Speculum naturalis coelestis et propheticae visionis omnium calamitatum tribulationum et anxietatum quae super omnes status, with [anon.], Lutheran florilegium of a Jesuit.


1) Nuremberg, George Stuchs, 7 November 1508; 2) manuscript, probably Saxony, late seventeenth century.

Folio. 1) FIRST EDITION. 18 unnumbered leaves, a-c6; 2) ff. 159 (x) unsigned and unnumbered. 1) Gothic letter. Fine woodcut on t-p, representing a scene of doom with a burning church and fights between clerics and peasants. Woodcut initials and 12 half-page woodcuts depicting unnatural scenes: storms and fires; the subversion of the social order with corrupt clerics, people worshipping animals, and peasants officiating the mass; allegories of the Church as the sinking Ship of Peter and a vineyard destroyed by soldiers; an invasion of the Turks; and a ‘holy man’ with crucifixes scaring people away. Light age yellowing, occasional spotting, small repairs on internal margins and corners to t-p, avi, b, bvi, c, cvi. Marginal annotation in Latin in a seventeenth-century hand on av. Annotations ‘Verf: Joseph Grünpeck ca. 1473-1532’ and ‘248’ on pastedown, casemarks ‘Wiecker. 1863. g.A.’ and faded ‘22509’ on first flyleaf.

2) MS, Latin and German. Mainly in brown-black ink in secretary hand, typically 24 lines per page. A little age yellowing, damp and water stains in a few parts, occasional spotting. One paste-in ¼ page engraving with the insignia of Luther, Melanchton, Jonas, Bugenhagen, and Creuzinger. Fold-out drawing of a schema of Luther’s Catechism in black ink. A good, well-margined copy in contemporary deerskin over boards. Blind-tooled to a three panel design, triple fillet; roll of fleurons on outer panel, roll of fleurons and roundels with heads in medallions on middle panel, central panel with fleurons on the corners and blind-tooled rhombus-shaped centrepiece. Rebacked. Edges a bit chipped, lacking ties.

This unique volume is probably the work of a Jesuit scholar from Saxony interested in Lutheranism, from its early developments in late medieval prophetic literature, to its full-fledged doctrinal arguments, and the Counter-Reformation response of the Society of Jesus.

The first part is a crisp copy of the Speculum naturalis by Joseph Grünpeck (c. 1473-1532). Grünpeck was professor of rhetoric at Ingolstadt and then astrologer and humanist at the court of Emperor Maximilian I, before retiring in 1501 after contracting syphilis. He would spend the following years writing some of his most important works: one of the first medical tracts to discuss this new illness, and the extremely successful Speculum naturalis. The Speculum, published in Latin and German in 1508, was a book of prognostications, which blended together astrology and the late medieval prophetic tradition of the millenarian Joachimites. Grünpeck shows how it is through astrology that nature works together with divine will by means of portentous events, and how these should be interpreted as signs of future ones, with the help of prophetic authorities including the Old Testament. The Speculum thus sought to bring together ‘astronomical certainty’ with ‘theological truth’. The prophetic message of the twelve chapters is visually strengthened by the extraordinary woodcuts attributed alternatively to Wolf Traut, a pupil of Dürer, or Albrecht Altdorfer. In the first part, Grünpeck explains how the increasing number of portentous signs like comets, prodigious rains of blood, eclipses, and the birth of monstrous creatures were symptoms of decayed times. In the second part, Old Testament prophecies concerning plagues, famines, and other calamities, foretell the afflictions of the Church, whose looming ruin is depicted, in the Joachimite tradition, as the sinking Ship of Peter, which only a religious reformation can rescue.

The ms. text begins with a Counter-Reformation response to pre-Reformation millenarianism, in the form of three ‘pope prophecies’ drawn from Paul Scaliger’s Miscellaneorum (1570). There follow texts on the doctrine of Lutheranism, which include passages from Luther’s pamphlet on the birth of a monstrous cow and copies of his correspondence with personalities of the time, as well as writings by Catholic critics like Graminaeus, Johannes Nas, and Sigmund Ernhoffer. The second section is devoted to Catholic documents mostly concerned with the aftermath of the Lutheran Reformation in Lower Saxony. The excerpts are taken from Johannes Oldekop’s chronicle, Johannes Letzner’s writings, and correspondence dating from the 1540s mostly written from the Hildesheim monastery to Charles V and to other religious institutions. The last section of the ms. bears a most interesting focus on the Society of Jesus. Among the collected excerpts are commentaries to Luther’s works by the Jesuits Jodocus Kedd and Casparus Sevenstern, professor of theology at the Jesuit collegium in Hildesheim, whom the anonymous author calls ‘a remarkable friend’. Further passages tell of conversions and the martyrdom of Jesuits operating in European, Asian, African, and American missions, with names, places of deployment, and death dates drawn from Matthias Tanner’s Societas Jesu usque ad sanguinis et vitae profusionem militans (1675). The anonymous Jesuit author was fascinated by Tanner’s accounts, some of which he copied down faithfully, for their geographical and ethnographic material on remote places like Japan and Canada.  

This Jesuit florilegium presents an extraordinary collection of texts on religious controversy in Germany, spanning late medieval millenarianism, the Lutheran Reformation, and the Counter-Reformation.

1) Only New York Public Library, University of Minnesota, Kansas, and Williams College recorded in the US.

Brunet, II, 1771: ‘Ouvrage singulier et par le texte et par les figures sur bois qui l’accompagnent’. Graesse, III, 164. Cantamessa, I, 437-40: ‘bellissime incisioni in legno’. Not in BM STC German.

2) No equivalent ms. appears recorded.