Paris, Tournachon-Molin, 1825-1829.
14 volumes [166 x 93 mm], [iv], xxviii, 246 + [iv], 310 + [iv], 272 + [iv], 288 + [iv], 250 + [iv], 258 + [iv], 237, (1) l. + [iv], xii, 278 + [iv] + 292 + [iv], 299 + [iv], 288 + [iv], 292 + [iv], 284 + [iv], 346 pp.
Bound in full blond sheepskin, gilt border around the covers, flat decorated spines, hinges and extremities of the spine slightly rubbed. Contemporary binding.
“The first French edition” (J. Rives Childs) (1956).
“Quite rare” (J. Rive Childs).
Memoires…. Published in Germany, and translated by Sir Aubert de Vitry, translator of Goethe’s Memoirs, etc. with a preface by de Vitry.
“The German edition of the Memoirs had been received so favorably that a Paris editor decided to bring out this pirated edition. It is thus the first French edition. However, it is not the first French edition of the original French text but a translation of the Schütz edition and is therefore a translation of a translation.” (J. Rives Childs).
This first French edition of 1825-1829 has a value identical to that of the 12-volumes French edition printed from 1826 to 1838: “Brought 10 000 francs at auction in Paris in 1945 ; 15 000 in 1948 ; quoted at $150 in NY in 1945 for the 1825-1829 edition versus 15,500 francs in 1946 for the Brockhaus edition of 1826-1838 and $100 to $150 in 1955.”
Casanova’s Memoirs are written in French. G. de Schutz first published a German version. The edition published in Paris by Tournachon-Molin in 1825 is a translation of the German version.
“The most famous Venetian adventurer, Balzac, Théophile Gautier and Roger de Beauvoir were inspired by certain chapters of Casanova’s Memoirs, which appeared at the height of the Romantic era.” Carteret.
“I consider Casanova’s Memoirs to be the true Encyclopaedia of the eighteenth century”. Blaise Cendrars.
“Casanova, that unparalleled mind, whose every word is a line and every thought a book!” Le Prince de Ligne.
In turns adventurer, diplomat, crook, Giacomo Casanova (1725-1798) was also the only prisoner to escape from the prison of the Leads, in Venice. At other times in his life, he was one of the intellectuals of the time and was received in the European courts. As he became rich, he led a life of madness and disorder. He was arrested by the Inquisition. He escaped and, when he arrived in Paris in 1757, got in touch with the Marshal of Richelieu, Crébillon, Voisenon, Fontenelle, Favart and Rousseau.
In Geneva in 1760, he introduced himself to Voltaire. In London, he met the Chevalier d’Eon and King George III, in Berlin, he met Frederick II and then, in St Petersburg, he had several meetings with Catherine II.
In his Memoirs, Casanova drew up a picture of Louis XV xv France’s mores, but also that of Italy and courts of Europe in general.
« We know from the Memoires that he was constantly writing and that his baggage comprised in considerable part his papers ». J. Rives Childs, Casanoviana, p. 108.
It has been said that Casanova’s Memoirs are Anticonfessions.
“I write neither the story of an illustrious man, nor a novel. Worthy or unworthy, my life is my material, my material is my life. Having written it without ever believing that the desire to write it would come to me, it may have an interesting character that it might not have, if I had written it with the intention of writing it in my old age, and what is more, of publishing it.”
“An attentive reader of the autobiographical works of Saint Augustine, Montaigne and the Marquis d’Argent, Casanova was familiar with the work of Rousseau, whom he often criticized, but without being able to conceal an admiration mixed with envy. He would say: “I will not give my story the title of Confessions because, since an extravagant has soiled it, I can no longer suffer it. But it will be a confession if ever there was one. People will tell me that a book which alarms virtue is bad. I confess that those whose favourite virtue is chastity must refrain from reading me…”.
The book’s influence spread overseas. An article published in the North American Review in 1835 was devoted to Casanova‘s Memoirs: “It presents a curious and not uninstructive picture of the state of society in Europe at the period immediately preceding the French Revolution”.
The author of the article refers to the author’s arrest by the Inquisition as an element of comparison between European and American politics: “The constant repetition of similar cases of the violation of private right by the old governments of Europe was among the causes that operated most strongly in bringing on the revolutionary movements of the last century. We are not blind to the inconveniences, abuses and dangers of our political system, but it gives us a permanent national peace, instead of the wars that constantly desolate Europe.” (The North American Review, XLI, p.46-69).
In 1834, the work was put on the index of prohibited books.
“Sold in broad daylight or under the cloak, the Memoirs made one hell of a fuss, and everywhere people talked about them, either to doubt their authenticity, or to discuss the veracity of the Venetian’s love confessions, or to inspire themselves in the romantic circles Balzac, Théophile Gautier, Gorge Sand, Roger de Beauvoir, Eugène Sue, before Émile Zola and Pierre Louys drew according to their imagination on the vast reservoir of adventures that Casanova made available to them.
Especially after the “Great War”, the price of any work by Jacques Casanova became unaffordable and unrealistic. The Brockhaus edition, for example, oscillated between 99 francs, bound (P.-A. Chéramy sale), and 405 francs, in wrappers (same sale, session of Monday 21 April 1913). In 1917, at the J. P. sale (Bosse, expert), this edition, in a half sheepskin binding, with speckled edges, was sold for 295 francs.
From now on, do not expect to obtain a copy for less than a thousand or 1,500 francs, when the opportunity arises if it arises!” (J. Pollio).
The last copy recorded on the French market, bound later in half-calf with foxing, was sold for 75,000 francs in May 1996 (€11,500 26 years ago).
The “most important heritage acquisition” by the French National Library was finalized on 18 February 2010. The Minister of Culture, Frédéric Mitterrand, signed the deed that officially brings the manuscripts of Casanova’s Memoirs into the B.n.F; a 3,700-page unbound manuscript declared to be of “major heritage interest”. The work was the object of envy of major libraries and collectors around the world since the 1960s.
Giacomo Girolano Casanova, in turn financial consultant, diplomat, crook, gambler, but always an enlightened intellectual in his own way, began writing his memoirs in a French strewn with crossing-outs and Italianisms, around 1789. In other words, “in the twilight of his life as in the twilight of the century” agitated by “revolutionary turmoil”, as the Minister of Culture pointed out. It took three years and the intervention of a generous patron from the financial world, who paid nearly 7 million euros, to complete this exceptional acquisition.
During the ceremony, the Minister of Culture paid tribute to “one of the great authors of eighteenth-century French literature” and to his “freedom of tone and expression, which is nourished by a true freedom of conduct”.
A precious copy, pure and without foxing, exceedingly rare in full contemporary decorated binding.