1813 Fielding's "Female Husband" Book

Value (2017) | $4,000 Auction$6,000 Auction

It's my mother's pornographic book collection from the late 1800s and very early 1900s.

How did your mother come to be a collector of pornography, as you say?

(laughing) Accidentally. She went back to France, Cannes in France, in 1960 and moved into a 125-year-old apartment building. Didn't need the basement locker, which she gave to her neighbors, who brought up these books and said it's your locker, they were there, and you're the only one in the building who speaks English. So they became hers. And a while later I was telephoning her from Seattle, and she said, "You know, I have these pornographic books. Should I throw them away?" And I said, "Heavens, no." I went back and picked them up myself.

Well, these, as you pointed out, mostly have imprints of Paris, but they were probably printed in London. They're late 19th, early 20th century. But this is the real gem of the collection.

Although it's undated, it has a bookseller's mark, which says 1866. It has a Cruikshank drawing in it. It's a very unusual one because I bought a book of Cruikshank etchings and wrote to the professor who had written it, and he had never heard of this one.

I would actually call this more sensationalism than pornography. But just to give people a flavor of what the book is, it's a lengthy title, but I think it's worth reading.

It is.

“The surprising adventures of a female husband! Containing the whimsical amours, curious incidents, and diabolical tricks of Miss M. Hamilton, alias Mr. G. Hamilton, alias Minister Bentley, alias Dr. O'Keefe, alias Mrs. Knight, the Midwife, et cetera. Who married three wives and lived with each some time undiscovered for which act she was tried in the summer session in the county of Somerset in the year 1752, found guilty and whipped several times." Which is what we see in the frontispiece. It was actually printed in 1813. And you can look down here, and why someone would have erased it, I don't know, but that's where the date appeared.

Do you have any idea who wrote the book?

Really, I don't.

It's actually a famous author, Henry Fielding.

Oh really?

Who was better known for Joseph Andrews and Tom Jones. Now you said you looked in a Cruikshank bibliography and then spoke with an expert and couldn't find any record of this. I did some checking as well and couldn't find any record of it. And I suspect that this is probably not a Cruikshank etching, even though it has his name there. He was so famous during that period, that other artists would copy his style and sign his name to give a little bit of legitimacy to the publication. But I'm not sure that Cruikshank, while he was a little bit of a wild liver himself, would necessarily want to be associated with something quite like this. The condition is a little water-stained, but despite that, it's such a fun item. I certainly think at auction it would sell for between $1,500 and $2,000.

All right.

There's still an insatiable appetite for this sort of thing.

Appraisal Details

New York, NY
Update (2017)
$4,000 Auction$6,000 Auction
Appraised value (2002)
$1,500 Auction$2,000 Auction
Seattle, WA (June 15, 2002)

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