The anonymous 'Speculum Humanæ Salvationis' was written at the beginning of the 14th century and several hundred versions were produced in all major European languages up to the end of the 15th century. The images above come from a 1430 German version.
"In its text and pictures the Speculum contains a vivid account of the religious and artistic forces at work in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, when the lessons in piety, the allegories, and all of the arts were devoted to instilling in the minds of the people the need for salvation and the dread of eternal damnation. The Speculum is entirely concerned with the Fall and Redemption and with their prefiguration in the Old Testament."In addition to its widespread popularity over a few centuries, 'Speculum' is one of the most important works in the history of printing. It is the only book from the middle ages that exists in illuminated manuscript, blockbook and incunabula form.
Because it was so widely reproduced and derives from a single origin, 'Speculum' also constitutes a significant body of work in terms of book illustration. The copying, "which followed the precise numerical pattern of the original manuscript [..] and iconography [..] holds a unique place in the study of medieval miniatures in providing an enormous variety of styles and visual interpretations of the identical sequence of subjects."
- The 1430 version of 'Speculum Humanæ Salvationis' is online in its entirety at the Royal Library of Denmark. [the quality of the miniatures generally falls away after about page 40: they tend towards being either incomplete or haphazardly painted]
- The Royal Library of Denmark have a second version: the links on this page are to enlarged details from a later parchment manuscript.
- The Dutch National Library have a latin version from 1450 in thumbnail format via the Meermanno portal.
- The quotes above come from "A Medieval Mirror : Speculum Humanae Salvationis, 1324-1500" by Adrian Wilson & Joyce Lancaster Wilson. 1984. - this commendable book is available online. It provides background history with respect to the general printing and illustration techniques of the time and concentrates throughout on the iconography. There are many images (most in black and white) gleaned from all major versions of 'Speculum' in existence. Click on 'Photo Section' to see all the colour images.
- UPDATE (May 2011): a mid-14th century manuscript version has been posted by Badischen Landesbibliothek.