Medieval educators gave significant attention to the principles of morality in training their students. Such instruction was closely linked to the cultivation of memory. The individual who came to store edifying texts and moral tenets in his mind was believed to have a solid foundation for future learning, equipped to profitably engage in the loftiest of the human sciences: theology.

The means by which basic moral/mnemonic instruction was delivered changed over time. In the Early and Central Middle Ages, when the learned were mainly monks and elite clergy, its foundations were biblical literature and the texts of the liturgy. In the twelfth century, as education became more analytical and moved beyond the circle of those immersed in the liturgical cycle, new methods of teaching were developed. Ancient mnemonic techniques, stressing the use of specific imaginary spaces as containers of data, began to be cultivated once again. To facilitate learning, teachers developed inscribed diagrams organized according to numerical principles and informed by increasingly sophisticated exegetical methods. Far from supplanting well-established pedagogical tools, these diagrams became important ancillary elements in educational practice.

Beinecke MS 416 is a late thirteenth-century or early fourteenth-century collection of such didactic diagrams from the Cistercian abbey of Kamp in western Germany. It is composed of eight folios of figures that, when found in combination, are often called the Speculum theologiae.