and the Marketing of Knowledge
In 1650, Anne Bradstreet's brother-in-law published her poetry in London under the title The Tenth Muse, Lately Sprung Up in America. In 1657, the volume was annotated in William London's Catalogue [of] the Most Vendible Books in England… as “Mrs. Bradstreet. The 10. Muse, a Poem. 80.” In 1668, a volume appeared in Mexico City celebrating and commemorating the completion of the cathedral. It included a sonnet of Juana Inés de Asbaje with an epigraph exalting her as “a glorious honor of the Mexican Museum” (“glorioso honor del Mexicano Museo”). In Madrid in 1689, the printer Juan García Infanzón published the first edition of the works of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, describing her on the title page as “the Tenth Muse … who in various meters, languages and styles fertilizes various issues” (“Musa Dézima … Que en varios metros, idiomas, y estilos, fertiliza varios assumptos”). Finally, in 1683, in Oxford, the Ashmolean Museum opened its doors to the public for the first time, charging admission to “peasants and women-folk who gaze at the library as a cow might gaze at a new gate with such noise and trampling of feet that others are much disturbed.”1
My essay begins, against the background of this seventeenth-century compilation of “facts,” to form an intuition and a question. The intuition is: that the category “Tenth Muse” was implicated in the European politics of constructing the “New World” as a museum. After all, institutions of knowledge and history-making, such as the Escorial, the British Museum, the Archivo de las Indias, the archives of the trading companies, “natural” histories and collections of travel narratives, were united by the common “museal” project of ruling new lands and peoples and making them “vendible.”2 The category “Tenth Muse,” then, might provide an important interpretive key to the gender
From Patricia Parker and Margo Hendricks (eds.), Women, 'Race' and Writing in the Early
Modern Period (Routledge, 1994), 195–207. Reprinted with permission.