Encyclopedia Sexualis Volume 1 front cover

Encyclopedia Sexualis Volume 1 front cover

by Anonymous
Published in 1970 by Eros Publishing Company

Strictly speaking, Encyclopedia Sexualis is more dictionary than encyclopedia.  Volume 1 covers letters A-L and Volume 2 covers letters M-Z. The terms described in each contain a hodge-podge of sexual terms from medicine, psychiatry, antiquity, and various forms of slang such as common, vulgar, military, and so on.

Because of their age, some of the terms mentioned have fallen out of favor or changed meanings.  This is the book is at its best: a time capsule from a bygone era.  For instance, did you know that an African toothache was any sort of venereal disease?  Or that a canoe inspector doesn’t work on the river but instead in a hospital?

While it would have been easy for the book to editorialize or be silly, the compilers resisted these temptations.  Definitions are presented in a concise factual manner free of judgment. Unfortunately, many of the definitions are far too concise even for a dictionary.  The inclusion of word origins and/or pronunciations for obscure medical terms would make this a better reference.  Also mysteriously absent is a key to explain the meaning of abbreviations.  (To be fair, I didn’t have to strain too hard to figure out that “Vulg sl” was vulgar slang, but still.)  Curiously, despite these omissions, the compiler’s felt it necessary to list a term’s part of speech.

Encyclopedia Sexualis Volume 2 front cover

Encyclopedia Sexualis Volume 2 front cover

My copy of Volume 1 has a sticker with a price of $6 which made me wonder if that was the original sales price. Since $6 in 1970 adjusted for inflation amounts to the prohibitive price of $31.18 in 2006 (the latest data available as of this writing1) I have to imagine the sticker was added later by a reseller.

While the book doesn’t shy away from including all sorts of slurs, it also covers terms that sexual subcultures use to describe each other.  Equally impressive is the book’s scope as it includes terms that include homosexuals, the transgendered, the kinky, and so on.

With one or two minor exceptions, the editors obviously culled photos from a small group of photo sets and slapped labels to serve as the illustrations. At first, I thought the illustration for “animalism” and “bestiality” had been repeated, but a closer examination revealed the models hands were in slightly different positions.  Humorously, the same group of three women is presented as the illustration for “Lesbians” with the dog cropped out of the picture.  While the illustrations do little to enhance the book several are quite entertaining in their own right.

Despite the few criticisms, this is a really useful reference book.  I’m sure the next time I encounter algolagnia in print, this will be the first reference source I check.

1. See the Bureau of Labor Statistics website at http://www.bls.gov/cpi/ if you want to check for yourself.