Today is the day to celebrate romantic love in all its forms — and, if you're inclined towards history, being incredibly glad that modern Valentine's Day is about roses and cheesy cards rather than disgusting love potions and odd medieval romance rituals. And now we have further proof of just how bonkers life between the sheets was in previous centuries, because a book of sex advice first published in the early 1700s is coming up for auction in the UK. And it's a doozy. Bearing the snappy title Aristotle’s Masterpiece Completed In Two Parts, The First Containing the Secrets of Generation, the book was actually banned in England until the 1960s for its incredibly salacious content, according to the auction house in charge of the sale, and only continued to exist because it was printed illegally.
Aristotle's Masterpiece definitely wasn't written by Aristotle, and has led a clandestine life since it was first banned. Everybody from Evelyn Waugh to James Joyce appears to have read it at some point, and versions appeared in Soho sex shops in London in the 1930s, but the book that's up for auction is one of the earliest known copies, and was only recently discovered. And the topics of advice cover everything from marriage to the purpose of the clitoris to conception and caring for infants — but it's when sex is involved that it gets particularly graphic and, to modern eyes, startlingly odd. Here are nine pieces of advice to take away (or not) for your hot date this Valentine's Day.