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A genesis of the Speculum Morale (apocryphal)

Vincent always intended to include a section on virtues and vices in his Speculum Maius. The very first version of the Speculum Naturale (before 1246) offers a strong indication of this. The table of contents shows that one book should be devoted to this subject:

Liber XV De peccato in genere et speciebus peccatorum (quoted from manuscript Brussel, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, 18465, f° 6vo).

Of that first version of the Speculum Naturale —which would deal with natural history, the sciences, and virtues and vices— Vincent had completed only eight books by 1246. He decided to divide this voluminous material into several separate parts. He put natural history into a separate, more voluminous Speculum Naturale. A second part, the Speculum Doctrinale, became a compilation of the trivium, quadrivium and all the other sciences. Only the section on virtues and vices was left. Yet the final versions of the Libellus Apologeticus, the general prologue to the Speculum Maius, of 1254 and later, testify clearly to Vincent's plans to compile a separate Speculum Morale. For unknown reasons, Vincent was unable to carry out this plan.

Between 1310 and 1320, one or more friars of the Franciscan order compiled a Speculum Morale. It is unknown whether they used texts that Vincent of Beauvais had already compiled. Its thematic foundation provides the work De Consideratione Novissimorum, compiled by a Franciscan author, possibly Durand of Champagne. In addition, the Speculum Morale contains extended extracts from Durand's Speculum Dominarum, Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologiae, and further from Stephen of Bourbon's Tractatus De Diversis Materiis Predicabilibus, and the commentaries on Peter Lombard’s Four Books of Sentences by Peter of Tarentaise and Richard of Mediavilla.

The Speculum Morale circulated as part of the Speculum Maius by Vincent of Beauvais. The small number of surviving manuscripts (4) does not indicate an initial great success. That came only after the invention of printing, with the third printed edition by Anton Koberger in 1485, which presented the Speculum Morale as the third part of the complete Speculum Maius. The subsequent three editions (1493, 1591 and 1624) of the Speculum Maius followed suit. In 1708, the Dominican scholar Jacques Échard showed in his meticulous dissertation that Vincent of Beauvais could not possibly be the author of the Speculum Morale and that it had to be the work of a Franciscan compiler.

Sources: Albrecht, E., De ontstaansgeschiedenis en de compilatie van het Speculum Naturale van Vincent van Beauvais (+1264), Leuven, 2007, pp. 33-34 and pp. 131-132; Echard, J., Sancti Thomae Summa suo auctori vindicata, sive de V. F. Vincentii Bellovacensis scriptis dissertatio, Paris 1708; Mews, C.J. and Zahora, T., Remembering Last Things and Regulating Behavior in the Early Fourteenth Century: From the De consideratione novissimorum to the Speculum morale. In: Speculum 90 (2015), pp. 960-994.

Image: Speculum Morale, Anton Koberger, ed. Nuremberg, February, 6, 1485, no pagination, kept in Münich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, 2 Inc.c.a. 1699 a.

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