Madrid: Francisco Laso, 1714-1715. Together 3 vols., small 4to (208 x 146 mm). A few small closed repairs, even toning throughout, in some instances foxed or quite browned as is true in all copies of this edition on account of the paper stock, but the paper is strong; erased inscriptions on the title-pages of each volume; blank margin of top right corner of vol. 1 almost invisibly extended. Bound in 18th-century Spanish mottled calf, refurbished with new lettering piece on vol. 1, and gilt diamond-and-frame rolls added to covers, red edges, marbled pastedowns and endpapers (a few pin-sized wormholes spine and joints, not extending to the text). A very attractive copy in uniform Spanish bindings, suitable for exhibition. Item #3888
EARLY AND COMPLETE SET OF THE WORKS OF THE "TENTH MUSE" OF MEXICO, A FINELY BOUND COPY (RARE THUS). INCLUDES HER "CARTA ATENAGORICA" AND THE POSTHUMOUSLY PUBLISHED "RESPUESTA A SOR FILOTEA," BOTH OF WHICH ARE CONSIDERED TO BE THE FIRST STATEMENTS IN THIS HEMISPHERE TO ARGUE A WOMEN'S RIGHT TO STUDY AND TEACH AND LEARN.
There is no doubt that Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz (1651-1695) remains one of the greatest Mexican authors. Although she never received a formal education, she became a leading literary and intellectual figure in Latin America and Spain. She has been described by modern scholar Arturo Torres-Ríoseco as "the last great lyric poet of Spain and the first great poet of America." More recently she has been described as “America's first feminist” (Julie Greer Johnson). Between 1669 and 1690 Sor Juana built one of the largest libraries in the New World, an immense collection which consisted of approximately 4,000 volumes.
Here in her "Collected Writings" we find autobiographical sonnets, reverential religious poetry, secular love poems (which have continue to inspire readers all over the world for more than three centuries), playful verses, and lyrical tributes to New World culture that are among the earliest writings celebrating the people and the customs of this hemisphere.
Of particular interest is Sor Juana's "La Carta Atenagórica" (1690) which appears in vol. 2 (pp. 1-34). This Athenagoric Letter (or "Letter Worthy of Athena") is one of her most ardently feminist declarations, and it caused serious problems for her with the Inquisition. This letter written by Sor Juana criticizing a well-known Jesuit sermon was published without her permission. This elicited a pseudonomynous response from "Sor Filotea" (actually the Bishop of Puebla, Manuel Fernandez de Santa Cruz) criticizing Juana for her comments, and for the lack of serious religious content in her poems. But there was nothing "sisterly" about the Bishop’s message, which urged Sor Juana to give up writing and devote herself entirely to religion (see vol. 3, pp. 107-113).
Sor Juana replied with the incomparable, autobiographical "Respuesta a Sor Filotea," the celebrated defense of women's right to intellectual freedom and learning (vol. 3, pp. 114-166). The "Respuesta" is a truly remarkable work; in it she gave a complete resumé of her life, character, and literary pursuits; more importantly, she clarified her statements in favor of "the culture of Mexican women" and "the right to dissent." Suffice it to say that Sor Juana displayed an independence of spirit that was completely unprecedented for a woman (to say nothing of a Nun) living in male-dominated 17th century Mexico. As we can expect, Sor Juana's fervent response was the subject of even more criticism, and the Bishop and others demanded that she give up any non-religious books or studies.
In vol. 2 (pp. 171-200) is perhaps Sor Juana's poetic masterpiece, the epistemological poem "Primero Sueno" (First Dream), which explores the limits of self-knowledge, of nature, and of God. In the same volume two important plays appear. The first is her "Amor es más Labyrinto" (1689) reflects on the nature of tyranny and the complications of love, both timeless themes that are particularly timely for today’s audiences, and especially for those eager to celebrate the contributions of women writers throughout history (see pp. 313-373). The second play is "Las Empeños de una Casa," often considered the pinnacle of Sor Juana's theatrical work, and one of the truly great plays written in colonial Latin America. One of its most peculiar characteristics is that the woman is the driving force of the story: she is a strong and determined character who expresses her often frustrated desires. While the play could be classified as a "swashbuckling comedy," Sor Juana explores the complexities of love, specifically: what is the greatest sorrow, and the greatest joy, of a lover? Finally, in the soirée that closes the "Los empeños de una casa," Sor Juana depicts Spaniards, Indians, and blacks all singing together, a veiled criticism of the caste order in New Spain (see pp. 385-449).
¶ Sor Juana was born in the State of Nepantla; as her parents were not married, she was placed in the custody of his maternal grandfather. In 1667 she joined the Order of Discalced Carmelites in Mexico City, where she was free to immerse herself in her intellectual and literary interests; she became a great scholar of literature, philosophy, theology, astronomy, music and painting. She wrote plays, essays and Christmas carols, but is best known for her lyric poetry, ALL OF WHICH ARE INCLUDED HEREIN. Having fallen upon the disapproval of her superiors in both Mexico and Spain, by 1694 she was forced to sell her library, abandon scholarship, and focus on exclusively on charity, which she did. Sor Juana died of typhoid in Mexico City while nursing other nuns who fell victim to the 1695 epidemic.
The high esteem in which Sor Juana was held is reflected in the eighty (!) pages of "Panegíricos" dedicated to her by poets from Spain and the New World (see vol. 3), with sonnets and acrostics written in praise of Sor Juana, various "Decimas" and other poetic compositions contributed by 42 different poets and other luminaries. These tributes were collected by Juan Ignacio de Castorena y Ursúa. Castorena, the rector of the University of Mexico and bishop of Yucatan, was a fervent supporter of Sor Juana. Preceding the "Panegíricos" is an important source for our understanding of Sor Juana's life, namely the narrative of Jesuit priest, Diego Calleja.
Cataloguer's note: The three volumes of Sor Juana's "Collected Works" were independently printed and variously published between 1689 and 1725. In all (according to Abreu Gómez), a total of 19 verified editions were made: nine editions for Vol. I (published between 1689-1725), five for Vol. II (1692-1725), and five for Vol. III (1700-1725). These editions were published in different cities of Spain: ten in Madrid, four in Barcelona, two in Valencia and one each in Seville, Lisbon and Zaragoza.
Complete sets of the "Collected Works" in attractive contemporary bindings are almost never seen on the market.
¶ REFERENCES: Alden & Landis correctly treat each volume as a separate bibliographical entity (see above): for Vol. 1: no. 714/72; Vol. 2: 715/87; Vol. 3: 714/71. Abreu Gómez, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1934) nos. 14, 15, and 13. Medina 2230, 2255, 2231. Literature: "Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. Poems, Protest, and a Dream. Selected Writings," (translated with notes by Margaret Sayers Peden; introduction by Ilan Stavans 1997). See also Julie Greer Johnson, The Book in the Americas (John Carter Brown Library exhibition, 1988). International Dictionary of Women's Biography, p. 249. Octavio Paz, "Sor Juana or, The Traps of Faith" (trans. Margaret Sayers Peden, 1988, p. 64).