Rare Books in the Press: Saluting a Serial Seducer and His Steamy Tell-All
From The New York Times
“Giacomo Girolamo Casanova was a gambler, swindler, diplomat, lawyer, soldier, alchemist, violinist, traveler, pleasure seeker and serial seducer. He was also a prolific writer who documented his adventures and love affairs in a steamy memoir that is one of the literary treasures of the 18th century. Born in Venice, he considered France his adopted country but was forced to flee Paris in 1760 after seducing the wives and daughters of important subjects of King Louis XV and cheating them out of their money.”
After more than 200 years Casanova, the “feminist”, is back in France, in form of the original manuscript of his memoirs “The Story of My Life”. In the last years of his life he wrote down his adventures on 3.700 pages which he bequeathed to his nephew shortly before his death in Bohemia in 1798. In 1821, Friedrich Arnold Brockhaus acquired them from the nephew’s descendants. Brockhaus was one of Germany’s most prominent publishers, who published the Brockhaus Encyclopedia and to whose huge company also belonged an antiquarian bookshop from the beginning: Brockhaus / Antiquarium. It was assumed that the documents had been destroyed in the bombing of Dresden in World War II (where Brockhaus was located until 1945), but they were carried on a bike and hidden in a bank vault in Leipzig. An American military truck drove them to safety in Wiesbaden. There the Brockhaus Company started again with a publishing house in Wiesbaden and as a book distributor and antiquarian bookshop in Kornwestheim.
In the 1970s a bibliophile edition of Casanova’s memoirs was published, and now, after long negotiations, the nearly unknown Casanova manuscript was handed over to the National of Library of France by the Brockhaus family.