Note to the 1886 Edition
Notes of the Translator Respecting the
General Remarks about Coition
Note to the 1886 Edition
The Perfumed Garden was translated into French before the year
1850, by a staff officer of the French army in Algeria. An autograph
edition, printed in the italic character, was printed in 1876,
but, as only twenty-five copies are said to have been made, the
book is both rare and costly, while, from the peculiarity of its
type, it is difficult and fatiguing to read. An admirable reprint
has, however, been recently issued in Paris, with the translator's
notes and remarks, revised and corrected in the light of the fuller
knowledge of Algeria which has been acquired since the translation
was made. From that last edition the present translation (an exact
and literal one) has been made, and it is the first time that
the work - one of the most remarkable of its kind - has appeared
in the English language.
Notes of the Translator Respecting the Sheikh Nefzaoui
The name of the Sheikh has become known to posterity as the author
of this work, which is the only one attributed to him.
In spite of the subject-matter of the book, and the manifold
errors found in it and caused by the negligence and ignorance
of the copyists, it is manifest that this treatise comes from
the pen of a man of great erudition, who had a better knowledge
in general of literature and medicine than is commonly found with
According to the historical notice contained in the first leaves
of the manuscript, and notwithstanding the apparent error respecting
the name oft he Bey who was reigning in Tunis, it may be presumed
that this work was written in the beginning of the sixteenth century,
about the year 925 of the Hegira.
As regards the birthplace of the author, it may be taken for
granted, considering that the Arabs habitually joined the name
of their birth-place to their own, that he was born at Nefzaoua,
a town situated in the district of that name on the shore of the
lake Sebkha Melrir, in the south of the kingdom of Tunis.
The Sheikh himself records that he lived in Tunis, and it is
most probable the book was written in that city. According to
tradition, a particular motive induced him to undertake a work
entirely at variance with his simple tastes and retired habits.
His knowledge of law and literature, as well as of medicine,
having been reported to the Bey of Tunis, this ruler wished to
invest him with the office of Cadi, although he was unwilling
to occupy himself with public functions.
As he, however, desired not to give the Bey cause for offence,
whereby he might have incurred danger, he merely requested a short
delay, in order to be able to finish a work which he had in hand.
This having been granted, he set himself to compose the treatise
which was then Occupying his mind, and which, becoming known,
drew so much attention upon the author, that it became henceforth
impossible to confide to him functions of the nature of those
of a Cadi.
But this version, which is not supported by any authenticated
proof, and which represents the Sheikh Nefzaoui as a man of light
morals, does not seem to be admissible. One need only glance at
the book to be convinced that its author was animated by the most
praiseworthy intentions, and that, far from being in fault, he
deserves gratitude for the services he has rendered to humanity.
Contrary to the habits of the Arabs, there exists no commentary
on this book; the reason may, perhaps, be found in the nature
of the subject of which it treats, and which may have frightened,
unnecessarily, the serious and the studious. I say unnecessarily,
because this book, more than any other, ought to have commentaries;
grave questions are treated in it, and open out a large field
for work and meditation.
What can be more important, in fact, than the study of the principles
upon which rest the happiness of man and woman, by reason of their
mutual relations; relations which are themselves dependent upon
character, health, temperament and the constitution, all of which
it is the duty of philosophers to study.
In doubtful and difficult cases, and where the ideas of the author
did not seem to be clearly set out, I have not hesitated to look
for enlightenment to the savants of sundry confessions, and by
their kind assistance many difficulties, which I believed insurmountable,
were conquered. lam glad to render them here my thanks.
Amongst the authors who have treated of similar subjects, there
is not one that can be entirely compared with the Sheikh; for
his book reminds you, at the same time, of Aretin, of the book
Conjugal Love, and of Rabelais. But what makes this treatise unique
as a book of its kind, is the seriousness with which the most
lascivious and obscene matters are presented. It is evident that
the author is convinced of the importance of his subject, and
that the desire to be of use to his fellowmen is the sole motive
of his efforts.
With the view to giving more weight to his recommendations, he
does not hesitate to multiply his religious citations, and in
many cases invokes even the authority of the Koran, the most sacred
book of the Mussulmans.
It may be assumed that this book, without being exactly a compilation,
is not entirely due to the genius of the Sheikh Nefzaoui, and
that several parts may have been borrowed from Arabian and Indian
writers. For instance, all the record of Mo&acedailama 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. But an author certainly is to be commended for having
surrounded himself with the lights of former savants, and it would
be ingratitude not to acknowledge the benefit which his books
have conferred upon people who were still in their infancy in
the art of love.
It is only to be regretted that this work, so complete in many
respects, is defective in so fir as it makes no mention of a custom
too common with the Arabs not to deserve particular attention.
I speak of the taste so universal with the old Greeks and Romans,
namely, the preference they give to a boy before a woman, or even
to treat the latter as a boy.
There might have been given on this subject sound advice as well
with regard to the pleasures mutually enjoyed by the women called
tribades. The same reticence has been observed by the author with
regard to bestiality. Nevertheless he does speak, in one story
(i.e. `The History of Zohra', in the concluding chapter of the
work), of the mutual caresses of women; and he relates an anecdote
concerning a woman who provoked the caresses of an ass [which
has been eliminated from the present edition], thus revealing
that he knew of such matters.
Lastly, the Sheikh does not mention the pleasures which the mouth
or the hand of a pretty woman can give, nor the cunnilinges.
What may have been the motive for these omissions? The author's
silence cannot be attributed to ignorance, for in the course of
his work he has given proofs of an erudition too extended and
various to permit a suspicion of his knowledge.
Should we look for the cause of this gap to the contempt which
the Mussulman in reality feels for woman, and owing to which he
may think that it would be degrading to his dignity as a man to
descend to caresses otherwise regulated than by the laws of nature?
Or did the author, perhaps, avoid the mention of similar matters
out of fear that he might be suspected of sharing tastes which
many people look upon as depraved?
However this may be, the book contains much useful information
and a large number of curious cases, and I have undertaken the
translation because, as the Sheikh Nefzaoui says in his preamble:
`I swear before God, certainly! the knowledge of this book is
necessary. It will be only the shamefully ignorant, the enemy
of all science, who does not read it, or who turns it into ridicule.'
General Remarks about Coition
PRAISE BE GIVEN TO God, who has placed man's greatest pleasure
in the natural parts of woman, and has destined the natural parts
of man to afford the greatest enjoyment to woman.
He has not endowed the parts of woman with any pleasurable or
satisfactory feeling until the same have been penetrated by the
instrument of the male; and likewise the sexual organs of man
know neither rest nor quietness until they have entered those
of the female.
Hence the mutual operation. There takes place between the two
actors wrestling, intertwinings, a kind of animated conflict.
Owing to the contact of the lower parts of the two bellies, the
enjoyment soon comes to pass. The man is at work as with a pestle,
while the woman seconds him by lascivious movements; finally comes
The kiss on the mouth, on the two cheeks, upon the neck, as well
as the sucking up of flesh lips, are gifts of God, destined to
provoke erection at the favourable moment. God also is it who
has embellished the chest of the woman with breasts, has furnished
her with a double chin, and has given brilliant colours to her
He has also gifted her with eyes that inspire love, and with
eyelashes like polished blades.
He has furnished her with a rounded belly and a beautiful navel,
and with a majestic crupper; and all these wonders are borne up
by the thighs. It is between these latter that God has placed
the arena of the combat; when the same is provided with ample
flesh, it resembles the head of a lion. It is called the vulva.
Oh! how many men's deaths lie at her door? Amongst them how many
God has furnished this object with a mouth, a tongue, two lips;
it is like the impression of the hoof of the gazelle in the sands
of the desert.
The whole is supported by two marvellous columns, testifying
to the might and the wisdom of God; they are not too long nor
too short; and they are graced with knees, calves, ankles, and
heels, upon which rest precious rings.
Then the Almighty has plunged woman into a sea of splendours,
of voluptuousness, and of delights, and covered her with precious
vestments, with brilliant girdles and provoking smiles.
So let us praise and exalt him who has created woman and her
beauties, with her appetizing flesh; who has given her hails,
a beautiful figure, a bosom with breasts which are swelling, and
amorous ways, which awaken desires.
The Master of the Universe has bestowed upon them the empire
of seduction; all men, weak or strong, are subjected to a weakness
for the love of woman. Through woman we have society or dispersion,
sojourn or emigration.
The state of humility in which are the hearts of those who love
and are separated from the object of their love, makes their hearts
burn with love's fire; they are oppressed with a feeling of servitude,
contempt and misery; they suffer under the vicissitudes of their
passion: and all this as a consequence of their burning desire
I, the servant of God, am thankful to him that no one can help
falling in love with beautiful women, and that no one can escape
the desire to possess them, neither by change, nor flight, nor
I testify that there is only one God, and that he has no associate.
I shall adhere to this precious testimony to the day of the last
I likewise testify as to our lord and master, Mohammed, the servant
and ambassador of God, the greatest of the prophets (the benediction
and pity of God be with him and with his family and disciples!).
I keep prayers and benedictions for the day of retribution, that
The Origin of This Work
I have written this magnificent work after a small book called
The Torch of the World, which treats of the mysteries of generation.
This latter work came to the knowledge of the Vizir of our master,
Abd-el-Aziz, the ruler of Tunis.
This illustrious Vizir was his poet, his companion, his friend
and private secretary. He was good in council, true, sagacious
and wise, the best learned man of his time, and well acquainted
with all things. He called himself Mohammed ben Ouana ez Zounaoui,
and traced his origin from Zounaoua. He had been brought up at
Algiers, and in that town our master Abd-el-Aziz el Hafsi had
made his acquaintance.
On the day when Algiers was taken, that ruler took flight with
him to Tunis (which land may God preserve in his power till the
day of resurrection), and named him his Grand Vizir.
When the above-mentioned book came into his hands, he sent for
me, and invited me pressingly to come and see him. I went forthwith
to his house, and he received me most honourably.
Three days after, he came to me and, showing me my book, said,
`This is your work.' Seeing me blush, he added, `You need not
be ashamed; everything you have said in it is true; no one need
be shocked at your words. Moreover, you are not the first who
has treated of this matter; and I swear by God that it is necessary
to know this book. It is only the shameless bore and the enemy
of all science who will not read it, or will make fun of it. But
there are sundry things which you will have to treat about yet.'
I asked him what these things were, and he answered, `I wish that
you would add to the work a supplement, treating of the remedies
of which you have said nothing, and adding all the facts appertaining
thereto, omitting nothing. You will describe in the same the motives
of the act of generation, as well as the matters that prevent
it. You will mention the means for undoing spells (aiguillettes),
and the way to increase the size of the virile member, when too
small, and to make it resplendent. You will further cite those
means which remove the unpleasant smells from the armpits and
the natural parts of women, and those which will contract those
parts. You will further speak of pregnancy, so as to make your
book perfect and wanting in nothing. And, finally, you will have
done your work, if your book satisfy all wishes.'
T replied to the Vizir: `Oh, my master, all you have said here
is not difficult to do, if it is the pleasure of God on high.'
I forthwith went to work with the composition of this book, imploring
the assistance of God (may he pour his blessing on his prophet,
and may happiness and pity be with him).
I have called this work, The Perfumed Garden for the Souls Recreation
(Er Roud el Âater p'nezaha el Khater).
And we pray to God, who directs everything for the best (and
there is no other God than He, and there is nothing good that
does not come from Him), to lend us His help, and lead us in good
ways; for there is no power nor joy but in the high and mighty
I have divided this book into chapters, in order to make it easier
reading for the taleb (student) who wishes to learn, and to facilitate
his search for what he wants. Each chapter relates to a particular
subject, be it physical, or anecdotal, or treating of the wiles
and deceits of women.