The Roman de la Rose

A manuscript made by Berthaud d'Achy

The Roman de la Rose (Romance of the Rose) is a thirteenth-century allegorical poem in Old French about the art of love.

Written in octosyllabic couplets, the Roman was begun by Guillaume de Lorris around 1230 but broke off after around 4,000 verses, apparently because the poet died prematurely.
The poem is narrated in the first person. The Lover recounts a dream he had about entering a walled garden and falling in love with a rose that grew there. In the garden he meets many allegorical personages who represent feelings, qualities and defects of character: some try to help him attain his desire, others to stop him. Eventually, with the help of the God of Love and Venus, he prevails over the rose’s guardians and kisses the flower, only to see it imprisoned by Jealousy in a tower.

This story has inspired many generations of lovers, poets and artists.

The Roman de la Rose is a veritable manual of courtly love.

In 1280, Jean de Meun, or Meung (1250-1305) completed the poem by adding another 18,000 lines. The style is quite different from Lorris’s. The story of the quest for the rose is continuously interrupted by digressions in which Reason (personified by a lady) discourses with the Lover about nature, marriage, wealth, liberty and other matters discussed in those days.

In this veritable encyclopedia of medieval knowledge, de Meun does not hesitate to take issue with the negative aspects of life and love.

He lambastes women, mocks men, questions power, clergymen and monks, and praises nature, which for him prevails over any convention. It’s very clear that he enjoys bawdiness and double entendres.
Shortly after 1400, a fierce debate about the Roman broke out in the literary world. This was the first great literary dispute in the western world about what was the most famous erotic book of the time.


Each copy is numbered and certified by the Vatican Apostolic Library
Copies available | Price subject to private negotiation

Innovative illustrations

The Roman de la Rose offered artists a new challenge: how to illustrate a daring new text, not a known religious one. It led to a sudden innovation in illustration: from solemn seriousness to ironic smiles, from celestial love to earthly love.

The Roman quickly became very popular, and innumerable manuscript copies were made of it. Unfortunately, only a small number of good-quality, richly illustrated ones have survived in good condition.

Among the very few extant thirteenth-century copies, one that especially stands out is the lavishly illustrated one that belongs to the Vatican Library. It was made and signed by Berthaud d’Achy. This beautiful manuscript features many brightly decorated initial letters, and 93 miniatures.

This facsimile edition of the d’Achy manuscript makes available to lovers of medieval books this early copy of the Roman de la Rose, which is still in an excellent state of preservation.

Technical characteristics

Replica of the whole 260-page manuscript in its original format (24 x 32.5 cm).

  • Each page of the manuscript is richly decorated; the gilded parts were replicated by applying gold leaf.
  • Each page is exactly the same size as the corresponding page in the original manuscript; the pages were sewn by hand on a flat binding.
  • Bound in tooled marbled brown goatskin leather; the two fastenings are made of braided strips of leather.
  • The accompanying introduction, 196 pages long (17 x 24 cm), was written by the distinguished German art historian and medievalist Prof. Eberhard König.

Upon request, the facsimile manuscript will be provided together with a bilingual edition of the poem, comprising the original Old French text and a German translation by Karl August Ott (published by Wilhelm Fink Verlag, Munich).

Limited worldwide edition: 600 numbered copies, of which 150 for circulation in German-speaking countries.

Reference: Urb. Lat. 376

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