Historical Perspectives On Contemporary Issues
Aristotle's Masterpiece: Early Modern Sex Ed
Follow along with Professor Mary Fissell as she discusses her research on Aristotle's Masterpiece, a late 17th century sex, midwifery, and childbirth manual popular in England and America from its publication until well into the 20th century.
Dr. Fissell explores the ways in which readers used their copies of the book to record births and vows of love and companionship, performing a similar function to the family Bible. Dig into the similarities and differences between copies of the Masterpiece held at Kislak Center for Special Collections at the University of Pennsylvania, the Library Company of Philadelphia, the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, and the Institute of the History of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University.
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Insights from the Collections
The Consortium's collections provide many opportunities to learn more about the history of early modern science and medicine.
Our cross-instiutional search tool allows researchers to investigate materials across multiple institutions from a single interface. With more than 4.4 million catalog records of rare books and manuscripts, the Consortium's search hub offers scholars and the public the ability to identify and locate relevant materials.
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Some archival materials related to this topic include:
Search over 200+ copies of Aristotle's Masterpiece in the archives of member institutions here.
Browse the University of Oklahoma Libraries' 1788 English edition of Aristotle's Masterpiece here.
William Shippen Journal, American Philosophical Society
Hewson Family Papers, American Philosophical Society
"Aristotle"'s Bestselling Sex Manual, Wellcome Collection
Ambroise Paré's Medical "Monsters", Wellcome Collection
A Grotesque Accouchement. Oil Painting., Wellcome Collection
Nicholas Culpeper's English Physician (1789), Wellcome Collection
Related publications from our speaker:
Vernacular Bodies: The Politics of Reproduction in Early Modern England, by Mary Fissell; Oxford, 2004.
Patients, Power and the Poor in Eighteenth-Century Bristol, by Mary Fissell; Cambridge, 1991.
See also recent work from our fellows:
Being and Becoming a Midwife in 18th Century France: Pedagogical Practices and Objects, Scottie Hale Buehler
Resources for additional study:
Treasures from the Library Company of Philadelphia: Aristotle's Masterpiece