GUILLAUME DE LORRIS (fl. c.1230) and JEAN DE MEUN (c.1240-1305). Roman de la Rose, in French, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM.
[northern France, 14th century]227 x 160mm. 105 leaves: 12 (singletons), 26(of 8, lacking i and ii), 37(of 8, lacking vii), 4-68, 74(lacking iii-vi), 8-148, 156(of 8, lacking vi and viii), a few catchwords, two columns of 28 lines written in a gothic bookhand in brown ink between 29 horizontals and eight verticals, the initials on the central vertical of the triple ruling to the left, ruled in plummet, justification: 160-165 x 125-130 mm, headings in red, two-line initials in red flourished with blue or in blue flourished with red, one illuminated initial in gold on a ground of pink and blue patterned with white (lacking beginning and end and nine further leaves, initial cut from f.11, lower corners lacking ff.5, 6 and, into text, f.3, most leaves worn and rubbed). 19th-century English russet crushed morocco, spine lettered in gilt (a little fading to spine, slight scuffing to joints and extremities).
1. The manuscript was probably written and decorated in northern France around the mid-14th century.
2. Hieronymus Winghen, canon: inscribed in 17th-Century hand on added paper leaf. What may be the same hand has added below that it was unbound, helping to explain the losses at beginning and end.
3. Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872): his lionstamp and Sir T.P. Middle Hill and number 4185, with 5 reinstated after being replaced by 0, on first added paper leaf; traces of label on spine where number has been hand written. Bought from Longman c.1830. British Library, Loan 36/16.
Le Roman de la rose, imperfect, ff.1-105: Guillaume de Lorris, lines 3532-3641 f.1; Jean de Meun, lines 4034-4155 f.2; lines 4254-5604 ff.3-14; lines 5703-8789 ff.15-41; lines 9241-9462 ff.42-3; lines 12060-19116 ff.44-104; lines 19231-19346 f.105.
The Roman de la Rose, totalling some 21720 lines, was one of the most widely read mediaeval texts. With over 300 manuscript copies extant, the popularity of the text cannot be overestimated, nor can its influence on European literature through such authors as Dante, Petrarch, and Chaucer. Of the modern editions, that of Felix Lecoy (1970-1976) has been used for detailing the contents of the present lot. This manuscript was unknown to E. Langlois, Les manuscrits du Roman de la rose: description et classement 1910, but was described by E. Billings Ham, who found that it related to the N subgroup of Langlois's Group II, see 'Cheltenham manuscripts of the Roman de la rose', Modern Language Review, XXVI, 1931, pp.427-35.
The Roman de la Rose was begun by Guillaume de Lorris in the 1230s and left incomplete; its composition was resumed after a hiatus of around forty years by Jean de Meun, whose additions ran to four times the length of de Lorris's original poem. De Lorris had written a first-person narrative allegorical poem on the nature of love, demonstrated through the quest of the central character, the Lover, through the Garden of Delight to attain the object of his love, the Rose. De Meun's additions transformed the character of the poem and made the allegory more overtly erotic.
The poem had appeal across social classes, appearing in the ownership of kings and princes as well as of comparatively humble townspeople. It maintained its popularity and manuscript copies continued to be made well into the age of printing. For a copy from the earlier 15th-century, see lot 31. Despite its losses, the present copy retains something approaching two-thirds of the text of one of the most influential works of creative literature.