17th-century 'Cosmo' shows women agonised on sex and diet like now

WANT to rid yourself of unsightly fatty lumps and bumps? Why not slap on some goose grease and turpentine?

Worried about large or droopy breasts? Just bind them up in bandages for a few nights before washing them in white wine and rose water.

These are some of the "helpful" suggestions in a 300-year-old book which appears to be the 17th-century version of Cosmopolitan magazine.

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The Ladies Dictionary: Being a General Entertainment for the Fair Sex is set to go under the hammer at Bonhams next month. It includes many of the hang-ups affecting modern women.

But some of the solutions are rather different to the advice in 21st-century magazines.

The author of the 1694 publication, identified only as HN, has some surprising suggestions on issues from diet to fashion and make-up to adultery.

One remedy for the overweight involves bathing in claret and a list of ingredients you probably won't find in your local supermarket, including wormwood and something called "squinath". But don't take the diet too far, as being skinny was as unwelcome as obesity.

The author also offers a valuable opinion on how far you should go on a first date - not very far at all.

"You'll get better Conditions if the Enemy does not know how weak you are within," he says.

And in case you were considering adultery, forget it. Such affairs often end in "blood and disgrace", the writer warns.

The bizarre book was found in the private library of the late Tony Hattersley, a Yorkshire book dealer.

His whole collection is believed to be worth 300,000.

The Ladies Dictionary is expected to fetch 2,000.

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Matthew Haley, a book specialist at Bonhams in London, said the volume had raised a few laughs in the auction house.

"It's an extraordinary book, offering advice to women of all classes on a wide range of subjects," he said.

"You could call it the Cosmopolitan of its day."

The collection includes another volume called The Academy of Complements (sic).

Its author, John Gough, says compliments one might wish to pay a woman include telling her "her breasts are a pair of Maiden-unconquered worlds".

Failing that, why not tell her they are "twins where lilies grow".

How far wrong can you go with advice like that?


• THOSE that "hang loose, and are of an extraordinary largeness, lose their charms, and have their beauty burried in the grave of uncomliness". To reduce them, bind for several nights, coat with a mixture of seeds, then wash with white wine and rose water.


• SKINNY supermodels would not have fared so well back then. Being too thin was as bad as being obese. "Bodies that are very Lean and Scragged ... cannot be Comely: It is a contrary Extream to Corpulency and the Parties Face always seems to carry Lent in it..."


• TODAY'S big cosmetics companies would probably not bother advertising in the 17th century version of Cosmopolitan. The book's advice on make-up is very simple - do not wear any. "A painted face is enough to destroy the Reputation of her that uses it," it says.


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• UNDER the heading "Books, Directions to Ladies about reading them", the author is again very clear. "It is not necessary to read many Books, but to read the best." He adds wisely: "The forbidding of idle books makes young people more curious to read them."


• WHEN it comes to a first date, the author asks: "Is it proper for a Woman to yield at the first address, though to a man she love?" In his opinion: "You'll get better Conditions if the Enemy does not know how weak you are within."


• WOMEN are warned not to be tempted due to "dangerous consequences" and "dishonour it puts on your Sex". On prostitution, he says it "causes a man to spend silver for flesh, till he becomes so lank that his legs are scarce able to support their late master".


• DIETARY advice includes taking vigorous exercise before meals. The author also suggests not eating "any thing that is very Salt, Sharp, Bitter or too Hot, but let your Food be Sweet and nourishing". He recommends: "New Eggs, Veal, Mutton, Capon."


• TALKING about "fatty lumps", the author says: "Bodies sometimes fall away in one part, and not in another." To combat this, take "Oyl of Foxes, Capons Grease, and Goose Grease" with "Pine, Rosin, and Turpentine". Boil with "Virgins-Wax" and plaster on to the body.

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