Incunabula and the Keio University Library Collection


Vincentius Bellovacensis [psd-Vincent de Beauvais], Speculum morale (Strassburg: Johann Mentelin, 9 Nov. 1476)

Speculum morale

IIIF Drag-n-dropIIIF Manifest

The Speculum morale is treated as either the third or fourth part of the Speculum maius, an encyclopaedic work by the 13th-century Dominican friar Vincent de Beauvais. However, while the other three parts were compiled by Vincent himself, this was added by a second compiler after Vincent's death (cf. IKUL 009). It mainly focuses on theology and ethics, and is based on the Summa theologiae, or Summa theologica, of Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225-74). Since the 18th century, the Speculum morale has been regarded as a complementary volume written by an anonymous author. It is unclear whether the addition of the Speculum morale is true to Vincent's original intention, but Voorbij claims that Vincent planned to compile a fourth part of the Speculum maius, focusing on morality (Ullman, p. 319; Voorbij, p. 261).

The printer, Johann Mentelin (fl 1458-78), was born in Schlettstadt (now Sélestat in France), in the Alsace, and is known as the first printer of Strassburg (Strasbourg). He published a Latin Bible in 1460, and the first Bible printed in German in 1466. He was one of the first to print in roman letters in Germany, and also one of the first printers to issue advertisements for his books (Glaister, p. 320). The printing house was taken over by his son-in-law Adolf Rusch (cf. IKUL 007).

There are two versions of the Speculum morale printed by Mentelin, one with and one without a colophon; the Keio copy is of the latter type. The copies that have a colophon are dated 9 November 1476 (Ashley, p. 41). Although some copies have decorations, such as initials inscribed in red, the Keio copy has none. Spaces of various sizes, ranging from two to twelve lines in height, have been left for the initials, but only on fol. 7r has an initial (the letter 'P') later been inscribed by hand in ink along with comments in Latin. Inscriptions in Latin can be found on more than 20 pages, and more than 40 pages have been soiled with finger and hand marks. There are also pictorial inscriptions where a hand points out important phrases, for example on fol. 9v. On this and several other pages the edge of the marginalia has been lost; it is assumed that this is the result of cropping when the book was rebound. The bookplate indicates that this copy belonged to the Franciscans at Polling (in Bavaria) in 1744, and 'Polling' is also written in ink on π2r.

  Ashley, Frederick W., Catalogue of the John Boyd Thacher Collection of Incunabula (Washington, DC: Government Printing, 1915)
  Glaister, Geoffrey Ashall, Encyclopedia of the Book, 2nd edn (New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll; London: British Library, 1996)
  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 [psd-Vincent de Beauvais]
Place of Publication
Johann Mentelin


Date of Publication

16th-century German blind-stamped pigskin over wooden boards.

Bibliographical Notes

474 leaves of 477; wanting the blank fols. 1, 5, and 477, unfoliated and unsigned; without colophon; some marginalia in a contemporary hand.

Goff V288, C 6252(without), BMC I 58 (without), IJL 293, IJL2 378
Acquisition Year
1981 (from Sexton Sale at Christie's New York in 1981)

1. Franciscan Canons in Polling (1744). 2. Herschel V. Jones. 3. Eric Sexton, Christie's 1981, lot 164.