ORB Masthead with site navigation toolbar; see bottom 
of page for text version of toolbar

Encyclopedia | Library | Reference | Teaching | General | Links | About ORB | HOME

ORB Online Encyclopedia


John of Hildesheim's The Mirror of the Source of Life .

Frank Schaer, ed.

The Mirror of the Source of Life, by John of Hildesheim, d. 1375, Carmelite and man of letters. His career in the church was spent in France and Italy as well as Germany; he ended his life as prior of the convent of Marienau. Later commentators like Bostius and Trithemius record his contemporary repute as a theologian, orator, philosopher, poet, and historiographer. Surviving titles suggest a prolific and varied--apologetic, polemical, epistolary, homiletic--literary output. The commentators also attribute to him a very popular account of the life, background, and relics of the Three Kings (the biblical Magi), the so-called Historia Trium Regum (over a 100 surviving mss and prints). His unquestionably genuine output includes correspondence and works in defence of his order; the former shows early humanist influence. See initially:


Worstbrock, F.J., and Sylvia C. Harris, "Johannes von Hildesheim", in Verfasserlexikon, ed. Wolfgang Stammler, 2nd edition, 7 vols to date (Berlin, 1978ŃŃ).

and further in:


Hendricks, Rudolf, ed., "A register of the letters and papers of John of Hildesheim, O. Carm. (d.1375)", Carmelus, 4 (1957), 116-235.

Horstmann, C., ed., The Three Kings of Cologne: an early English translation of the "Historia trium Regum" by John of Hildesheim, EETS OS, 85 (London, 1886).

Kreuzer, Georg, "Ein &Uuml;bersehener Schismentraktat des Karmeliten Johannes von Hildesheim ( 1375)", in Papsttum, Kirche und Recht im Mittelalter, ed. Hubert Mordek (T&uuml;bingen, Verlag, 1991), 347-65.

Staring, Adrian, "Medieval Carmelite heritage" (Rome: Institutum Carmelitanum, 1989).


The present text is transcribed from Bodleian Laud Latin ms 49, apparently the unique surviving witness of the work. The commentators list a De Fonte Vite among the author's works; the introductory matter in the Laud ms confirms the authorship, but suggests that the correct title is rather Speculum Vite Fontis or Speculum Fontis Vite. The work as it survives presents 141 short propositions under 13 headings, on life, its origins, preservation, and decay, and the interrelations of life forms; however, the numeration ceases after 102, at ch. 11, and there are a number of apparently minor lacunas. The text is in a poor state, with many misspellings, incorrect word divisions, scribal corrections, and corruptions. I have attempted to correct these and to supply a translation.

The following conventions have been used in the transcription:

\non/ a marginal or interlinear addition by the scribe

<nsh> letters difficult to read in the manuscript

//siune MS// the reading in the manuscript (the word or, where indicated, words preceding being editorial conjectures)

[168b] change of folio

*adperf a corrupt word

*in ins snuli* a corrupt passage

} represents a paraf mark in the ms

( . . . ) text omitted

Word division and capitalisation is editorial.

Finally, let me say that I came across this work while working on texts of a rather different nature, and this text and translation is offered as a tentative edition by a non-specialist. I would welcome any criticisms and suggestions for improving the text or translation, as well as any suggestions as to possible sources or influences.

Frank Schaer

(Medieval Studies, Central European University,

H-1051 N&aacute;dor u. 9, Budapest, Hungary)

email: shaerf@ceu.hu

Go to Latin text | Go to English translation

Copyright (C) 1996, (add author's name here). This file may be copied on the condition that the entire contents,including the header and this copyright notice, remain intact.

Encyclopedia | Library | Reference | Teaching | General | Links | About ORB | HOME

The contents of ORB are copyright © 1995-1999 Laura V. Blanchard and Carolyn Schriber except as otherwise indicated herein.