Item 28 - ‘The Glasse of Righteousnes’: an English translation of Den Spegel der Gherechticheit, by Hendrik Niclaes

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Crewe MS/28


‘The Glasse of Righteousnes’: an English translation of Den Spegel der Gherechticheit, by Hendrik Niclaes


  • c. 1656 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

1 volume (33 x 22 cm), containing 405 leaves. Prints are pasted to ff. 1v, 77v, and 403r. Half-bound.

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Archival history

Den Spegel der Gherechticheit, by Hendrik Niclaes, the founder of the Family of Love, was first published in Low German at Antwerp about 1556, and a revised edition, entitled Speculum Justitiae: De Spegel der Gerechticheit, appeared at Cologne about 1580. Somewhat unusually for Niclaes’s works no complete English translation was printed, though English readers were introduced to its ideas in publications entitled Introductio: An Introduction to the Holy Understanding of the Glasse of Righteousnes (c. 1575) (STC 18558) and A Figure of the True and Spiritual Tabernacle according to the Inward Temple or House of God in the Spirit (1578?), reprinted respectively in 1649 and 1655. The extent to which these books are based on the Low German editions, however, is unclear. Parts of the work are translated into English in a manuscript in the Bodleian Library (Rawlinson MS C554), but the present manuscript, which was apparently written by a single hand, contains the only known complete translation. It was probably written about 1656, the date of one of the prints pasted into it. The translation appears, from the occurrence of the words ‘Speculum Justitiae’ on title-page, to have been made from the revised version, but it is unclear whether the date 1580 on this page and the date 1578 on f. 5r refer to the source or the translation. The translator may have been Christopher Vittels, who translated several other of Niclaes’s works. Binder’s stamp: ‘White. Relieur. 24 Pall Mall. 1850.’ The armorial bookplate of Robert, Earl of Crewe, is pasted inside the front cover.

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Scope and content

See the table of contents below. On the spine is stamped ‘The Glasse of Righteousness by H. Nichol of the family of Love. M.S.S. Anno M. D. LXXX.’



f. i r: Title: ‘The Glasse of Righteousnes. (Speculum Justitiae) Through the holy Spirit of the Love of Jesus Christ and the deified Man, out of the Heavenly truth witnessed and published. To a declareing the Headsumme of the Upright Righteousnes or Kingly crowne of the Everlasting life. And is by HN perused anew and playnely or Distinctly declared. Translated out of Base-almayne. … ANNO. M. D. LXXX.’

f. 1v: Print of a symbolic representation of the Last Judgement, headed, in Low German, ‘Nu geit idt Gerichte ŏuer de Werlt: nu wert de Fŏrste desser Werlt vth-geworpen. Joan. 12.’ (John xii. 31). [1590 x 1630.]
The illustration depicts, in the words of the British Museum catalogue, ‘an angel hovering above two large orbs; a devil and skeleton standing on the right orb as it is swallowed by a hell mouth [with a lamb in front]; at left the same orb upturned, crush-ing the devil, the lamb with the flag of the resurrection standing on top of the fallen skeleton’. The angel carries a label inscribed ‘Nu is idt Heil de Kraft, vnde idt Ryck vnserem Gode geworden vnde de Macht Synem Christo Apoc 12’ (Rev. xii. 10). The lambs are each labelled ‘De Wech de Waerheit vnde idt Leuen’ (‘The Way, the Truth, and the Life’); the devils are each labelled ‘Sunde’ (‘Sin’).
Cf. British Museum No. 1870,0514.311.

f. 5r: ‘The First Booke. of the Glasse of Righteousnes.’
At the foot of the page is the date 1578.

f. 77r: Print of a symbolic representation of God in Heaven, 1656.
Engraved by Richard Gaywood. The print depicts a sun with the tetragrammaton in the centre, surrounded by clouds and a heavenly host. At the head is the text ‘Ego primus et ego novissimus: alpha et omega Is. 44.48. Ap.1.21.22’, and round the sun is ‘Coronae assimilabo judicium meum. 4.Esd.5.’ This is an elaboration of the device which appears on the title-page of several of Niclaes’s books, e.g. The Prophetie of the Spirit of Love (1574).

f. 78r: ‘The Second Booke of the Glasse of Righteousnes.’

f. 201r: ‘The Third Booke of the Glasse of Righteousnes.’

f. 295r: ‘The Tree of Life | The Fourth Booke of the Glasse of Righteousnes.’

f. 403r: Print of a heart and other emblems, captioned with verses beginning ‘Our Heart is the Minde of God’, [17th c.].
Two hands clasped in greeting in front of a lily, within a heart surrounded by rays of light, clouds, and winged heads. Above the hands are the words ‘Love trueth’, and amidst the clouds are the tetragrammaton and the word ‘Emmanuel’. Below the illustration are the following verses: ‘Our Heart is the Minde of God most high. Our Beeing amiable, as the sweet Lillie. Our faitfullnes Love and Trueth upright, Is Gods Light. life, and Cleernes bright.’

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System of arrangement

Foliated i (the title page), 1–404, with an unnumbered flyleaf at the front and another at the back. Folio 294 has been bound by mistake between ff. i and 1.

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  • English

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