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Inventory of the manuscripts

In its final version, the Speculum Maius consists of four specula:

  • a Speculum Naturale;

  • a Speculum Doctrinale;

  • a Speculum Morale;

  • a Speculum Historiale.

Of the Speculum Naturale and Speculum Historiale three respectively five versions exist. The compilation of the Speculum Doctrinale and the Speculum Morale is connected with the genesis of the Speculum Naturale. Several textual traces of the Speculum Maius indicate that Vincent planned the compilation of a Speculum Morale, but it is uncertain if he ever wrote his text of the Speculum Morale, since no such text has been identified so far. The text with the name Speculum Morale that we know today, was compiled by Franciscan authors circa 1300. Since manuscripts of the Speculum Morale were sometimes kept alongside manuscripts of the other specula, the few surviving manuscripts of this apocryphal text are incorporated into this inventory.

Each authentic speculum includes several components:

  • A Libellus Apologeticus (LA) or General Prologue to the Speculum Maius;

  • A short prologue to the specific speculum (i.e. Naturale, Doctrinale or Historiale);

  • A list of chapter titles of this specific speculum;

  • The text itself of this specific speculum. This text is divided into books and chapters.

  • A résumé of other specula, which is incorporated into the text. Given the size of a single speculum (a set of at least two folio volumes), Vincent of Beauvais had previewed that only few people could afford a copy of the entire Speculum Maius — which took up a set of at least six folio volumes. For this reason, Vincent provided each authentic speculum with a résumé of one or more other specula. In this way, the reader could get an impression of the contents of the other specula.

Of most of these components, different versions exist; and of some of them, even different redactions (see the page Components of the Speculum Maius for more details).

Finally, an alphabetical index accompanies the last two versions of the Speculum Historiale. The index to the fourth (St.-Jacques) version is more elaborated than the one to the fifth and final (Douai) version.

The user may find an overview of all components of each speculum in the right-hand margin of the page that introduces the list of surviving manuscripts of that specific speculum (see the introductions into the manuscripts of the Speculum Naturale, Speculum Doctrinale, Speculum Historiale and Speculum Morale).

In the manuscript inventory, each manuscript description is equipped with a siglum: a combination of letters and numbers. The letters indicate the version of the speculum to which a specific manuscript belongs, the numbers the serial number in the manuscript list of that specific version. When the siglum has three or more letters, the manuscript contains material from different versions. For example, manuscript Hcb2 is the second representative of the Vienna version of the Speculum Historiale, mixed with components of the Klosterneuburg version.

In the inventory, the manuscripts have been ordered alphabetically as far as possible, using as keys the names of the places where they are kept today. Exceptions are made in those cases where manuscripts that constituted a set of volumes in medieval times, are scattered now over several libraries.

The inventory shows which books of the speculum text each manuscript contains. The book numbering (I-VIII, X-XV, etc.) is rendered according to the manuscripts. In brackets follow the corresponding books of that speculum according to the Douai edition (Balthasar Bellère, 1624; reprinted 1964-1965) of the Speculum Maius, which represents the final (Douai) version of the specula. Two important remarks should be made on the relation between the manuscripts and the Douai edition:

  1. Rendering correspondence between the manuscripts and the Douai edition is complicated by a characteristic of the edition. In many manuscripts, book I of the speculum contains the Libellus Apologeticus, the short prologue and the list of chapter titles; the text of that speculum itself starts in book II. Contrary to this, the Douai edition merges the introductory matter with the text of book II and partly omits that matter; book II in its turn being numbered as book I. As a result, the book numbering in the three authentic specula of the Douai edition trails one behind the book numbering in the manuscripts. This characteristic also occurs in the editions by Hermann Liechtenstein (Venice, 1493-1494) and Domenico Nicolini (Venice 1591).

  2. The book numbering in the manuscripts of the earlier versions of the Speculum Naturale and the Speculum Historiale deviates from the book numbering of the final version that the Douai edition represents. These earlier versions divide the contents of several books and chapters (very) differently from the Douai edition or present (extensive) text passages that are absent from that edition. In these instances, only rough indications of correspondence with the Douai edition can be given.

Apart from the siglum and the book numbering, each manuscript description in the inventory offers information, as far as available, on the date and geographical region of production of the manuscript and on its medieval and later owners. Online facsimiles being available, hyperlinks are added to the description. Also indicated are connections with manuscripts listed in other parts of the inventory, if these manuscripts have been produced as parts of the same set of volumes or have been collected into a set sometime after their date of production.

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