The Perfumed Garden  

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"So far as I can gather from all I have learned, the chief value of Burton’s version of The Scented Garden lay not so much in his translation of the text, though that of course was admirably done, as in the copious notes and explanations which he had gathered together for the purpose of annotating the book. He had made this subject a study of years. For the notes of the book alone he had been collecting material for thirty years, though his actual translation of it only took him eighteen months."--William Henry Wilkins

"In the introduction to The Perfumed Garden (12th century), the author praises God for having given us the pleasures of love-making. He says that God endowed women with beauty to inspire men to make love to them. He says that he is a Muslim, that there is only one God and that Mohammed is his prophet." --Sholem Stein

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The Perfumed Garden (Arabic:الروض العاطر في نزهة الخاطر) by Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Nafzawi is a sex manual and work of erotic literature. The full title of the book is The Perfumed Garden of Sensual Delight (al-rawd al-'âtir fî nuzhati'l khâtir).

The book presents opinions on what qualities men and women should have to be attractive, gives advice on sexual technique, warnings about sexual health, and recipes to remedy sexual maladies. It gives lists of names for the penis and vagina, has a section on the interpretation of dreams, and briefly describes sex among animals. Interspersed with these there are a number of stories which are intended to give context and amuse.



In the original Arabic

According to the introduction of Coville's English translation, Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Nafzawi probably wrote The Perfumed Garden sometime between 1410 and 1434.

1850: Baron R... French translation

The first translation of The Perfumed Garden into a European language was in 1850, by a man calling himself only "Baron R...".

1886: Burton English translation

The book first became widely known in the English speaking world through a translation from the French in 1886 by Sir Richard Francis Burton.

Burton mentions that he considers that The Perfumed Garden can be compared with the works of Aretin and Rabelais, of the book Conjugal Love. But what he believes makes The Perfumed Garden unique as a book of its kind is "the seriousness with which the most lascivious and obscene matters are presented."

Burton points out that not all of the ideas in The Perfumed Garden are original: "For instance, all the record of Moçama and of Chedja is taken from the work of Mohammed ben Djerir el Taberi; the description of the different positions for coition, as well as the movements applicable to them, are borrowed from Indian works; finally, the book Birds and Flowers by Azeddine el Mocadecci seems to have been consulted with respect to the interpretation of dreams."

1976: Khawam French translation

A new French translation by Rene R. Khawam was published in 1976.

1999: Coville English translation

In 1999, Jim Coville published the first English The Perfumed Garden translated directly from the Arabic original. Of the Burton translation, he says, "details were expanded, episodes introduced and whole sections incorporated from other, non-Arabic, sources. The text is dressed up in a florid prose alien to the style of the original and many of the notes are sheer speculation. The result is a consistently exaggerated and bizarre misrepresentation of the original".

This is vividly illustrated in chapter six, titled "Sexual Technique" in Coville's translation and "Concerning Everything That Is Favourable to the Act of Coition" in Burton's. Burton's translation is perhaps 25 pages long, lists 39 sex positions as well as 6 types of sexual movement, and gives creative names to many of these. Coville's translation is 2½ pages long, and lists eleven unnamed sex positions.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Perfumed Garden" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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