The Mirror of the World


This manuscript, which is dated in a colophon to 1489, is one of the three known 15th-century copies of a rare vernacular cosmography originally composed in verse under the title Image du Monde (The mirror of the world) in the dialect of Lorraine circa 1245‒46. The manuscript provides descriptions of the seven liberal arts, along with astronomical theories, especially about the earth, the creatures that inhabit it, and its movements within the universe. Each one of the liberal arts is illustrated with a small miniature in grisaille, and extraordinary geometric astronomical diagrams recur throughout the book. The importance of this work (Walters Art Museum W.199) is both textual and pictorial. Illuminated by followers of Willem (also called Guillaume) Vrelant, who was active in Bruges in 1454‒81, the manuscript reveals an affinity of format and content with a 1464 copy of the Image du Monde made in Bruges (London, British Library, Royal 19 A.IX). The text of the work, by Gossouin (or Gauthier) of Metz, originally was commissioned by John, duke of Berry and Auvergne, and appears here in a Gothic littera batarda script. The epilogue refers to “Iehan clerc librarien” in Bruges, who is credited with organizing this edition. The manuscript also includes prayers for physical and spiritual benefits for the readers or auditors. The rubrics are in red and the text is in dark-brown ink with major divisions marked by red or blue initial capitals. The work has one full-page illumination, 11 smaller figural miniatures in grisaille, and 27 polychrome scientific diagrams.

Last updated: April 17, 2017