Though it's hard to imagine in the internet age, dirty books are a relatively new invention. In the 1660s London of diarist/government administrator Samuel Pepys, (that's Samuel to the left, painted by John Hayls in 1666), they're still very much a novelty. The one he finds by accident in his local bookseller is in French. L'escholle des Filles ("The School for Young Women") is written in what becomes a classic dirty-book format: an older, experienced woman explains Life, Love, & Men to a young newbie, and does it in explicit, titillating language. You know, Playboy Advisor.
When Samuel first comes across the book, he thinks from the title that it might be an edifying read for his French-speaking wife. A glance through the pages, however, quickly changes his mind. But let's have Samuel explain, in three excerpt from his famous Diary:
January 13, 1668: "....stopped at Martin's my bookseller, where I saw the French book which I did think to have had for my wife to translate, called L'escholle des Filles, but when I came to look into it, it is the most bawdy, lewd book that ever I saw, rather worse than Puttana Errante [an infamous 16th. c. Italian erotic book] - so that I was ashamed of reading in it."
February 8, 1668: Thence away to the Strand to my bookseller's, and there stayed an hour and bought that idle, roguish book, L'escholle des Filles, which I have bought in plain binding (avoiding the buying of it better bound) because I resolve, as soon as I have read it, to burn it, that it may not stand in the list of my books, nor among them, to disgrace them if it should be found.
February 9, 1668: Lord's Day. Up, and at my chamber all the morning and in the office, doing business and also reading a little of L'escholle des Filles, which is a mighty lewd book, but yet not amiss for a sober man once to read over to inform himself in the villainy of the world....[later that afternoon] I to my chamber, where I did read through L'escholle de Filles a lewd book, but what doth me no wrong to read for information sake [this next is Sam's own shorthand, but you can figure out his meaning without too much difficulty] but it did hazer my prick para stand all the while, and una vez to decharge; and after I had done [the book], I burned it, that it might not be among my books to my shame; and so at night to supper and then to bed.
Modern historians say that this is the earliest reference to an erotic book in the English language. Oh, Samuel. . . .