Oil lamp artifact depicting coitus more ferarum
For more details on this topic, see History of erotic depictions.
Depictions of a sexual nature are older than civilization as depictions such as the venus figurines and rock art have existed since prehistoric times. However, the concept of pornography as understood today did not exist until the Victorian era. For example the French Impressionism painting by Édouard Manet titled Olympia was a nude picture of a French courtesan, literally a "prostitute picture". It was controversial at the time.
Nineteenth-century legislation eventually outlawed the publication, retail, and trafficking of certain writings and images regarded as pornographic and would order the destruction of shop and warehouse stock meant for sale; however, the private possession of and viewing of (some forms of) pornography was not made an offence until recent times.
When large-scale excavations of Pompeii were undertaken in the 1860s, much of the erotic art of the Romans came to light, shocking the Victorians who saw themselves as the intellectual heirs of the Roman Empire. They did not know what to do with the frank depictions of sexuality and endeavored to hide them away from everyone but upper-class scholars. The moveable objects were locked away in the Secret Museum in Naples and what could not be removed was covered and cordoned off as to not corrupt the sensibilities of women, children, and the working classes.
Fanny Hill (1748) is considered "the first original English prose pornography, and the first pornography to use the form of the novel." It is an erotic novel by John Cleland first published in England as Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure. It is one of the most prosecuted and banned books in history. The authors were charged with "corrupting the King's subjects."
The world's first law criminalizing pornography was the English Obscene Publications Act 1857 enacted at the urging of the Society...