A long-lost sex manual from the 1720s has exposed some of the more unsettling beliefs to be held in Georgian times.
Aristotle’s Masterpiece Completed In Two Parts, The First Containing the Secrets of Generation was banned until the 1960s and a copy of the title is set to be auctioned in Derbyshire next month.
Warnings about the monstrous consequences of bestiality, advice on the importance of mutual affection and, perhaps unsurprisingly, teachings on the purpose of a wife for a husband feature in the publication.
Among its unorthodox assessments are speculation that children may be born with animal features as a result of mothers copulating with animals.
It illustrates the warnings with alarming drawings of the potential consequences of bestiality, including one of a child with wings and a single, human-scale chicken leg.
The pictured individual is claimed to have been born in the year 1512 in Ravenna, Italy – indicating a perhaps remarkable feat of recording given the book was published 200 years later.
Auctioneer Jim Spencer said: “This is blamed on ‘filthy and corrupt affection’.
“But you have to bear in mind that this book was written when people were still being burnt for witchcraft in Georgian England.
“A century after women first won the right to vote in the UK, this book takes us back to very different times. It talks of man being ‘the wonder of the world, to whom all things are subordinate’.
“Meanwhile women are painted as being prone to sexual indulgence.”
Even avoiding trysts with animals might not guarantee conventionally attractive offspring, according to the Aristotelian tome.
It argues, too, that the imagination of parents could jarringly alter a child’s features, warning that the “force of imagination” could produce a baby with “a hairy lip, wry mouth or great blubber-lips”.
To avoid such a terrifying prospect, women are advised to “earnestly look upon the man and fix her mind upon him” during sex, so that the “child will resemble its father”.
The voracious sexual appetites of women are also discussed at length in the book.
At puberty, it says, women’s “natural purgations begin to flow” and blood “abounding” in their bodies “fires up their minds to venery” – or sexual indulgence.
“External causes may also incite ’em to it; for the spirits being brisk and inflamed when they arrive at this age,” the text continues.
It goes on to suggest that girls should avoid eating hard and fat things, which make the body heated.
Practical advice on matters ranging from a happy marriage to bettering the chance of conceiving a particular gender are also discussed.
“Before they begin their conjugal embraces to invigorate their mutual desires and make their flames burn with a fiercer ardour by those endearing ways that love can better teach than I can write,” the author urges.
“And when they have done what nature can require, a man must have a care he does not part too soon from the embraces of his wife.”
Advice on how to sway a pregnancy toward a parent’s choice of sex features too.
For a boy it’s suggested parents attempt to conceive when the sun is in Leo and the moon in Virgo, Scorpio or Sagittarius, and that a woman lie on her right after sex. For a girl, she should lie on her left.
The book, which is thought to have been banned for 250 years, will go under the hammer at Hanson’ auction house in Etwall, Derbyshire, next month.
It is expected to fetch up to £120.