Speculum literature  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

Related e



The medieval genre of speculum literature, popular from the twelfth through the sixteenth centuries, was inspired by the urge to encompass encyclopedic knowledge within a single work. The modern equivalent is a summary survey, in the sense of a survey article in a scholarly journal that summarizes a field of research. The speculum image, of the mirror that reflects far and wide, was drawn from the magical mirror that was supposed to belong among the treasures of legendary Prester John somewhere in the East. Through it every province could be seen. In the genre "Speculum of Princes", the prince's realms were surveyed and his duties laid out. Other specula offered mirrors of history, of doctrine or morals,

A number of medieval book titles include the word speculum:

In English mirror appears in, among many other works, the Myrrour of the Worlde (1490), one of the first illustrated books printed in English, by William Caxton (a translation of "L'image du Monde", an overview of the sciences), the perennially-republished A Mirror for Magistrates (1559), and The Miroir or Glasse of the Synneful Soul, a manuscript translation from the French by the young Queen Elizabeth I of England. The Mirror of Simple Souls is a modern English translation of a similar French work.

Similarly, the journal Speculum, published by the Medieval Academy of America, covers every aspect of the medieval world.


  • Bradley, Ritamary "Backgrounds of the Title Speculum in Mediaeval Literature" Speculum 29.1 (January 1954), pp. 100-115.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Speculum literature" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools