The History and Arts of The Dominatrix

By on July 21, 2014

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The History & Arts of the Dominatrix

This very special book is a limited first edition for serious collectors. The author, Anne O Nomis, undertook a formal internship in one of Australia’s best known dungeon establishments. She learnt under fifteen mistresses and was obliged to attend a minimum of 18 hours a week in training.

She writes of this period: “The appeal of the dungeon was that of the ‘otherworld’ realm, promising insight into submission, suffering, acceptance and the secrets of peoples’ deepest desires.”

 Nomis then studied for a Masters degree in Comparative Art and Archaeology at University College London. Her study enabled her to undertake research into the ancient origins of the dominatrix within rituals practiced in Mesopotamia in honour of the Goddess Inanna. Tis female deity of sexuality is depicted in sculpture and cylinder seals as a kind of embodiment of dominatrix figure.

 At the British Library, the author was able to research the history of the commercial craft of domination within ‘forbidden books’ of the 17th – 19th Century. With special permission of the library curators, she was able to access rare editions and the manuscript copy of Henry Spencer Ashbee’s “Index Librorum Prohibitorum” (Index of Forbidden Books), which features a letter listing the dominatrices of the era, who were then referred to as “Governesse” or “School-Mistresses”… said with a wink.

The history of female flagellation as a business goes as far back as there are records on commercial sex. Mostly these take the form of notorious books which circulated underground, which mention discipline houses and the women who ran them. Special words were used to describe their clients, as “cullies”, and the term “flogging” developed to describe the activity of being whipped or birched.

 However the discipline business really took off with John Cleland’s book “Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure”, better known as “Fanny Hil”. This sparked a strong demand for discipline services, which was met by women who offered roleplay scenarios with equipment and included some of the best known courtesans and actresses of the era. Many of these women’s names are familiar today, as they feature in paintings which hang in the National Portrait Gallery and in private estates in the UK and around the world: Kitty Fisher, Fanny Murray, Nancy Parsons, Peg Woffington, and so on.

 However the golden age of the dominatrix really came about in the early 19th Century, by which time no less than twenty splendid establishments are documented in London alone, dedicated entirely to flagellation practices. It was at this time that the equipment and practices had become as highly specialised as their own craft, with special whipping apparatus designed – such as the “Berkley Horse” which was named after its inventor, a dominatrix named Theresa Berkley.

 This book also traces the dominatrix through into the 20th Century underground and the evolution of the so-called “bizarre” (fetish) style. Nomis was supplied rare images of some of the enterprising and kinky women who operated in New York, London, The Hague and Hamburg’s Herbertstrasse during this period. Finally, she describes what the dominatrix actually “does” for her clients, in a chapter of the book entitled “The Seven Realm Arts”.

 This special first edition was designed by the award-winning New Zealand book designer, Anna Egan-Reid, it has drawn influence from Ashbee’s 1877 volume “Index of Forbidden Books”. The cover features a Victorian frame with dominatrix props hidden in its corners, and is black quarter-bound, with gold foil on a Phoenician purple background.

 Only 2,000 copies are available worldwide and each copy is individually numbered. It features 86 full colour illustrations licensed from the world’s top museums specially for the project.

Illustrated with artwork and images from the British Museum, Iraq Museum, Penn Museum, Oriental Institute of Chicago, Fitzwilliam Museum of Cambridge University, Villa of Mysteries Pompeii, British Library Rare Books, Library of Congress Washington DC, National Portrait Gallery, Yale Center for British Art, Kinsey Institute, with vintage images by artist John Willie from Bélier Press, vintage Dominatrices from DDI Magazine, AtomAge and private collections. Contemporary artwork by Natasha Gornik, Kate Peters, Phil Miller, Nuit’ d’Or and Lucina Nathanael.

“Painstakingly researched…The quintessential treatise on dominant women throughout the ages…impressive work.” (David Jackson, DDI)
Hardcover with black buckram quarter-bound spine, and scarlet red ribbon marker. 288 pages, 155 x 220 mm, 86 illustrations
£48 from www.kfsmedia.com

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