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A genesis of the Speculum Naturale

The genesis of the Speculum Naturale links to that of the Speculum Historiale and the Speculum Doctrinale. In 1245, Vincent of Beauvais sent the first part of the Speculum Historiale to King Louis IX. At that time, the Speculum Naturale in its first version was still under construction and contained a Naturale section, a Doctrinale section, and a Morale section. In the winter of 1245 to 1246, this Speculum Naturale in its Tournai (Na) version was released for copying.

Vincent of Beauvais was not satisfied with this first version and began a thorough revision of the Speculum Naturale. First, he separated the Doctrinale section and made it into its own Speculum Doctrinale. Vincent also removed the Morale section from the Speculum Naturale. He was likely preparing his own version of the Speculum Morale, but he never released the work for copying. Other compilers finished it around the year 1310.

The Speculum Naturale in its second version, the Bruges (Nb) version, was not finished until the autumn of 1257, at the earliest. This second version was not yet satisfactory either. Vincent revised it in several minor details and split one of the books in two. This revision became the third version of the Speculum Naturale, the Douai (Nc) version.

The position of the Douai version in Albrecht's reconstruction of the genesis was contested by Simon Tugwell in 2017. Based on a thorough analysis of the Speculum Naturale manuscript in the library of Exeter College, Oxford, he concluded that the Douai version may have preceded the Bruges version It is the subject of further research by Eva Albrecht.


E. Albrecht, De ontstaansgeschiedenis en de compilatie van het Speculum Naturale van Vincent van Beauvais (+1264), Leuven, 2007, deel I, 64-65.

S. Tugwell, Soundings in Exeter College MS 15 and the evolution of Vincent of Beauvais's Speculum Naturale. In: Archivum Fratrum Praedicatorum, Nova Series II (2017), pp. 5-156).

Image: Vellereille-lez-brayeux, Collège de Bonne Espérance, Speculum Naturale, vol. 3, f° 1ro.

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