Speculum humanae salvationis. (The mirror of human salvation). Augsburg: printed by Gunther Zainer, 1473. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland City Libraries

Speculum humanae salvationis. (The mirror of human salvation). Augsburg: printed by Gunther Zainer, 1473. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland City Libraries

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Speculum humanae salvationis. (The mirror of human salvation). Augsburg: printed by Gunther Zainer, 1473. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland City Libraries

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Speculum humanae salvationis. (The mirror of human salvation)

Ref No: 1473 SPEC
Date Created: 1473

A devotional work of unknown authorship, the Speculum humanae salvationis first appeared in Europe in the 1320s. To the modern mind, its central concept – that everything in the New Testament is prefigured by events in the Old Testament – seems not only strange but somewhat abstruse. Yet the Speculum was not intended for scholars. Aimed at ordinary people of sound faith and limited education, it relied heavily on illustrations to communicate its messages – and the methodology proved very popular. Several hundred manuscript copies of the Speculum were made in workshops before 1500.

The edition produced by German scribe-turned-printer Gunther Zainer in 1473 is a marriage of the new art of typography and the older craft of woodcutting. There are 192 woodcuts in Zainer’s Speculum (a few of them used more than once), hand-coloured after printing in red, yellow, green and brown.

The 1473 Speculum is considered one of the masterpieces of the early printing period. The library’s copy donated by Sir George Grey, is one of only twenty-five complete specimens known to exist.

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