The Mirour of Mans Salvacioune, in Middle English verse, MANUSCRIPT ON PAPER
[England mid-15th century]
2°. 284 x 210mm. 64 leaves, originally apparently in 4 gatherings, 116, 215(of 16, lacking ix), 316, 417(of 20, xviii-xx probably blanks) horizontal catchwords on pp.32, 64 and 96, signature marks in the lower, outer corner of first folios of gatherings 2-4, medieval foliation in arabic numerals 3-58 but two folios numbered 45 and verso of 50 numbered 51, modern pencil pagination followed here, 40 lines written in brown ink in a cursive anglicana, topics, biblical sources etc in outer margins, running chapter numbers in lower margins, initial letter of each line touched red, incipits underlined in red, paragraph marks of prologue and couplet brackets alternately red or brown, three-line chapter initials of red, marginal drawing of a crowned cross (small restorations to upper and lower corners of first 26 and final 16 leaves, first folio darkened, small stains usually restricted to margins and not affecting legibility except for upper corner of final three leaves). Brown panelled morocco gilt by Bedford (lower joint split at head).
THE UNIQUE MANUSCRIPT OF THE MIDDLE ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF THE SPECULUM HUMANAE SALVATIONIS
1. Thomas Cowper: a rhyme at the end of the index on p.127 'Who some ever on me doth loke I am Thomas Cowper booke If perchaunce ye doth me fynd I pray you hartyly to be kynd That ye will wist safe to take the payne Doth restore me to my master agayne' and various other marginal inscriptions name him. On p.128 claims seem to be made for his authorship or, at least, writing of the work, albeit in a late 15th-century hand -- 'Whoy mayd thys work that dyd thomas cowper that good clark', and on p.128 he is further specified as 'that parysse clark' -- yet on p.106 the marginal note reads 'whey mayd thys worke that dyd thomas wylkynson that good clark' and continues on p.107 'pray for the soulle of Thomas cowper'.
2. Huth library: bookplate inside upper cover. A.H. Huth sale Sotheby's 1-9 July 1918, lot 6999
3. Sir Leicester Harmsworth; Harmsworth Trust Library sale, Sotheby's 16 October 1945, lot 2100
3. Martin Breslauer: Sixty-second catalogue of Books and Manuscripts, 1947
The Mirour of Mans Salvacioune, with Prologue opening 'In name of God almyghtie blyssed Trinitee' pp.1-124 (with pp.116-17 left blank by the scribe, presumably reflecting lacuna in exemplar); Table of Chapters pp.125-127; postscript verses in Middle English (five couplets) on the metrical deficiences of the Speculum, opening 'And nota that in this boke al eene fro the begynnyng The cause of ofte vneven and thus pore rymyng'; address to the Virgin, opening 'Cum magno gaudio et leticia ad templum veniebas...' pp.129-130
The extraordinary number of surviving Latin manuscripts of the Speculum Humanae Salvationis attest to its widespread popularity in the 14th and 15th centuries. It was compiled by an unknown author in the first quarter of the 14th century and intended as a guide to Christian teaching and devotional meditation for both clergy and laity. It is a typological work where New Testament events, mainly from the Life of the Virgin and of Christ, are matched with events from the Old Testament, legend or ancient history; correspondences are expounded to elucidate moral purpose and demonstrate the all-encompassing unity of the divine plan. It was translated into German, French, Dutch, Czech and English. Surprisingly for a text of such fundamental importance, the present manuscript is the unique survivor of this English version (IMEV 1511.5). No edition of the work was published until 1888 when A.H. Huth, then the owner of this manuscript, published it in a small, inventive, edition for the Roxburghe Club. An accurate critical edition of the Mirour was finally prepared, at Beeleigh, some 550 years after its translation: A. Henry, The Mirour of Mans Salvacioun: a Middle English translation of "Speculum Humanae Salvationis" (1986).