Floresta de Varia Poesia. Valencia: Juan Navarro, 19 December 1562.
8vo (142 x 87 mm). Collation: a-z8 [et]8 [con]8 [orum]8.  pp. Semi-gothic types. 3 parts, each with its own title bearing a woodcut coat of arms of the dedicatee: arms of the Duke of Segorbe y Cardona on first title, of the Prince of Mélito on g1r (framed by 2 vertical borderpieces and repeated small manicules), and of Doña Leonor Guálvez on n1r; ten large woodcut illustrations, including a portrait of the author; 7 large historiated initials, numerous smaller initials, a tailpiece ornament. Discreetly repaired repairs to title and second leaf, mainly at gutter but slightly affecting a few letters, second leaf (a2) extended and probably supplied from another copy; lightly washed, occasional residual minor staining, trimmed close, shaved headlines on r1-2 & r8. Late 19th-century gold-tooled red morocco, turn-ins gilt, gilt edges, by [Antonio] Menard; folding cloth case. Provenance: contemporary marginal marks highlighting passages; censors’? paraphs at end; Kenneth Rapoport, bookplate and inserted bookseller’s description (from HS Rare Books).***
First Edition, and the only one until the 20th century, of a Golden Age collection of Castilian lyric poetry, illustrated with woodcuts and including works by two female poets, one of whom is otherwise unknown. A “work of very great literary quality” (Martinez Hernandez), the book is notoriously rare.
Little is known of Diego Ramirez Pagán beyond what he divulged in this work. A native of Murcia, he became a priest in 1544 and spent the rest of his life in Valencia, where he served as chaplain to the dukes of Segorbe. His last published poem appeared in 1564. As well as his own verses, the Floresta includes madrigals, sonnets and elegies by his friends and acquaintances. The first part contains various laudatory verses, including an elegy on the death of Emperor Charles V. The second part, which is illustrated with woodcuts, is devoted to religious poetry, notably a long poem by Ramirez Pagan on the Carthusian Martyrs of London (Encomio en la passion y glorioso martyrio que padescieron los Cartuxos de la Anunciada de Londres), and a curious versified sermon for the festival of St. Thomas of Canterbury. Notwithstanding his clerical state, the third and longest part is purely secular and largely consists of Petrarchan love poetry. In his dedicatory epistles, Ramirez Pagán defensively dismisses these love poems as works of his youth, but a modern scholar (Fucilla) has traced many of the sources to various Italian miscellanies first published from 1545 to 1558, indicating that they could not have been composed before that period. In a note to the reader (fol. n5), Ramirez Pagán promises a second volume, to contain, among other things, a description of the earthquake in Murcia, but it was never published.
The collecting in one volume of one’s own poetry, both devotional and profane, was still unusual in Spain. Ramirez Pagán may have been inspired by Italian collections, or by the example of the celebrated Jorge de Montemayor, who had published such a collection eight years earlier (Las obras ... Antwerp 1554). Had he not been so moved, most of Ramirez Pagán’s poems would have remained unknown, and others wrongly attributed, as they appeared infrequently in manuscript collections, and when they did they were assigned to other poets (this is alluded to by Ramirez Pagán himself in a note preceding his most famous sonnet, “Dardanio con el cuento di un cayado,” which he says has had “many stepfathers who have not treated it well” [q3r]).
Among his own verses Ramirez Pagán interspersed short poems by his friends and acquaintances, including Jorge de Montemayor himself (d. 1561), Antonio de Padilla, Sancho de Londoño, and others. He includes a poem by the female poet Isabel de Vega (fol. q2r). Responding to a poem of homage from Ramirez (writing under his pastoral name Dardanio), she tells him to give his praise to one Marfira, the most frequent recipient of his love sonnets (others are written to Belisa, Flora, Ribera and Amarante), who is also mentioned by some of the other contributors to the collection. While female Castilian poets were exceedingly rarely published at this time, Isabel de Vega was known at court. More unusual is the appearance in the collection of five sonnets by Marfira herself, four of which are responses to sonnets from Ramirez Pagán, and the last a request for another copy of a sonnet from him which she had lost (fols. q5v, q6r, q6v, q7v, and t1v). These five sonnets, by an otherwise unidentified Castilian woman, are so passionately direct and out of keeping with the then customary tone of flowery periphrase, that scholars have concluded that they are genuine, especially since Marfira is referred to in several pieces by other contributors, and nowhere in the volume does Ramirez Pagán take on the voice of another (cf. Baranda, passim).
This book, “one of the rarest that exist in Spanish poetic literature” (Salvà), appears infrequently on the market. Iberian Books locates 11 institutional copies, of which two in the US (Houghton and Hispanic Society).
Palau 247148; IB (Wilkinson, Iberian Books) 15531; CCPB (Catálogo Colectivo del Patrimonia Bibliografico Español) CCPB000331438-3; USTC 341270; Gallardo, Ensayo de una biblioteca española de libros raros y curiosos (1853-66) 3573; Salva y Mallen, Catalogo de la biblioteca de Salva (1872), no. 339 (vol. I, pp. 152-153); Catalogue de la Bibliotheque de M. Ricardo Heredia (1891-94) 1655. Cf. S. Martino Hernandez, entry in the Diccionario Biográfico [Español] electrónico; J. Fucilla, Estudios sobre el petrarquismo en España (1960), 53-67; N. Baranda, “La Marfira de Ramírez Pagan: ¿Otra mujer poeta del siglo XVI?” Actas del XIII Congreso de la Asociación Internacional de Hispanistas (Madrid July 1998; published 2000), I: 272-281 (online); A. Ricco. “Natura insolita nella Floresta de varia Poesía (1562) di Diego Ramírez Pagán,” Dicenda. Cuadernos de Filología Hispánica (2008), vol. 26, 219-234 (online). Item #4208
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