ALTERNATIVE TITLES – Romanzo della Rosa di Berthaud d’Achy – Roman de la Rose par Berthaud d’Achy – Rosenroman des Berthaud d’Achy.
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION – Codex on parchment, dimensions 325 x 235 mm, 130 folios (260 pages).
ORIGIN – France (Beauvais or Paris).
DATING – 13th century (ca. 1280).
FORMER OWNERS – The letter «A» appears twice in the manuscript, and for this reason we may assume that it belonged to the Count of Urbino Antonio II da Montefeltro (b. 1348, d. 1404), an able and ambitious condottiere and politician who laid the foundations for what would later become the Duchy of Urbino. Instead, we are certain that the codex belonged to Antonio’s great-grandson, Federico da Montefeltro (b. 1422, d. 1482), the first Duke of Urbino. Federico was a great bibliophile, and his imposing library – consisting of almost 1,000 manuscripts – had the not insignificant purpose of adding to the public image of the condottiere that of a man of culture and patron of the arts.
PRESENT REPOSITORY – In 1657 Pope Alexander VII (b. 1599, d. 1667) began negotiations to acquire the library that had belonged to Federico da Montefeltro and later to successive dukes of Urbino. This acquisition was advocated by the Vatican librarian, the German philologist Lucas Holste, who had seen the collection and was greatly fascinated by it. In June of that year, the pontiff offered the community of Urbino a sum of money, along with other economic incentives. The negotiations were concluded in less than two months and the transfer was completed within the same year. Since then, the manuscript has been part of the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, with the shelfmark Urb. lat. 376.
GENRE – Literature.
CONTENT – The Romance of the Rose – in French Roman de la Rose – is an allegorical poem, written in two stages by Guillaume de Lorris (b. ca. 1210, d. ca. 1240) and Jean de Meung (b. ca. 1240, d. 1305). Between 1229 and 1236, Guillaume de Lorris composed the first 4,058 verses, but left the work unfinished due to his premature death. About forty years later, Jean de Meung resumed the poem, completing it with a further 17,722 verses. The work is an allegorical representation of courtly love: the beloved woman is symbolised by a rose, and the protagonist – in order to pluck her – must face various trials. The style and intention of the two authors are, however, very different: the courtly and chivalrous character of the first part gives way to a satire of contemporary society and a series of digressions on the most disparate themes, with an exhibition of the author’s encyclopaedic knowledge that is typical of the 13th century. Moreover, Jean de Meung reduces amorous passion to mere carnal desire. Despite these differences, the Roman de la Rose retains its unity and had an enormous following, becoming one of the most successful literary works of the Middle Ages. According to Eberhard Koenig, the ms. Urb. lat. 376 is one of the oldest surviving witnesses of the Roman de la Rose and by far the oldest of the illuminated ones.
LANGUAGE – French.
SCRIPT – Black letter, also known as Gothic script, with text in two columns. The manuscript was copied by two different scribes, with a change of hand on f. 33r. The first scribe writes in library gothic script, the second in cursive gothic script.
DECORATION – The manuscript has 94 miniatures positioned at the most significant sections of the text, a historiated initial on f. 65r (depicting the god Love kneeling and with folded hands addressing God), numerous decorated initials and blue and red filigreed initials.
SCRIBES / ILLUMINATORS – The scribe and illuminator Berthaud d’Achy – after whom the manuscript is named – copied most of the text and produced all but one of the miniatures. As for the copying of the text, a first scribe transcribed the first part of the codex (ff. 1-32), but remained anonymous. The second scribe was certainly Berthaud, who signed himself «Bertaut d’Achi» in the colophon (f. 129v). As for the miniatures, the artist who produced the only miniature not by Berthaud (f. 51v) is the Master of Méliacin, who takes his name from the Roman de Meliacin (Paris, BnF, ms. fr.1633), produced in Paris between 1285 and 1286. Berthaud d’Achy was originally from Achy (in the arrondissement of Beauvais) and was active in Paris during the reign of Philip IV of France (b. 1268, d. 1314). We know that in addition to the ms. Urb. lat. 376, he illuminated at least three other manuscripts, including the Petite bible historiale complétée, produced around 1312.
STYLE – Gothic.
EXTERNAL LINKS – Biblissima (digitized manuscript).
Data sheet: Illuminated Facsimiles
Loris, Chopinel Clopinel, Bertaud
Full-size color reproduction of the entire original document – The facsimile reproduces as close as possible the physical characteristics of the original document, with the aim to substitute it in the scientific research and in the libraries of the bibliophile collectors. Trimming and composition of the leaves reproduce the profile and structure of the original document. The binding might not correspond to that of the original document as it appears at the present moment.
Publisher – Belser Verlag (Zurich, 1987).
Series – Codicum Facsimiles Bibliothecae Apostolicae Vaticanae.
Limited edition – 600 copies.
Certificate of authenticity – The certificate of authenticity with the copy number is printed on the colophon.
Binding – Brown leather cover with blind tooling and ties.
Commentary – Commentary volume in Italian by Marco Buonocore (preface), Luciano Formisano (introduction), Gina D’Angelo Matassa (translation of the text in Italian).
Copyright photos: Illuminated Facsimiles