Predating Richard Burton's notorious translation of the Kama Sutra

[Lazzat Un Nisa]. Laddhat un-nisa [The Pleasure of Women].

Northern India, ca. 1820s / early 19th century.

Large 4to (175 x 267 mm). 91 ff. (some blank). Persian and English manuscript on two types of paper (English on laid paper, watermarked "JB"; Persian on a thinner and slightly polished laid paper). With 30 hand-painted full-page miniatures depicting sexual poses. English script in brown ink; Persian nasta'liq in black ink, with important words and phrases picked out in red, and a gold-decorated 'unwan in blue, pink, and orange, and first two pages of text on fields of gold. Contemporary full red morocco.


A Persian manuscript of "Lazzat Un Nisa", a famous erotic text derived and translated from the Sanskrit Kama Sutra, here featuring 30 explicit and educational miniatures, and bound with a manuscript translation of the same into English.

Drawing on the Sanskrit text, there are two separate textual traditions of "Lazzat Un Nisa" in Persian: one earlier 15th or 17th century translation from the Golden Age of erotic literature in the subcontinent, and another by Mohammed Abdul Mehdune, in 1850. Remarkably, the accompanying English translation significantly predates Richard Burton's notorious translation of the Kama Sutra, which Burton privately printed in 1883. The work is also notable, though not unique, for including one painting depicting homosexual intercourse between two men.

Popular from the 16th century onwards and a source of interest to European (and especially British) collectors, illustrated erotic manuscripts such as "Lazzat Un Nisa" have a robust history in the Indian subcontinent. Two English ownership inscriptions begin the volume, both probably by the same hand and expressing roughly the same sentiment. The first reads, "I procured this book in order to give an idea of the absurd and whimsical ideas of the Moors. The English is a literal translation of the Persian". The second, more formal attempt reads, "These Pictures were procured to give some Idea of the absurd & redicolous [sic] notions & practices of the Mahometans in India". Though their owner was scandalized, painted sexual manuals were popular and not uncommon; this example is, however, quite unusual in its inclusion of relatively good English translation of the text, including detailed and graphic passages with references to the rules of sex, marriage, and sexuality in the Qur'an, pregnancy, beauty, sensuality, "the flavour of her body", "species of women", and "the critical moment" of orgasm.

An early English translation from the Kama Sutra tradition.


With ownership inscription signed "D.J." and the library blindstamp of "Neatham Mill Library TW".


Some light smudging and rubbing to miniatures; a few edge tears; quite well preserved.