An extremely rare, first-edition copy of a 17th-century literary work by one of the world’s most fascinating female writers has found a home at Arizona State University.
The writer is Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (circa 1651-1695), the premiere poet of the Americas, a celebrity in her day and now considered an early feminist, who joined a convent in order to devote her life to the study of science, philosophy, writing and art.
The book, or booklet, is “Neptuno alegórico,” an essay commissioned by the archbishop of New Spain, or Mexico, in 1680, documenting the arrival of the new Spanish viceroy.
Just two known original copies exist.
“This is a rare ephemeral document that is now the anchor of our colonial Latin American collection at ASU Library,” said Seonaid Valiant, curator for Latin American studies at the ASU Library. “The piece is well-known, often included in collections of Sor Juana’s writing, and lets us study a unique style of printing.”
Valiant, who facilitated the acquisition, is working to grow the Latin American collection at ASU Library, which was established in the 1970s to support faculty and graduate students doing work in this period.
“These earlier books are harder to find, but it is important to have them at hand in order to study the content as well as the history of the book,” she said.
University Librarian Jim O’Donnell, a classics professor in ASU’s School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, said Sor Juana’s “Neptuno” is “so rare, so special, so fascinating … it’s the kind of library acquisition that gives its readers gooseflesh.”