"A SQUEALING LANGUISHING VOICE, A WOMANISH COMPLECTION, AND A SOFT DOWN FOR A BEARD": EUNUCHISM DISPLAY'D, 1718
ANCILLON, Charles. Eunuchism Display'd. London: E. Curll, 1718. 12mo, contemporary full brown calf rebacked, red morocco spine label. $1750.
First edition of this treatise on whether eunuchs should be allowed to marry, containing rare details on Italian castrati, published by controversial pornography publisher Edmund Curll.
One of the few surviving contemporary sources about the Italian castrati who thrilled 18th century Europeans with their operatic skills. Beginning with the Assyrian queen Semiramis and the Biblical Potiphar, eunuchism is traced to the time of publication, including preferred methods of castration, discussion of the rank of eunuchs in society, and church-based arguments against eunuchs marrying. First published in French as Traité des Eunuques under the pseudonym C. D'Ollincan in 1707. This edition was published by the infamous Edmund Curll, a publisher with an eclectic portfolio who grew to be known for publishing pornography. Indeed, Curll's press was regarded as quite controversial, both for the racy content it published as well as for Curll's disregard for securing publishing rights. Eunuchism Display'd was notorious, but "like many of [Curll's] similar books, the title suggests a more prurient book than the contents deliver. But in the Weekly Journal for 5 April 1718 Daniel Defoe attacked the book as a piece of pornography, coining a new term for the production of such books: curlicism. Curll, far from being offended seemed to take some pride in the term, and he rapidly produced a pamphlet in his defence entitled Curlicism Display'd May (1718), in the text of which he made enough references to his various titles that he could hope the reader's interest would be aroused" (ODNB). With preliminary blank (lacking in ESTC copy) and 12-page publisher's catalog at rear. Lowndes, 758. Pencil notation stating, "From the Library of Viscount Bateman of Shobdon Court," either William, 1st Viscount, or John, the 2nd (who ended the title), both British politicians. Early title page ink owner signature. Occasional marginal pencil markings to text.
Tiny marginal hole to E12, scattered foxing to text, light wear to binding. An extremely good copy of an unusual work.