Wednesday, 31 March 2010

A book full of surprises

Purchasing second hand books over the internet can provide both positive and negative surprises, as I have mentioned before.

I recently bought a copy of the 1961 French anthology Roger Vadim présente: Histoires de Vampires based on the original Italian Vampiri tra noi compiled by Ornella Volta and Valerio Riva from 1960. The French edition comprises 593 pages, whereas the 1963 English edition omits a lot of the contents ending up at only 286 pages. Anyway, the copy I bought turned out to contain numerous surprises as a previous owner had put a number of cuts from papers and magazines in it, mostly just pictures that the owner must have found appropriate to this book. Certainly, a charming idea which adds a personal dimension to a book that includes not one single illustration. And I will, of course, leave them as the previous owner arranged them.

What makes this book particularly interesting is the part on vampirologie which contains excerpts from Calmet, Voltaire's famous text on vampires ('Quoi ! c'est dans notre dix-hitième siècle qu'il y a eu des vampires !'), an excerpt from Caraccioli's biography of pope Benedict XIV as wells as texts by that pope, and van Swieten's remarks on vampires (unfortunately, not in the original French text by in a translation from the Italian translation). The rest of the book anthologizes a number of now well-known vampire short stories by Polidori, Gautier, Doyle etc.

Caraccioli's book on Benedict XIV, La Vie du Pape Benoît XIV Prosper Lambertini, by the way can be found on google books: 'Dans plusieurs villages de Pologne & de Hongrie, imbus de ces fables, on exhumoit fréquemment des cadavres, qu'on soupconnoit Vampires; & c'étoit affez qu'ils parussent avoir le visage enflammé, pour qu'on les mutilât & qu'on outrageât leur mémoire.' The same goes for another book by Caraccioli excerpted in the anthology: Lettres a une illustre morte, décédéé en Pologne depuis peu de tems, which contains a few letters concerning vampires.

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