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. However, some of these works have a restricted scope and function as instructional manuals. In this sense the encyclopedia and the speculum are similar, but they are not the same genre.
Specula as a genre
Specula often offered mirrors of history, doctrine, or morals. Vincent of Beauvais' Speculum Maius which included the Mirror of Nature, Mirror of History, and Mirror of Doctrine is not often described as a core representative of the genre. One historian has surmised that this is because Vincent's work was intended to be an objective work which is at odds with speculum literature, since it "is a subjective genre". More usual members are found in this list:
- Edmund Rich)
- An anonymous Speculum virginum
- William of Saint-Thierry's Speculum fidei
- Nigel of Longchamps's Speculum stultorum
- Speculum virginum
Specific works whose titles include the word speculum
- Speculum Alchimiae, the "Mirror of Alchemy", written by Roger Bacon.
- Speculum astronomiae, written by Albertus Magnus.
- Edmund Rich.
- Speculum Humanae Salvationis, the "Mirror of human salvation", written c. 1309–24, perhaps by Ludolph of Saxony.
- Speculum judiciale, or Speculum iuris, the "Mirror for Judges", written by Guillaume Durand.
- Speculum meditantis, the "Mirror of Meditations" (usually known by its French title Mirour de l'Omme), written by John Gower.
- Speculum perfectionis, written by Brother Leo.
- Speculum stultorum, the "Mirror of Fools" written by Nigel de Longchamps
- Speculum Vitae Humanae, written by Rodericus Zamorensis (Rodrigo Sanchez de Arevalo)
Ormulum, written by a certain Orm in Central England, bears an indirect reference to speculum and may be translated as "Orm's Mirror". It is universal in contents in that it contains the appropriate homiletic materials throughout the Church calendar.
The English word mirror appears in
The Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae ("Mirror of the Magnificence of Rome") was a Renaissance "coffee table book" of prints of the sights of Rome, especially the antiquities, produced by the French print seller and publisher Antonio Lafreri (1512–1577). He had been publishing and distributing such prints, and selling them at his shop in Rome, since the 1540s. In the 1570s he hit on the idea of producing a title page for the albums of prints he also sold. Each copy of the Speculum may have had different contents, as the customer in Rome could make his own selection in the shop and have them bound up.
In modern times, the journal Speculum, published by the Medieval Academy of America, covers every aspect of the medieval world.
- Mirrors for princes or specula principum
- The Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae at the University of Chicago Library
- Lafreri’s Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae. Held by the Department of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University.