The Book of My Life
by Girolamo Cardano, introduction by Anthony Grafton, translated from the Italian by Jean Stoner
A bright star of the Italian Renaissance, Girolamo Cardano was an internationally-sought-after astrologer, physician, and natural philosopher, a creator of modern algebra, and the inventor of the universal joint. Condemned by the Inquisition to house arrest in his old age, Cardano wrote The Book of My Life, an unvarnished and often outrageous account of his character and conduct. Whether discussing his sex life or his diet, the plots of academic rivals or meetings with supernatural beings, or his deep sorrow when his beloved son was executed for murder, Cardano displays the same unbounded curiosity that made him a scientific pioneer. At once picaresque adventure and campus comedy, curriculum vitae, and last will, The Book of My Life is an extraordinary Renaissance self-portrait—a book to set beside Montaigne’s Essays and Benvenuto Cellini’s Autobiography.
My favorite Renaissance autobiographer is the cranky Girolamo Cardano.
— Michael Dirda, The Washington Post Book World
Cardano's narrative of his own life was his most sustained literary and intellectual achievement. It amounted to a summation of his lifelong effort to understand and explicate his own experiences, and a systematic demonstration of the unique powers of analysis and prediction that he had dedicated his life to developing.
— Anthony Grafton, Cardano's Cosmos
Contrary to popular belief, memoirs weren't invented in the mid—1990s. The genre is, of course, ancient—the Romans and Greeks wrote about their own lives; St. Augustine penned The Confessions, his full-length life story, at the turn of the 5th century. One of my personal favourites amongst the earlier works of autobiography is The Book of My Life, written in Renaissance Italy, by the polymath Girolamo Cardano. Each chapter describes a different aspect of Cardano's life—his career and relationships; his appearance and temperament, not to mention difficulties with his sexual health. A classic of self-examination.
— Eve Claxton, The Guardian