We at In Custodia Legis are sensitive to the fact that some of our readers may be disappointed that the Mayan Apocalypse of 2012, predicted for today, has turned out to be a bust. In order to soothe your nerves, we thought it would be courteous to invite you to look at a couple of scenes from the final judgment (and other eye-catching otherworldly vignettes) as they appear in an item from the Law Library’s Rare Book Collection.
The work in question is called Layenspiegel, or Laÿen Spiegel von rechtmässigen Ordnungen in burgerlichen vnd peinlichen Regimenten (Augsburg: 1509). As the title suggests, the work is a handbook for laymen (literally, the Lay Handbook) covering various aspects of civil and criminal law. While it includes important pieces of Germanic legislation and customary practice, it contains a fair mixture of Roman and Canon Law as well. It is written in the German vernacular, as opposed to Latin, with the aim of making the law more accessible to a non-scholarly reading public. It also includes material on witch-hunting, the origin of sin, and a play depicting a trial about the Devil’s dominion over the human race. The images accompanying this post are woodcut prints that appear in the work.
Of course, on the far off chance that the end of the world has come to pass by the time you are reading this, well then, the egg’s on on our face, isn’t it?