Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Rare books 8: Saint Teresa of Avila



How many Renaissance authors’ complete works have never gone out of print? It is a select group to which Saint Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) belongs. A stylish title page to her Book of the Foundations, i.e. her own account of the establishment of women’s religious houses across Spain in the 16th century (Antwerp, 1630) Notes: Canonised in 1622, Teresa is no longer a person of interest for the Inquisition but permanently established at the writing desk of her own elaborately decorated title page. The quality of the typeface and paper tells the reader that she has arrived in Europe. A commentary on her work Avisos, or Spiritual Letters, by the prolific Jesuit Alonso de Andrade (1590-1672) (Barcelona, 1646). Notes: The record for this two volume set states the date in square brackets [After 1646], but the publisher Tomàs Loriente continues to reprint this same edition right through into the eighteenth century. The book was licensed in that year, but while the colophon or any other giveaway signs are out of reach [After 1646] must suffice. Another stray single volume of a collected works, this one includes Moradas, her great work of the spiritual life commonly translated The Interior Castle (Barcelona, 1680). Notes: the tattered title page has lost its date. Fortunately, someone from the early Imprint Project of Australia and New Zealand left their working card and slip inside. The card confidently dates the work 1680, three hundred years after its publication, also saving me the trouble of counting all 74 of the unpaginated pages of the Index. It records first sight of the book, February 1985, while the acid-free slip testifies to completion of the Project’s own description: “E.I.P. 10.10.85”.

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