The Condom Page

Short article on the history of the condom

Sheepgut condoms

Recommended condom reading


Sheepgut condoms

To Make (State of the art as at 1824):

Ordinary Condoms (Armour, Baudruches, Redingotes Anglaises) (Used to prevent venereal disease or pregnancy) are made from sheeps' intestina caeca soaked in water for some hours, turned inside out, macerated again in weak alkaline changed every 12 hours, scraped carefully to removed the mucous membrane, leaving the peritoneal and muscular coats; exposed to the vapour of burning brimstone, washed with soap and water; blown up, dried, cut to length of 7-8 inches, bordered at the open end with a riband.

Baudruches fines: soaked in weak ley, turned inside out, dressed as before. Soaked in ley again, brimstoned, drawn smooth upon oiled moulds of a proper size, with the external coat of the gut next to the mould.

Baudruches superfines: washed in 2 soapy waters after soaking in them for 24 hrs and very carefully dressed with the knife. Soaked in hard water for 3 days, the water being often changed; dried with a clean cloth, scented with essences, and being stretched on a glass mould, rubbed with a glass to polish them.

Baudruches superfine doubles: in their moist state being on the mould, another is drawn over also moist, the 2 insides adhere together.

Condoms should be soaked in water before use to make them supple.

A fascinating account of making sheepgut condoms as handling surrogates for museum presentations.


Recommended condom reading

Jessica Borge, Protective Practices: A History of the London Rubber Company and the Condom Business (McGill Queens University Press: 2020): 'It is the first scholarly, full length study on the London Rubber Company, the original maker of Durex condoms and other useful dipped rubber goods such as contraceptive diaphragms, household gloves and toy balloons'.

Jeanette Parisot, Johnny Come Lately: A Short History of the Condom, Journeyman Press London, 1987
Brief and jokey but well-researched

Norman Himes, A Medical History of Contraception, Williams and Wilkins, Baltimore, 1936
Still the major research resource on the history of contraceptive devices

William E. Kruck, 'Looking for Dr Condom', Publication of the American Dialect Society, no. 66, 1981
A meticulous and effective repudiation of all those 'Dr/Colonel/Earl of Condom' myths about the origin of the condom (which are usually way too late any way - condoms had been on the scene long before Charles II!)

Angus McLaren, A History of Contraception from Antiquity to the Present Day, Blackwell, Oxford, 1991
The best overview of human conceptualisation of conception control

David Gaimster, Peter Boland, Steve Linnane and Caroline Cartwright, 'The archaeology of private life: the Dudley Castle condoms', Post-Medieval Archaeology 30 (1996), 129-142
An account of the condom fragments, datable to before 1647, found in the garderobe during excavations at Dudley Castle: also includes discussion of other early organic condoms in the British Museum, plus a brief account of the historical and literary evidence about condoms in early modern Europe, and illustrations.*

*But this appears to be much more intact, and datable to 1640, making it the world's oldest surviving condom.

For the out of print works above, for some good places to look for secondhand books,

Link to Books



It's really difficult to find pictures of condoms: but there are a few images here.
There is a picture of a skin condom here on website of the Museum für Verhütung und Schwangerschaftsabbruch | Museum for Contraception and Abortion, Vienna
Turned up, 2021, in a collection at the Bodleian Library Oxford: Mystery items in the Clarendon archive - C19th animal gut condoms.
Sally Pointer & Gareth Riseborough's Pinterest page Antique Prophylactics
My blog post on an illustrated condom auctioned at Christie's in 1992

Illustrated article on The History of Contraception Museum, Toronto, Canada

But PLEASE NOTE, this is NOT a commercial site, I do NOT purvey condoms or have any interest in condom-related businesses, nor can I make any kind of consumer recommendations about condoms. if this is what you are interested in I suggest that you contact
I am willing to answer adequately expressed queries relating to condoms and birth control in history generally (but PLEASE see suggested reading above, which will probably be MUCH more helpful).


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© Lesley Hall
Last modified 13 July 2022