The French National Library has arguably racked up a little sex appeal this week by acquiring the memoirs of Giacomo Casanova, the famed 18th century adventurer and author whose name has become synonymous with the art of (insincere) seduction. The Bibliothèque Nationale (BNF) reportedly acquired the original manuscript of Casanova's memoirs, which were completed the year of the author's death in 1798, from an anonymous donor believed to have paid over $5m for the work-- a transaction that appears to be the highest in history for a manuscript, according to the Guardian. The donor purchased the manuscript from a prominent German publishing family who had obtained the work in 1820. According to the Associated Press, the manuscript was hidden during World War II by one of the members of the Brockhaus family, and transported out of bomb-torn Leipzig in 1945 in secret by an American military vehicle. A full and uncensored version was finally published in France in 1960.
The original manuscript of the work, The Story of My Life, has never been available for viewing by the general public, but the BNF told the Guardian it was planning to organize an exhibit and digitize the work for consultation on its online library Gallica. An elderly Casanova recounts his travels and affairs with over 100 women-- a fact that's not particularly surprising when you consider that 18th century European literature is often replete with erotic narratives and bawdy humor.
Image: Portrait of Giacomo Casanova made about 1750-1755 by his brother Francesco Casanova. Public domain.