Incunabula and the Keio University Library Collection


Vincentius Bellovacensis [Vincent de Beauvais], Speculum naturale ([Strassburg]: [The R-Printer (Adolf Rusch)], [not after 15 June 1476])

Speculum naturale

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The Speculum naturale forms part of the Speculum maius of the 13th-century Dominican friar Vincent de Beauvais, along with the Speculum doctrinale, the Speculum historiale, and the later Speculum morale(cf. IKUL 008, 009, 037). The Naturale contains a summary of the Historiale; in turn, the Historiale contains summaries of the Doctrinale and the Naturale. The Naturale takes as its framework the six days of Creation. First it introduces God, the angels, and the devils, followed by issues related to the first day of Creation, such as colours and light. Treated next are the sky, fire, and air, since they are related to the second day of Creation. The third day covers such matters as water, earth, minerals, and plants. The stars and seasons appear on the fourth day, birds and fishes on the fifth day, and animals and human beings make their appearance on the sixth day (Ullman, pp. 320-21). The relationship between the original three volumes of the Speculum maius is that, after the Naturale has recounted the story of God and the Creation, the Historiale advances a claim for the necessity of the Redemption by relating the deeds of fallen men. What ensures the efficacy of the Redemption is the education provided by the Doctrinale (Higgs, pp. 946-47).

Because the printer, later identified as Adolf Rusch (fl 1466-89), neither signed nor dated his printings, he was referred to as the 'R-Printer', so-called because of the unique roman type 'R' that he used (see vol. 1, fol. 175r). He worked with Johann Mentelin, the first printer of Strasbourg, and took over his printing house in 1478; he was married to one of Mentelin's daughters (cf. IKUL 008). Mentelin was one of the first to employ roman type in Germany, but it was his son-in-law, Rusch, who first used a 'recognizably roman type' there (Glaister, p. 429).

The Keio copy is divided into two volumes, and both have fragments of a Hebrew manuscript used as paste-down endpapers inside the binding. Both volumes are rubricated, mainly in red and blue. There are several decorated initials; however, some have been outlined but not painted (vol. 1, fol. 74v), some have been left blank (vol. 2, fol. 305v), and some are incomplete (vol. 1, fol. 175r). Wherever a large initial 'I' appears, it is either placed next to the text (see vol. 1, fol. 40r) or inserted in a space reserved for it within the text (see vol. 1, fol. 46v). A red letter 'C' marks the shift from one source of citations to another, and some of these occupy two lines (see vol. 2, fol. 191r). Both volumes display some evidence of signature later inscribed on the upper margins of the recto pages, and marginalia can be recognized in vol. 1, fol. 2r, and vol. 2, fols 9r and 100r. Along with IKUL 009 (Speculum doctrinale), this copy of the Speculum naturale was once owned by Eric Sexton, FSA, and on the verso of the upper cover of the first volume his bookplate is attached to a paper on which additional information is inscribed, including the title and the place of printing. The second volume has two types of Sexton's bookplates: one is on the verso of the upper cover, and the other is now loose, inserted between two pages.

  Glaister, Geoffrey Ashall, Encyclopedia of the Book, 2nd edn (New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll; London: British Library, 1996)
  Higgs, Elton D., 'Vincent of Beauvais', in Dictionary of World Biography, ed. by Frank N. Magill, 10 vols (Chicago, IL: Dearborn; Pasadena, CA: Salem, 1998-2000), II (1998), 946-48
  Ullman, B. L., 'A Project for a New Edition of Vincent of Beauvais', Speculum, 8 (1933), 312-26
  Voorbij, J. B., 'Bower's Use of Vincent of Beauvais', in 'Scotichronicon' by Walter Bower in Latin and English, ed. by D. E. R. Watt and others, 9 vols (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1987-98), IX, 260-80



Vincentius Bellovacensis [Vincent de Beauvais]
Place of Publication
[The R-Printer (Adolf Rusch)]


Date of Publication
[not after 1476-06-15]

Contemporary blind-stamped calf over wooden boards; vol. 1 in dark calf with scattered tools including a circular 'his' tool; vol. 2 in lighter calf with simple interlocking fillets at covers; both rebacked, preserving original spines.

Bibliographical Notes

2 vols; vol. 1, 368 leaves (of 370), without preliminary and final blank; vol. 2, 327 leaves (of 328), without final blank; unfoliated and unsigned; spaces for initial capitals; 12-line initials supplied in red and blue; initials at text openings in both volumes illuminated in red and blue with floral decoration extending into the margins.

Goff V292, C 6253=6256, BMC I 64, IJL 294, IJL2 379, PP 66, T 23
Acquisition Year
1981 (from Sexton Sale at Christie's New York in 1981)

1. Herschel V. Jones. 2. Eric Sexton (bookplate), Christie's 1981, lot 165.