[Strassburg, Heinrich Eggestein not after 1474].
Folio and quarto (274 x 203 mm.). [vi], , p. Gothic type. Rubricated initials, paragraph markers supplied in red and majuscules stroked in red.
Late 19th-century gilt-ruled half-vellum and marbled boards, flat spine, gilt-lettered morocco labels (one rubbed).
First Edition. A fine copy on thick paper. Addressed to “my dearest son”, THE MIRROR OF WISDOM IS ONE OF THE FIRST MEDIEVAL FABLE BOOKS TO BE PRINTED AND “THE FIRST AND ONLY FABLE COLLECTION OF THE MIDDLE AGES WITH AN EXPRESS MORAL PHILOSOPHY” (Stammler, tr.). Here we find some of the earliest fables independent of the Æsopic tradition to appear in print.
Composed in the mid-14th century by Dominican Bonjohannes de Messina, the tales are organized into four books — on prudence, strength, justice and moderation. “The animals in these ‘Fables’ are not puppet-like factota acting out set pieces, but smart characters dispensing wisdom in well-chosen words” and through fateful actions (Grubmüller, tr.).
The Speculum was printed across Europe in Latin and the vernacular. Its plots appeared in sermons, proverbs and story collections well into the 17th century. I have not traced a copy at auction in fifty years.
Beautifully decorated, a few outer edges untrimmed (two inner margins with early reinforcement, a couple of smudges).
¶Grubmüller, Meister Esopus: Untersuchungen zu Geschichte und Funktion der Fabel im Mittelalter 423-4 & passim; Dicke & Grubmüller, Die Fabeln des Mittelalters und der Frühen Neuzeit passim; Bodemann, Die Cyrillusfabeln 40-1, 50-2, 53,2; Elschenbroich, Die deutsche und lateinische Fabeln in der Frühen Neuzeit II: 22-6; Stammler & Langosch, Deutsche Literatur des Mittelalters: Verfasserlexikon2 9: 65-7; ISTC ic01016000; Goff C-1016.