Giacomo Girolamo Casanova
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The History of Casanova's Manuscripts at Dux
by Marco Leeflang

Note: This article was originally published in French as "L'histoire de l'héritage manuscrit casanovien de Dux," Le Dossier de Dux (Utrecht: Marco Leeflang, 1998), 23-28.  Some revisions to the original article have been made in this English version.  Reproduced by permission of the author.  

1800.  Baron Maximilian Josef von Linden, who from 1794 lived in the same corridor of the Waldstein Palace as Casanova, wrote his Collected Writings on Physics, Mechanics, and Chemistry, or Selected Excerpts from my Journals [Gesammelte Schriften physich-technisch-chemischen Inhalts, als eine Fortsetzung der Auszüge aus meinen Tagebüchern] (Prague, 1801). On page 11ss Linden speaks of Casanova and his works:

    The library was under the supervision of Herr Jacob Casanuova, a Venetian, and the brother of the two famous artists, the great battle-painter Franz Casanuova of Vienna, and of the famous Academy director Joseph [sic; he means Giovanni] Casanuova of Dresden, who died a few years ago.

    This man, who in his seventy-third year bubbled over with wit and humor as much as he did in his thirtieth, had already distinguished himself in his youth by his flight from the infamous state prisons beneath the Lead roofs, which no one before or since had succeeded in doing, and which he wrote up himself in a small volume.  In addition, his excellent translation of the Iliad, his Refutation of Amelot de la Houssaie, which finally procured him his reconciliation with his country, his Icosameron and twenty other volumes in French and his mother tongue, have earned him so enviable a reputation in the learned world that it could never occur to me to deliver a eulogy of him here.

    I have had the opportunity of reading a number of still unprinted works from the hand of this inexhaustible genius, who was accustomed to spending nine hours every day at his desk, and the most remarkable of these are his memoirs which fill seventeen volumes.  They are a collection of the most unusual observations and anecdotes that a philosophic head like his could draw in such unparalleled circumstances.  The acquaintance which he made with the outstanding men of all classes that he met during his forty years of travel and sojourn in Constantinople, in France, in Italy, in Switzerland, in Holland, England, Germany, Poland and Russia, and the great variety of adventures that were his lot in these countries, aside from the many unusual reports of several singular famous and infamous characters, would make these volumes not only one of the most interesting and readable books ever written, but they might also serve as a dependable guide for young travelers who would thus be warned of the dangers into which frivolity and opportunity may draw them, if he had been able to carry through his plans to completion and have veiled the too frequent cynical passages.  Death unfortunately claimed him June 4, 1798, after he had been my daily and dearest companion, before he had scarcely begun his retouching.  Peace be to his ashes! [This translation by S. Guy Endore, Casanova: His Known and Unknown Life, 354-355.  The excerpt was also republished in the original German by Gustav Gugitz in Giacomo Casanova und sein Lebensroman (Vienna/Prague/Leipzig: Strache Verlag, 1921), 358.]

1820s.  To the Schütz edition of 1822-1828 (vol. 12, 438-537) and the Laforgue edition of 1826-1838 (vol. 12, 421-466), Brockhaus appended Casanova's 21 Lettres écrites au Sr. Faulkircher.  These letters were apparently copied from originals among Casanova's manuscripts at Dux.  Jean Laforgue, the professor of French at the College of Nobles in Dresden, whom Brockhaus hired to prepare the French edition of 1826-1828, consulted the manuscripts at Dux and is probably the Brockhaus agent who copied the Lettres écrites au Sr. Faulkircher.  In Vol. 12 to his edition, Laforgue discussed his researches at Dux (380):

    [W]e have found therein [in two large packets of papers] only fragments on a thousand different subjects, without additional details and without importance as regards the biography of our hero. [This translation by Childs, Casanoviana, 136.]

1860s.  Gustave Kahn visited Dux in the 1860s and made transcripts of several manuscripts.  Casanova's play "La Polemoscope" was later published in a journal directed by Kahn, La Vogue.

1868.  Armand Baschet, who in 1867, had conducted research at Venice which resulted in a series of articles, "Curious Proofs of the Authenticity of the Memoirs of Casanova" ["Preuves curieuses de l'authenticité des Mémoires de Casanova"] (Le Livre, January-May 1881), had asked Prince Edmond Clary of Teplice to inquire at Dux about the condition of the Casanova manuscripts.  In a letter dated 11 August 1869, Prince Clary replied:

    They opened for me a great drawer filled with manuscripts of Casanova and with letters received by him, but all this is in an inexpressible disorder.  The first manuscript I put my hands on was dedicated to my grandmother Clary (née Ligne) and contained some "reflections on the French Revolution."  I remained two hours in that library, and I went through the entire contents of the drawer, superficially, of course.  The letters are surely of great interest, but I hadn't the time to read many of them.  I then went looking for a conclusion to the Memoirs (I didn't find anything), and I tried to acquaint myself with all the works of the author.  The sheets from different notebooks were so mixed up that it was very difficult to put them in order.  There is a bunch of loose sheets, of rough drafts, and extracts.  In terms of larger works, I found many manuscripts which relate to a book that must have been printed, the Icosameron, then one called Dream: God and Me [Rêve: Dieu et Moi].  It's a conversation between Casanova and God on religious subjects.  "An Essay on Matter, Created or Not Created" [Un Essai sur la matière créée ou non créée]. A History of My Existence [Une histoire de mon existence], which is not so much a journal but rather one of his favorite excursions into metaphysics and philosophy.  In terms of historical works, there are many on the history of Poland.  There is a detailed catalogue of the library, as well as many poems, dramatic works, etc., including a tragi-comedy in three acts entitled The Polemoscope, which is also dedicated to my grandmother.  That's all I can tell you for the moment about my first research. [This letter published by Armand Baschet, "Preuves curieuses de l'authenticité des Mémoires de Jacques Casanova de Seingalt d'après des recherches en diverses archives," Le Livre (May 1881), 145.  Translated here from the French by Tom Vitelli.]

The same year, 1868, Alfred Meissner and Lucian Herbert (pseudonym of Julius Gundling) were among the thousands of visitors to the palace of Dux and had obtained permission to consult the papers of Casanova.  Anton Schindler, then 65 years old and with a beard white as snow, had already spent fifty years in the service of the Waldstein family.  This guardian of the Casanova manuscripts, who spoke only German, brought them pieces of paper without any semblance of order.

    I was startled by the enormity of the densely scripted pages and by the confused and disorderly manner in which it all appeared.  It lay as a jumbled mess, bewildering me, as I discovered that in the seventy years since Casanova's death no one had even attempted to at least superficially organize or approach this interesting collection. [Lucian Herbert (nom de plume of Julius Gundling), "Introduction," Casanova, Chevalier von Seingalt, Vol. 1 ( Jena: Hermann Costenoble, 1874), 59.  Translated here from the German by William Sargent.]

1872.  Julius Gundling published a novel entitled Casanova, Chevalier von Seingalt.  In the introduction, Gundling related that four years after his first visit, he returned to Dux in 1872 to study the Casanova manuscripts more carefully.  After 15 days of work he put the collection in a certain order.  And from this day on, the old curator Schindler could show the Casanova collection divided into several principal sections: "important and very interesting"; "historical"; "mathematical, philological, philosophical, and theological"; "correspondence"; "polemical"; "miscellaneous"; and "dramatical."  

    The only wish the old man had was that I would put the manuscript in some kind of order. "If only the French and the Italian could be kept separate!" he always said naively.  I promised him that that separation would be undertaken in general, however, I made him aware, that, such sorting would be impossible without tearing apart that which belonged together.  That saddened him, although it seemed to make sense to him. He would have liked to have it all separately arranged in French, Italian, and of course in Latin (to suit his simple thinking), since a German separation could not be created for the simple reason that, except for in one instance, not a single German word could be found in the collection.

    Then he also wanted an additional division that he could show others who would be asking about Casanova.  And, as I arranged for him a separate section with the heading of "Less Important" into which I compiled duplicates, essays which existed in duplicate and triplicate, paper snippings, poetry drafts, petty polemics, etc.—he beamed for joy, and as he carried the packet away, he said, "This I will show those strangers who will want to see something about Casanova."
    And when, after fourteen days of having viewed all of it, I told him to hold in readiness some dozen sheets of paper and twine, since I wanted to sort out a series of divisions for him so the matter would not again become such a blinding confusion—a filing arrangement that would bring together various heterogeneous themes, and prevent pages that belonged together from falling apart—for which he was also grateful.

    And so I created for him divisions with such headings as "Important" and "Highly Interesting" (in which the gems, the most interesting letters and documents, and numerous notes were contained); "Historical" (essays regarding Poland); "Mathematical"; "Philosophical"; "Philosophic Theology" (debates between a theologian and a philosopher, a work that Mikowetz mentions, as unpublished, under the title Essai de philosophie et de critique—this Casanova manuscript having no title); "Correspondence"; "Polemics"; "Varia"; and "Dramatics."  [Lucian Herbert (the nom de plume of Julius Gundling), "Introduction," Casanova, Chevalier von Seingalt, Vol. 1 ( Jena: Hermann Costenoble, 1874), 63.  Translated here from the German by William Sargent.]

1883.  Octave Uzanne, editor of the review of world literature, Le Livre, who had previously published the Curious Proofs of Armand Baschet, tried to obtain copies of the entire collection of Casanova manuscripts. 

    We have therefore pursued the goal for more than four years of making a complete copy of these papers, which are so interesting and diversely titled, in order to publish them in this review. Today, thanks to the efforts of an erudite Italian, Professor d'Ancona of Pisa, whom we knew in Venice in 1880 and with whom we visited the celebrated Leads, we have been able to obtain copies, at Dux, of all the French manuscripts of Casanova, leaving to our colleague, Mr. Alessandro d'Ancona, the papers in Italian which were for us of secondary importance. [Ed. see Antonio Ive

    These papers constitute 12 or 15 rather voluminous dossiers which, little by little, we are beginning to put in order.  Among them are numerous letters from the Prince de Ligne, some philosophical reflections, some "Casanoviana," some notes in the form of a journal, some dialogues, and some miscellaneous writings of great interest. [Armand Baschet, "Preuves curieuses de l'authenticité des Mémoires de Jacques Casanova de Seingalt d'après des recherches en diverses archives," Le Livre (January 1881), 34.  Translated here from the French by Tom Vitelli.]

In fact, it was probably Alessandro d'Ancona who organized this great work. He had obtained permission from Count Georg von Waldstein to transcribe (by hand) anything he wanted. It was d'Ancona's assistant, Dr. Antonio Ive (Istrian), who did the transcription work, not only at Dux, but also in Italy. Two letters from Ive dated 1883 were accidentally included among the Casanova papers at Dux (Marr 37-13 and 14).  They were addressed to Anton Schindler, now age 82, who still looked after the papers.  In the letters, Ive wrote he was returning the dialogues of Casanova, and he asked Schindler to send him the letters of Zaguri and Stratico.  Ottman was undoubtedly misinformed when he wrote:

    Unfortunately the laborious work of copying and editing was all in vain, since Antonio Ive, along with the collected material, disappeared without a trace. [Victor Ottman, Jakob Casanova von Seingalt: Sein Leben und seine Werke (Stuttgart: 1900), 128.  Translated here from the German by William Sargent.]

The practice of lending the original manuscripts continued at least until about 1922, when Marr noted it was impossible to copy a letter (Marr 4-47) at Dux, this letter "having been borrowed by Raoul Vèze."  Later, the letter was apparently returned to the archives, since it is there today, but Marr never did copy it.

It seems Uzanne also borrowed documents for his publications in Le Livre.  Most of the letters published by Uzanne were returned, but the originals of several letters from the Prince de Ligne which Uzanne published have never been found.  However, it is very unlikely Uzanne ever bought any of Casanova's original manuscripts as Salomon Reinach alleges:  

    The manuscript of the Memoirs, with the conclusion missing, was acquired at the beginning of the nineteenth century by the Brockhaus firm of Leipzig, which has never yet authorized the publication of the complete manuscript.  Other papers of Casanova were bought around 1887 by Mr. Uzanne (cf. Le Livre, 1881 and 1889; Revue historique, tome 41).  The remaining manuscripts have been catalogued by Mr. Mahler with the consent of the current librarian of the palace. [Salomon Reinach, introduction to A. Mahler's Catalogue des Manuscrits de Casanova conservés au château de Dux en Bohème (1904) par A. Mahler (Paris: Librairie Émile Bouillon, éditeur, 1905), 5.  Translated here from the German by William Sargent.]

There are indications that, before the time of the curator Schindler, the staff of the palace was less scrupulous in caring for the collection.  For example, Alfred Meissner published an article entitled "From the Papers of My Grandfather" in Die Presse (20 April 1871), in which he wrote his grandfather knew many people who had purchased Casanova autographs:

    The present one [Schindler] may be an honest man, but then all his predecessors were not like him, for I have known persons to buy up divers sheets, when visiting the Dux library, the be kept by them as an autograph.  Other writings (amongst which there is a volume of the inedited memoirs) are, I am told, in the possession of the lord of the manor, who keeps them carefully locked up. [Cited and translated by H. Tiedeman in Notes and Queries, 4th Series, VIII, 26 August 1871, p. 170.]

1895.  After the death of Georg von Waldstein, whose will was contested, the Fideicommission of 1895 made an inventory of the Casanova collection (including the letters from Ive), which consisted of "39 bundles [fascicules]." [Note: the English word "fascicle" or its alternate spelling "fascicule," like the French "fascicule," means a "small bundle" or the divisions of a book.  Henceforth the word "fascicule" will be used in this English translation.]

1899.  The Englishman Arthur Symons visited Dux in 1899 and found "six huge cardboard cases" containing Casanova's manuscripts.  In September of the same year he visited the Brockhaus firm in Leipzig and was allowed to examine the manuscript of the memoirs.  Symons first wrote of the "six huge cardboard cases" in which the Casanova collection (comprising 37 fascicules) was contained.

1904.  Professor A. Mahler of Prague was invited by the current librarian to examine the papers of Casanova.  Mahler published in 1905 his Catalogue of the Manuscripts of Casanova Kept at the Palace of Dux in Bohemia [Catalogue des Manuscrits de Casanova conservés au château de Dux en Bohême], more detailed than the catalogue made in 1895 but still very elementary.  Mahler's catalogue omits Fascicule 39 containing four manuscripts totally unrelated to Casanova, but it nevertheless retained Fascicules 37 and 38, which might have been omitted for the same reason.

Like Symons, Mahler also wrote of the "six volumes" containing the manuscripts.  These six volumes or boxes have today disappeared, except one, of which the spine has been preserved at the archives in Prague.  The photograph [published in Le Dossier de Dux, 26] shows these manuscript boxes arranged on top of bookshelves in the center of the Dux palace library.

1908.  Pompeo Molmenti visited in 1908 and subsequently published two volumes of Casanova's correspondence.

1913-1915.  On November 9, 1913, Bernhard Marr completed his precise and detailed catalogue, which reflected Mahler's organization of 38 fascicules.  In 1915, Marr added Fascicule 39 in which he included six documents that had in the meantime been discovered in the "little library" of the Waldstein family.  Later still, Marr decided to create another category, Fascicule 40, to include copies of Casanova documents found outside the Dux collection.

1930.  About 1930, Professor Bohatta prepared a table concerning the subjects in the Casanova collection.  This only exists in manuscript, in Gothic German handwriting, kept in the archives at Prague.

1920. The Dux palace was sold to the Czechoslovakian state in 1920, and its contents, including the Casanova collection, were transferred to other palaces of the Waldstein family.  The library of Dux and the manuscripts of the Casanova collection were transferred to Mnichovo Hradište, where the Casanova collection was carefully maintained by the archivist, Dr. Vladimir Budil.  In 1981 a burglar missed stealing the Casanova collection by only a few centimeters.  Two boxes containing Waldstein papers were stolen by an archivist at another site, but the papers relative to Casanova survived.

1998. Today, the library is under the control of the Ministry of Culture, and the archives are under the control of the Ministry of the Interior.  The Ministry of the Interior has decided in the meantime to assemble all its collections in a big building that resembles a fairytale castle, just outside of Prague.

Scholars can now find the papers of Casanova at Horská 7 in Prague.  Unfortunately, a 1997 edict limits the sale of photocopies and monopolizes the study of Casanova at Prague by refusing to cooperate in the formation of a collection of copies.  The atmosphere for such an edict was prepared by the spread of an false rumor that a Swiss Casanovist had earned "thousands of dollars by selling photocopies of the manuscripts."

But at the Casanova Center and Museum of Dux scholars can consult the "ghost collection" of Casanova's papers—in the form of the Marr catalogue and transcripts—without such limitations.

Here is the text of the edict limiting the sale of photocopies:

Rules for Providing Reproductions of Graphic Materials to Individuals
By the State Archives of the Czech Republic

All types of copies are provided exclusively from archival materials which the requestor is studying or needs for his work (e.g., a document, material covered by the Folio Act, a folio of a handwritten manuscript, or a map, etc.) in the maximum amount of 100 copies (or microfilm images, electrographic copies of Format A4 or A3 or others) from a specific collection.  After obtaining this number of copies from one collection, the researcher may not obtain additional copies.  Electrographic copies of handwritten manuscripts or bound groups of archival materials whose physical condition does not allow handling are not available.  Some exceptions may be made when special technologies can be applied.

 Only the director of a specific archive can give permission for the making of more than 100 copies from a specific archive collection for the official use of an institution having its permanent location in the Czech Republic. [Document Cj. AS/1-2025/97 of the Ministry of the Interior (about July 1997).  Translated here from the Czech by Zdenka Quinn.]

Finally, some dry comments on the citation format for referencing the Casanova archives.

Marr himself used numerals and letters and preceded each entry with the letter "U" for Umschlag ("sleeve" or "file folder").  Today Casanovists have replaced the "U" with "Marr" in honor of this great Casanovist.  (Thus "Marr 13G1" means: Casanova Archives (at Prague), Fascicule 13, Collection G, Number 1.  "Marr 2-1" means Casanova Archives, Fascicule 2, Number 1).

The Czech archivist who microfilmed the entire collection marked a consecutive number on each manuscript page in pencil in the lower left-hand corner.  When the roll of film was full, the archivist began the new roll again with Number 1.  Since the entire collection consists of six rolls of microfilm, each beginning with a page marked "1," these penciled numbers are not unique to a specific manuscript page.  "Page 1" appears six times.  By contrast, the numbers assigned by Marr are unique, and this is another reason for using his system.

Here is the division of the microfilm rolls:
Roll 1  1250 photos  Marr 1 through Marr 3
Roll 2  1455 photos  Marr 4 through Marr 8
Roll 3  1200 photos  Marr 9 through Marr 13F
Roll 4  1150 photos  Marr 13G through Marr 16D
Roll 5  1200 photos  Marr 16E through Marr 20
Roll 6  About 900 photos Marr 21 through Marr 39

This pencil numeration by the Czech archivist had not been implemented when Childs requested and received his microfilms beginning about 1955.  Therefore these penciled numbers don't appear on the microfilms kept in the Special Collections Department at the library of the University of Virginia at Charlottesville.

Childs, unfortunately, was not acquainted with the Marr catalogue.  He cut up the microfilm rolls used in his publications and put them, all mixed up, in "Hershey's" chocolate box.  At the invitation of Childs, Marco Leeflang visited the University of Virginia in 1981 and organized Childs's microfilms according to the Marr catalogue.  He also brought together the rolls that had not been cut up.  These microfilmed documents are referenced in the Duxionnaire with the designation UVa (University of Virginia).

In Venice, at the Fondazione Cini, scholars can access a more recent microfilm of some of the Casanova manuscripts, these with the penciled numbers of the Czech archivist.  But whoever made these microfilms did so poorly: many rolls are completely black and illegible.  It seems still another set of microfilms exists in Paris.

Source:

  • http://www.dickinson.edu/~emery/History.htm


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Created: Friday, January 05, 2007; Last updated: Friday, December 18, 2015
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