La Nymphomanie, or Traité de la fureur utérine . . . nouvelle édition. Sexuality, D. T. de Bienville.

La Nymphomanie, or Traité de la fureur utérine . . . nouvelle édition.

Amsterdam: Chez Marc-Michel Rey, Librarie, 1778. Third Rey edition. 12mo, contemporary calf, gilt spine, red morocco label, gilt lettering, xxii, [2], 179 pages. Front hinge cracked, but sound; chipped at the foot of the spine and a bit at the head; rear hinge rubbed and just lifting a bit near the head; some light soiling, foxing and wear; a very good copy. Item #18090

“Elle commence par un délire mélancolique, dont on trouve la cause dans le vice de la matrice [i.e., the womb]; ensuite elle se tourne en délire maniaque, qui a son principe dans le dérangement du cerveau. Quand ces deux accidens concourent ensemble, ils forment ce que nous appelons nymphomanie.” An influential book from a European physician inevitably referred to in later scholarly works as “obscure,” first published in Amsterdam in 1771 (as here) by the important publisher of Rousseau and the philosophes, Marc-Michel Rey. Bienville argues that nymphomania is the result of the interplay between a physical derangement of the uterus and the female imagination; of great interest (besides the case studies and the remedies) is his analytical enumeration (worth quoting at length, though this cataloguer has attempted restraint) of the myriad types of predisposed women or girls—from a young girl disappointed in love to a debauched woman, or a wife with a cold, indifferent husband, or a lonely young widow—might be led into erotomania. (Note that in the excerpt below the symptoms are of course exacerbated by popular novels.) “On voit aussi des filles débauchées qui ont vécu quelque temps dans le désordre d’une vie voluptueuse, être tout d’un coup attaquées de ce mal. . . . Enfins les jeunes veuves y sont souvent exposées, sur-tout si la mort les a privées d’un homme fort & vigoureux, dans le commerce duquel, par des actes vivement répétés, elles avoient acquis l’habitude des plaisirs, dont le délicieux souvenir occasionne chez elles des regrets amers, qui produisent insensiblement des troubles, des agitations & des mouvemens d’abord involuntaires, mais dont les suites réduisent bientôt l’ame dans l’état le plus fâcheux. . . . Elles donneront encore de l’extension à cette véhémence naturelle, si elle s’entretiennent avec des romans luxurieux, qui commencent par disposer le coeur aux sentimens tendres, & finissent par inspirer & apprendre les lascivités les plus grossières.” (Popular song and spicy foods also come in for condemnation; Tissot’s attacks on masturbation are referenced on several occasions.) The cultural historian George Rousseau notes in his essay, “The invention of nymphomania,” that the Bienville “may not be the first book to mention the furor uterensis but it is certainly the first tract or book devoted exclusively to this condition” (G. S. Rousseau, Perilous Enlightenment, Manchester University Press 1991). The 1771 first edition was followed by a second Rey edition in 1772; a German-language edition also appeared in 1772, with the edition in English following in London in 1775. Small not unattractive private ink ownership stamp (perhaps 19th c.) of a surgeon on the title page and one page of text.

Price: $250.00

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