The Romance of the Rose manuscript describing dignified love was composed by two poets; Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun. Lorris. The first part of the poem consisting of 4,085 lines was written by Lorris between years 1225 and 1230 while the second part of the poem was written by Meun around 1275 which consists of 17,724 lines that concluded the poem. An analysis of the context of one of the seven manuscripts, category NLW MS 5016D, reveal how the writing was prepared, the decoration of the miniatures and their initials, the binding, the types of texts, the relationship between texts and images, and the colors of ink used in writing.
The Romance of the Rose was written in the old French vernacular in 13th and 14th century that was composed of courtly literary work meant to provide entertainment and teachings concerning love (Blamires, Alcuin and Gail 17). Furthermore, being one of the most popular type of literature in those centuries, it invited opposing opinions concerning topics related to love in France. The owner of this particular manuscript was H. W. F. Hunter Arundel of Barjang Tower who sold it to F. W. Bourdillon in 1914. After Bourdillon died, the manuscript together with other collections were taken to The National Library.
The present binding of the manuscript which was done in 16th century is of a pasteboard covering in the color black. The cover also includes a fillet frame and a monogram that has two connected C’s. Originally it had a different binding. The holes in the board were caused by beetles that laid eggs in the woods before being used to bind the manuscript (Blamires, Alcuin and Gail 124). Part of the texts was replaced with new leaves when fresh covers were used after the year 1551. The blank leaves at the front and at the back of the manuscript have a watermark of Briquet 8091.
The two sections of this poem were divided by a rubric that is called Le Codicile of Jean de Meun. The edition of Meun does not include the second part of stanza 5 while Gallarati’s edition interchanges the stanzas 17 and 18 (Blamires, Alcuin and Gail 125).
Eleven lines in the lower section of first column are only visible in ultra-violet light due to erasure. There is no evidence of any markings by readers between 5th and 15th centuries, except for one change made by hand on folio 135. Medieval readers added or omitted some lines of the texts with the permission of the library. Within the outside cover is a note that indicated that King Charles’s library sold the manuscript, which also included the price that was written using ink. After Meun completed the second part of the poem, it was later translated to English, which was later found among the collections of F. W. Bourdillon.
The manuscript has 150 folios, the first and the last pages being blank leaves. Some sections were ruled in pale red ink while the others in brown ink. This kind of ruling surrounds each column. Signatures a-t are found in the first 136 leaves, excluding g and p from the order. However, the signatures found between 112th leaf and 136th leaf have darker ink showing that they were signed by different people (“Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru – The National Library of Wales: Roman De La Rose.”). Water destroyed upper inside corners of the first 19 groupings of 8 sheets each. They were restored with new bindings. This was done when the board containing the manuscript was made of wooden oak. In the process of repairing, the initial first leaf was destroyed, which led to replacement.
Nineteen one-column images are contained in Guillaume de Lorris’s texts and only five in Jean de Meun’s texts. These detailed paintings are inside frames polished with gold between years 1365 and 1375. One of these images is a miniature of the Trinity painted in gold, red, and white which shows Christ, with the border being decorated by a frame of gold, blue, and red bars. Colors pink and blue were used in the initial three lines that shows a floor painted in gold. However, the end of de Lorris’s work is an image of de Meun who changed the style of writing by treating love with a practical and skeptical attitude that was a new kind of rationalism in 13th century.
The Romance of the Rose brought forth discussions into issues related to love. Being popular at that time, the manuscript contains miniatures that portrays the content of the poem visually; how the lover seeks his Rose and how he encounters obstacles in the enclosed garden, and later finding his true love and hugs her (Blamires 20). The poem ends when the lover plucks the rosebud.
Huws, Daniel. “NLW MS 5016D.” The Romance of the Rose Illuminated: Manuscripts at the National Library of Wales Aberystwyth. Ed. Alcuin Blamires and Gail C. Holian. Tempe: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2002. 121-25.
“Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru – The National Library of Wales: Roman De La Rose.” Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru – The National Library of Wales: Croeso – Welcome, www.llgc.org.uk/en/discover/digital-gallery/manuscripts/the-middle-ages/roman-de-la-rose/.