Secret guide to London prostitutes sells for 13 times estimate

A Victorian man’s pocket guide to London’s prostitutes – disguised as a wallet – has sold for more than 13 times its estimate of £300.

The Man Of Pleasure’s Illustrated Pocket-Book For 1850: A Complete And Gentlemanly Night Guide, London, went under the hammer at Hansons’ Fine Art & Library Auction on Thursday.

It was bought by a private UK buyer for £4,000.

The 169-year-old book includes 50 sketches and describes prostitutes using coded language and makes use of equestrian and sea-faring references.

The guide was initially sent to Hansons’ books expert Jim Spencer for a free valuation and was estimated to sell for £300.

Mr Spencer said: “It’s an amazing result that’s exceeded expectations. Antiquarian books of this nature do seem to do very well. Early erotic publications are sought-after by collectors, both nationally and internationally.

“Books such as this were published and sold in secret at a time when they were regarded as obscene. The fact that this latest find was disguised as a wallet speaks volumes about its content.”

Another section of the book entitled The Health Of The Man Of Pleasure includes prescriptions and descriptions of sexually transmitted diseases.

A page on “gonorrhoea or clap” advises drinking a pint of water containing linseed and sugar or lemon and also advocates barley water or thin gruel to offset the symptoms.

Mr Spencer said he believes he has a “knack for unearthing centuries-old erotic literature”.

As well as the Victorian wallet find, he discovered a 300-year-old sex manual from 1720 which sold for £3,100 from an estimate of £80-£120.

This was followed by Memoirs Of The Life Of Miss Fanny Hill, The Career Of A Woman Of Pleasure, from 1749, which sold for £360 from an estimate of £40-£60.