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Western Medieval Manuscripts : Le Roman de la Rose

Guillaume, de Lorris, active 1230, Jean de Meun, approximately 1240-approximately 1305

Western Medieval Manuscripts

<p style='text-align: justify;'>The <i>Roman de la Rose</i> is probably the most important and influential literary work written in medieval French. It survives in over 300 manuscripts and fragments written between the thirteenth and the sixteenth centuries. It is the work of two authors. The first 4000 or so lines were written by Guillaume de Lorris c. 1230 and around 1275, Jean de Meun composed a continuation which adds more than 17,000 lines to the poem. The poem takes the form of an allegorical dream vision in which the Lover relates his journey into a walled garden and his quest for the beloved Rose. Into this standard courtly literature frame, Jean de Meun incorporated numerous commentaries and digressions on a variety of topics ranging from astrology and philosophy to optics. The poem was both popular and controversial for several centuries and its influence is evident in the writings of other major medieval poets including Petrarch, Dante and Chaucer. Like many manuscripts of the poem, CUL MS Gg.4.6 is illustrated with a cycle of miniatures, many of which are portraits of the allegorical figures who feature in the narrative. The artist of these miniatures has been identified as Richard de Montbaston (fl. 1325-1353), a professional illustrator who lived and worked with his wife Jeanne (fl. 1338-1353) on the rue Neuve Notre-Dame in Paris. Scholars have suggested that as many as 20 of the extant Rose manuscripts may have been illustrated by them. Many other Rose manuscripts have been digitised and are available at the <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''>Roman de la Rose Digital Library</a>.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Featured in <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''>The moving word</a> exhibition at Cambridge University Library.</p>

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