PARIS - The manuscript given to France’s national library yesterday begins simply, yet seductively: “The story of Jacques Casanova . . . written by himself.’’
“Himself’’ is the 18th century lothario, spy, writer, and adventurer whose name has become an international synonym for lover. And the original, $9.5 million manuscript contains Casanova’s memoirs, a work that shocked publishers two centuries ago, was spirited away from the Nazis on a bicycle during World War II, and is soon to go on public view for the first time on Paris’s Left Bank.
Giovanni Giacomo Casanova, born in Venice in 1725, wrote the 3,700 pages of memoirs between 1789 and 1798, the year of his death. He bequeathed them to his nephew.
Titled “The Story of My Life,’’ the memoirs depict the manners of the Age of Enlightenment as well as Casanova’s personal adventures, sexual and otherwise.
Just a few pages were on display at the French Culture Ministry yesterday, included the opening page, a technical description of his parents and his background. Some of the writing - all in French - is blotched, with words scratched out.
French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterand said it “contains an essential part of our history.’’ The manuscript will go on public display at the French National Library in Paris next year, and a digital copy will be available on the library’s nascent online book site, Gallica.
The memoirs are the centerpiece of a collection of Casanova material donated to the library, the largest collection the library has ever received.