De mentha pusilla per Petrum Bembum. Priapus loquitur. [?Spain, c. 1550].
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Manuscript on paper. Folio. 305 x 205mm. 2 pages.
The erotic poem Priapus of Pietro Bembo is often found in collections of the Carmina. It was inspired by the classical Priapic poems written in honour of Priapus, the god of fertility, which are notable for their obscenity, and is written very much in the same vein. This folio comes from Phillipps manuscript 4135, a volume which contained 32 items which were mostly written by Juan Paez de Castro (c. 1515-1570). Our leaf is in his hand (see: Dieter Harlfinger, Die Textsgeschichte der pseudo-Aristotelischer Schrift, Amsterdam, 1971, p. 415, for an example of Paez de Castro's writing). Paez de Castro, a renowned Spanish humanist, was the first to suggest to Philip II that he establish a library to rival the best collections found in France and Italy. He was appointed by Francisco de Mendez as a librarian to advise on the aquisition of Greek and Latin manuscripts and newly printed texts of classical authors. He visited many libraries and booksellers in Venice and Rome in search of manuscripts, and also travelled to Padua where he visited the house of Pietro Bembo and studied several manuscripts. It was here that he is likely to have come across Bembo's neo-Latin poems from which the Priapus is extracted. The poem first appeared in print in 1552, in a collection of Bembo's neo-Latin Carmina, but there are several differences between this manuscript version and the printed edition. This suggests that the manuscript was not copied from the printed edition and it is perhaps more likely that Paez de Castro used one of the many manuscript versions which were circulating earlier. Provenance: From the collection of Don Simon de Santander San Juan (d. 1792), secretary of King of Spain; bequeathed to his son the bibliographer Carlos Antonio de de Santander, and acquired by Sir Thomas Phillipps.
Stock Code: 44907