Ranger’s Impartial List of the Ladies of Pleasure, &c.
This small pocket size booklet describes in unmatched detail and admiration the “votaries of Venus” that played the game of love in Edinburgh in 1775.
Published in 1775, Ranger’s Impartial List of Ladies of Pleasure gives us an eye-opening insight into the seedy underbelly of Georgian-era Auld Reekie.
It reveals in explicit detail, the names, ages and specialities of sixty-six of Edinburgh’s foremost working girls and where to find them.
Due to the spicy subject matter, the list was penned anonymously, though it was later revealed that the man behind the quill was none other than James Tytler, a well-kept figure among Edinburgh’s Georgian gentry whose claims to fame include editing the Encyclopaedia Britannica and being the first person in Britain to fly a hot air balloon.
Tytler begins his book with an intriguing preface which argues at great length against the widespread condemnation of prostitution, citing the numerous Edinburgh lawyers and priests who have regularly offered support to the profession.
Prostitution, according to the book, is harming no-one, though the reader is warned to avoid ladies who have taken part in a ‘contaminated embrace’.
Tytler employs a colorful use of language throughout, with the ladies repeatedly described as ‘worshippers of Venus’ or as ‘nymphs’. Ladies known for being able to sing are highlighted – as are those fond of pick-pocketing.
Ranger’s directory must surely have caused quite a scandal in its day, and even 200 years on there are euphemistic elements of it which could make a sailor blush.
Conversely, however, it’s the non-PC manner in which the author describes the women and their physical attributes which might just ruffle more 21st century feathers. Particular attention was paid to the state of the ladies’ teeth, as a lack of them indicated that she may be suffering from a venereal infection.
As detailed in the book, many of the city’s prostitutes plied their trade from the same brothels and worked under a madame. It is written that, in 1763, there were only five or six such houses, but with a couple of decades, that number exploded to over one hundred – hence the need for a directory!
Ranger’s Impartial List was published for an exclusive, private audience, and as far as we know, it is the earliest example of its kind.
Mrs Dingwell at the Fountain-well
This Lady is a fit person to grace a table, being pretty fat and comely, she is a good Winter-piece; and indeed, upon the whole, very agreeable. She is about 26 years of age, her features are pleasing, good teeth and black hair, and not deficient in point of sense; and, if her lovers tells truth, not even in sensation; for she is said to be very fond of the sport.
Miss Rutherford, Fowle’s Close
This Lady is about 22 years old, short and lusty, black hair, good complexion, indifferent teeth, and very good-natured; She seldom fails of giving great satisfaction to her votaries, as she is perfect mistress in the art of kissing, of which she is not a little fond.
The 48 pp work is stitched and bound in a blue printed wrap as was the original.