PALAFOX Y MENDOZA, Juan de. El Pastor de noche buena.

[Mexico], [por la viuda de Bernardo Calderon], [1644]


FIRST EDITION? 8vo. ff. (xxv) 139 (iv). Roman letter, little Italic. Very slight marginal foxing to a few ll., clean tear just touching printing along gutter of N3 and at foot of N6. A good, fresh copy in contemporary Mexican limp vellum, yapp edges, two of four ties, title and shelfmark ‘N.2’ inked to spine, a.e.r.

A fresh, clean copy, in a contemporary Mexican binding, of (probably) the first edition of this influential mystical work, produced by the important printing press of Paula de Benavides, widow of Bernardo Calderón. By 1644, Juan de Palafox y Mendoza (1600-58) had been Bishop of Puebla de los Angeles for 4 years, whilst also occupying the offices of Archbishop of Mexico (1640-2) and Viceroy of New Spain (1642). He was keen on promoting scholarly and spiritual education, as he founded monasteries and schools, and, in 1646, the Biblioteca Palafoxiana, the first public library in the Americas. Indeed, ‘El Pastor’ was intended for the use of the nuns in Puebla, as a finely written ‘brief manual on how to practice virtue and how to easily recognise vice’. Written at Christmas 1643—the ‘Noche Buena’—it presents a ‘pastor’ (Palafox) meditating on the mystery of Christ’s birth, suspended between literature, allegory and mysticism. An angel appears to him and leads him through an allegorical journey in the castles of Deceit and Disillusion, during which he encounters theological personifications and reflects on appearance and reality. The manual, Palafox explains, served to enhance the spiritual education of the nuns, so that, ‘inside the cloisters, they may serve God with gentleness, follow him with purity and love him with finesse’. This edition includes a dedication to Queen Isabel of Bourbon, and the ‘imprimatur’ of two bishops of the Americas.

The bibliography of the work’s early editions is foggy. Whilst Palau (n.209.629) mentions only a ‘dubious’ Barcelona edition of 1644, Medina puts the first, and only, 1644 edition in Mexico; however he could not confirm if it was printed in Puebla or Ciudad de México, as the copy did not have a t-p or imprint. The edition he saw was thus not ours, which bears the Viuda’s imprint. Therefore, two editions were probably printed in Mexico in 1644, of which priority has not been established. The layout of the earliest Spanish editions, e.g., Madrid 1645 and Valencia 1646/48, reprised closely that of the Viuda’s, as ‘all [European] editions followed as their model the one approved by the Venerable Bishop’ (Bib. Novohisp., I, 576).

The ‘Viuda’ Paula de Benavides took over the business upon the death of her husband, Bernardo Calderón. Between 1640 and 1684, she ran one of the most successful printing workshops and bookshops in Ciudad de México. In 1640-1, she regained the privilege, once granted to her husband, of printing very remunerative schoolbooks and dictionaries.

Only UCLA, JCB and Illinois copies recorded in the US.Sabin 58300; Simon 3762; Iberian Books 51680; Medina, México, 586: ‘No podría asegurar si esta edición es de Puebla o si salió de las prensas de México.’ Not in Palau. A.C. Montiel Ontiveros et al., ‘Paula de Benavides: impresora del siglo XVII’, Contrib. d. Coatpec 10 (2006), 103-15;
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