“Speculum humanae salvationis” (Mirror of Human Salvation)

Collection ID





ca. 1370






Ink on Vellum


12 5/16 × 9 5/8 × 1 in. (31.2 × 24.4 × 2.5 cm)

Exhibit Location

On View in The History of the Bible, Translating the Bible

The Speculum was a popular, poetic work of theology that circulated during the Late Middle Ages. It outlines the biblical narrative of redemption typologically. Typology, a popular form of biblical interpretation in the medieval period, highlights people and events in the Old Testament that foreshadow, or serve as “types” of, Christ and the events of the New Testament. The text is accompanied by rich illustrations designed to help an illiterate audience understand its message. This particular manuscript features 192 pen-and-ink illuminations by Master Konrad, painter to Leopold III, Duke of Austria.

Created before 1386, with pen-and-ink drawings by Master Konrad, Austria;[1] Acquired by the Cistercian monastery of St. John at Stams, Tyrol, Austria.[2] Acquired before 1774 by Count Nikolaus Pálffy of Erdöd; Gifted in 1774 to Count Franz Koháry of Csábrág.[3] Purchased in 1932 by the Caflisch family, private collection, Zurich, Switzerland; By descent until 2007 to Dr. Lucius Caflisch, Zurich, Switzerland; Privately purchased in 2007 by Jörn Günther Rare Books AG, Stalden, Switzerland;[4] Purchased in 2010 by Green Collection, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Donated in 2012 to Museum of the Bible, Washington, DC.

Notes: [1] Handwritten note in fol. 1r: “Istu(m) libr(um) dedit monast(er)io s(an)c(t)i Joh(ann)is in Stams. M(a)g(iste)r chu(o)nrad(us) pictor ducis Leupoldi p(ro) signo sp(eci)al(is) a(m)icicie.” Master Konrad likely refers to Konrad von Tiergarten, an Italian court painter to Leopold III, Duke of Austria. The death of Duke Leopold III in 1386 serves as a likely terminus ante quem for the completion of the manuscript. In the right margin, in a different hand and using a different ink, is the date: “anno d(omi)ni . . ./ moccc lxxx . . .” with the last figure cut off. [2] The Cistercian monastery of Stams was established in 1273, and Konrad von Tiergarten is viewed as the likely creator of the central panel of an altarpiece from the monastery. [3] Handwritten notes in fol. 1r: “donum excellentissimi Domini Comitis Nicolai Pálffy ab Erdöd, Aurei Velleris Equitis, et per Regum Hungariæ Judicis Curiæ regæ. 1774” and “Comitis Francisci Koháry de Csábrag et Szitna, perpetui Comitis Hontensis et in Murany 1789” record the ownership of Count Franz Koháry de Csábrág in 1789, who was given the volume by Count Nikolaus Pálffy of Erdöd in 1774. [4] According to a representative of Jörn Günther Rare Books AG, there are no claims against prior owners of the item.

Published References:

Melinda Nielsen, An Illustrated “Speculum Humanae Salvationis” (Brill, 2022).

Irma Trattner, “Die Marienkrönungstafel im Zisterzienserstift Stams in Tirol. Ihre Stellung zwischen Süd und Nord,” Das Münster 52 (1999): 298–310.

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