17th Century Pornography Auctioned at Sotheby's

Gretchen Gallen
LONDON – The only surviving copy of what is being considered the oldest pornographic play will be placed on the auction block at Sotheby's in London on Dec. 16.

The printed work, titled "Sodom," was written in the 1600s and is expected to fetch a minimum bid of $40,000.

"We believe this is the first printed pornography in English literature, a unique copy of the quintessence of debauchery," Sotheby's Book Specialist Peter Beal said.

"Sodom" is believed to have been the work of the second Earl of Rochester, John Wilmot, and is said to be more graphic than most pornographic material that followed in its footsteps over the subsequent 300 years leading up to the 20th Century.

The play's plot involves a lusty king and his sexual antics.

The Earl of Rochester was known for his "total disregard to every moral, and a resolute denial of every religious observation." He was born in 1647 and later died at the age of 33 of syphilis.

The Earl's writing lived on long after his death, and posthumous printings of "Sodom" gave rise to prosecutions for obscenity and were eventually destroyed.

To this day, the Earl is considered one of the world's major English poets.