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Speculum Humanae Salvationis | Medieval Codex | Mirror of the Salvation of Humanity

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The Speculum Humanae Salvationis or Mirror of the Salvation of Humanity was a successful anonymous illustrated work that dealt with popular theology in the Late Middle Ages. Part of the genre of the encyclopedic literature of the Mirror, it concentrated on the medieval theory of typology, according to which the events of the Old Testament presaged, or predicted, the events of the New Testament. The original version consists of a series of rhyming Latin verses, which narrate events of the New Testament, each of them accompanied by the 3 events of the Old Testament where they were foreshadowed. It is one of the most important books that were found with the illuminated manuscript format.

After a brief prologue, the first two chapters deal in four pages about Creation, the Fall of Satan, the story of Adam and Eve and the Flood. It is followed by forty other double-page chapters comparing a New Testament event with three other Old Testament events, with four images each on a column of text. In general, each chapter occupies two pages. The last three chapters deal with the Seven Stations of the Cross and the Seven Joys and Sorrows of Mary, with twice the length.

The writing of the text follows an exact scheme: thirty-nine lines per column, with two columns per page, one below each model. A preface, probably taken from the original manuscript, informs that the author does not give his name out of humility, although numerous suggestions have been given in this regard. He was almost certainly a cleric, and there is evidence that he was a Dominican. Ludolph de Saxony is the main candidate for authorship of the manuscript, although Vincent de Beauvais is also mentioned.

The manuscript is luxurious and richly decorated, destined for a luxury market. The Speculum is probably the most popular title among works on popular theology illustrated and this particular manuscript, from the National Library of Spain (Vitr / 25/7), is the most beautiful among all.


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