show a woman’s torso and drawings of hairy children with extra limbs, and according to the Guardian, an image showing a woman’s torso opened up to reveal a baby in her womb. But there are no actual explicit images…” – Cathy Marsden

The book was likely written as an ‘information’ manual for the newly married, providing “medical information” on human sexuality and reproduction. The information, often grossly inaccurate, provides great insight into the minds of medical science. The “medical tidbits” state that a woman could give birth to a Black child if she was thinking of Black men during the conception or that a child conceived out of wedlock would be hairy or otherwise deformed. It also provides instruction for conceiving a child of a specified gender, by planning conception by the phases of the moon. The book even includes an instructional section for midwives (although modern midwives would be best to ignore his advice).

To learn more about the text, see the article in LiveScience, The Telegraph, or the Huffington Post.


2 thoughts on ““Aristotle’s Sex Manual” Going to Auction

  1. Jim Wheeler

    Interesting, Jennifer. This deserves a place in a History of Science curriculum. Also, my sense is that the practice of medicine didn’t get scientific until the 20th century, and of course accelerated with the development of anti-biotics. When I was CO of the ONR branch office in Boston, and since part of the research contracts we managed were in medicine, I became aware of the Warren Anatomical Museum. It contains an eclectic and bizarre collection of medical instruments and curiosities.

    1. Jennifer Carey Post author

      The history of modern medicine is also a fascinating tale. You should check out the book “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” an interesting view of the evolution of ethics in modern medicine. Psychiatric medicine also has an interesting and sometimes frightening history.
      I’m going to check out the Smithsonian article. Thanks for the link!


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