Speculum Christiani, in Middle English and Latin, DECORATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[England, early 15th century]
340 x 210mm. 45 leaves: 18, 26, 38, 46, 58, 69, COMPLETE, 32 lines written in brown and red ink in a semi-cursive anglicana between two verticals and 33 horizontals ruled in blank, justification: 235 x 139mm, rubrics in red, text capitals touched red or yellow, paragraph marks and one-line initials of red or blue, two-line initials of blue with flourishing of red (repairs to upper corners of first leaf where marked by bosses of medieval binding, corresponding rust marks on leaves 2-4, small waterstain to lower outer corner of first 10 leaves, final leaf darkened and mounted on vellum). Brown panelled morocco by Bedford, tooled in gilt and blind with a double border of triple fillets, acorns at the corners, spine gilt in seven compartments (slight damage to surface of leather on upper cover).
THE ONLY COPY OF THIS INFLUENTIAL WORK STILL IN PRIVATE OWNERSHIP
1. There are no obvious indications of medieval ownership, although the nature of the work makes it likely that it was intended for use by a cleric. A request written at the end of the text, in the hand of the rubricator, calls for prayers for the soul of William Flete, perhaps the rubricator himself or the man for whom the manuscript was being copied. Perhaps it could even be a reflection of the scribe's attribution of the authorship of the work: one William Flete wrote the Remedia Contra Spirituales Temptaciones that is included in a Middle English translation in lot 72.
2. Huth library: bookplate inside upper cover. A.H. Huth sale Sotheby's 9 June 1920, lot 7937
3. Sir Leicester Harmsworth: Harmsworth Trust Library sale Sotheby's 16 October 1945, lot 2131
Speculum Christiani ff.1-45
The Speculum Christiani was a pastoral manual comprising eight sections or tabulae, usually in Latin, that was composed in the late 14th century. Although once attributed to John Watton, as the printed editions and on the spine of the present volume, this identification has been discounted and no replacement found. The compiler drew heavily on a wide range of theological and devotional authors, including Grosseteste, Peter Lombard, Peckham and Rolle, and the resulting work gained wide popularity in England. Over fifty manuscripts survive and the work was printed in London around 1486 (William de Machlinia for Henry Frankenberg: STC 26012), the first of seven early editions known: Vincent Gillespie, 'The Evolution of the Speculum Christiani', in Latin and Vernacular, ed. A.J. Minnis (1989), pp.39-60. One of the other copies (Cambridge, Trinity Hall Ms 16) has been identified as written by the same scribe as the present manuscript: Gillespie p.40, n.6.
In addition to including several extended passages in Middle English prose (ff.12-15, 44v-45), this copy of the Speculum Christiani also includes various interpolated Middle English verses, IMEV 3687 (ff.3v-7), 4150 (f.11r&v), 2167 (f.17v), 1342 (ff.17v-20), 2119 (ff.20-21).