Le Sacre Muse, Compositioni varie in lode del molto Rev. P. Maestro Gaspare Pagni romano Eremita Agostiniano & Predicatore in Santa Eufemia di Verona
Verona, Bartolomeo Merlo, 1614
FIRST EDITION small 4to. 12 unnumbered ll., A8 B4. Roman and Italic letter, beautiful four- to seven-lines woodcut foliated initials, traces of antique manuscript pagination on edges; very light water stain to some upper outer corners. A very good copy in near contemporary golden paper wrappers, almost uncut. Only early edition of a very rare collection of celebratory poems, we could trace no copies in the catalogues of the main Libraries. The work, presumably printed on the occasion of a pastoral visitation, is introduced by a dedication from the Augustinian friar Theobaldo Marano to Giovanni Battista d’Aste (‘d’Asti’?), general of the Augustinian order (‘Religio’). Marano much praises Aste for sending the ‘venerable master’ friar Gasparo Pagni, or ‘Panni’, as a preacher to the church of S. Eufemia in Verona; he enthusiastically celebrates the virtues of the friar, who is said to give memorable sermons and lectures. All the community wants to express sincere gratitude to Pagni, and many lyrics have been composed for him, but Marano collected only the best ones in order to make them ‘eternal through printing’ (‘fatte eterne col mez[z]o delle stampe’). According to the literary conventions of the time, these poems are short and enriched with puns and rhetoric figures, in order to portray the subject as an almost mythical character: his words are compared to holy flames, milk and ambrosia, he makes the sea of sin less frightful, because in his preaching he is accompanied by flights of angels. Frequent references are made to the figures of classical Greek mythology and in particular to the Muses: his birth was greeted by favorable Planets’ alignment, so that Clio, the Parnassus, Fame, Honour and Victory became his masters and guides. Marano includes also a short wordplay: Panni (‘cloth, clothes’ in Italian) saves the souls from the devil hiding them under his cloth, i.e. with himself. The final leaves show several compositions signed by people particularly devoted to the friar, with special mises-en-page relating to physical commemorative plaques. The present collection, is to be placed into the literary genre of the ‘Sacre Muse’, ephemeral devotional compositions popular in Italy during the 16th and 17th Centuries. The prior general of the Augustinian order, Giovanni Battista d’Aste, can be probably connected to the Buzi Ceva d’Aste family, whose archives relating to the years 1611-1761 are currently kept by the State Archives of Rome.
Italian State Archives, Sistema Informativo degli Archivi di Stato, archivi-sias.it. Not in BM STC It. C17th. S. Ussia,’Le muse sacre: poesia religiosa dei secoli XVI e XVIII’, Novara, Marazza, 1999.