Thursday, October 14, 2010

Collecting Casanova

I'll never be awarded a prize for healthy living but while I was a Freshman in college, I decided to make aerobic exercise a daily part of my life. Over the years I've jogged, swam, rode a stationary bike and currently, use an elliptical trainer. During my 10 year, or so, tenure of riding a stationary bike, I took advantage of the 40 minutes a day to read some very long books including, Casanova's Memoirs, the Arthur Machen translation, slightly revised and edited by Fredrick A. Blossom and illustrated by Rockwell Kent. I read approximately 20 pages per day. I enjoyed every session for over 160 days, which, if I exclude weekends and holidays, took plus or minus one year to complete. During that time I truly looked forward to reading even though I never looked forward to my exercise routine.

Reading Casanova was a must. I didn't first learn of Casanova via Henry Miller's The Books In My Life, but I did commit to reading Casanova in pursuit of the books that so impacted Miller's intellectual and artistic development. The translation I read was a used three volume Dover paperback edition published in 1961 acquired at the now closed, Avenue Vico Hugo bookstore on Newbury Street in Boston. The Dover edition was based on the 1932 Albert and Charles Boni edition. That edition was based on the 1925 privately printed Aventuros edition with illustrations by Rockwell Kent. The Machen translation, completed in the late 1800's was the basis for most editions of Casanova until the 1961 complete translation by William Trask published by Harcourt, Brace and World. I am lucky to own both the hardcover Trask edition and the wonderful paperback edition released in 1997 by Johns Hopkins University Press (worth it just to have the 6 volume spine illustration visible on my shelves). I've been tempted by the Aventuros edition and other privately printed editions and expect that over time, my Casanova collection will include a number of editions. In a future post I will write about my FAVORITE edition of Casanova. The Franco Maria Ricci, Casanova (Histoire de ma vie): I. La Monaca di Guido Crepax - II. Bettina e La fuga dai Piombi di Beppe Madaudo.

If you are looking for a great place to start, due treat yourself to at least Volumes 1&2 of the Trask paperback.

Collecting Casanova is not easy. It is difficult to locate complete editions of the 1961 Trask edition and it is often confusing to figure out which privately printed edition is worth the effort. However, if you get hooked on Casanova, there is another way to add to your collecting, contemporary biographies and novels based on Casanova's life. A few of my favorites follow.

Casanova in Bolzano
Casanova in Bohemia
Casanova in Love
Casanova The Man Who Really Loved Woman

Casanova: Actor, Lover, Priest, Spy