Romance of the Rose of Berthaud d'Achy

Urb. lat. 376 - Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)

Alternate Titles:

Rosenroman des Berthaud d’Achy

Facsimile edition
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Alternate Titles

Rosenroman des Berthaud d’Achy

Extent / Format

260 pages / 23.5 x 24.0 cm

Around 1280
Artist / School

Author: Guillaume, de Lorris
Jean de Meung
Scribe and illustrator: Berthaud d’Achy


93 golden miniatures and 624 colored initials

Short description

The Romance of the Rose of Berthaud d'Achy was composed in Paris ca. 1280. The Gothic manuscript contains the famous Romance of the Rose, which was begun by Guillaume de Lorris ca. 1235 and was finished by Jean de Meung ca. 1280. D’Achy’s magnificent manuscript is adorned with 93 gold covered miniatures and a plethora of colorful initials.

Facsimile editions available


Romance of the Rose of Berthaud d'Achy

The Romance of the Rose is a 13th century love story composed in verse. It is considered to be the most successful and influential work of medieval French literature. The allegorical story portrays the experience of a long dream. The protagonist gives an account as though he is in a dream and loves a rose, which he can win after overcoming various difficulties. Thereby the rose symbolizes a woman. The story consists of two parts, which completely altered the literature of the Middle Ages. The manuscript of Berthaud d’Achy is probably the most beautiful edition of the story. It contains 93 golden miniatures and numerous colored initials in the Gothic style.

Medieval World Literature

The Romance of the Rose is a stylistic masterpiece, which influences literature up to our contemporary era. Completely new narrative techniques were used and combined with one another here. Never before was there a French story that was composed in the first-person perspective. Also, the employment of allegorical figure as acting fictional characters and the depiction of an entire plot of the story as a dream are groundbreaking. The acting figures are namely, aside from the main character, not actual conceivable persons. They are treated as allegories, e.g. Prudence or mythological figures such as Cupid. The Romance of the Rose revolutionized the literature of the Middle Ages.

Two Different Authors

The story was begun by Guillaume de Lorris ca 1235. Guillaume’s text terminates as a fragment at verse 4068. The author probably died before he could complete the text. Nevertheless, somewhere in the middle of the tale of the affectionate protagonist he indicates that he will explain the deeper meaning of the work later. Above all it is implied that he will win the rose at the end of a long battle. Evidently the writer Jean de Meung used this comment as a starting point for the idea of a continuation. This was written between 1275 and 1280. Both parts of the tale are starkly different from one another. The first part, coming from the quill of the nobleman de Lorris, stands in the tradition of courtly poetry of the time**, his image of love correlates to the ideal of courtly love. By contrast, de Meung was a city-dweller and stood at an ironic distance from the courtly mindset of his predecessor. He advocates on the whole rational and skeptical, almost materialistic ideas.

Expensive Book Decoration

The verse manuscript is embellished with countless colorful and golden decorations. The plot is illustrated by a total of 93 miniatures. The images shine in luminous colors and are appointed with precious gold leaf. The shimmering scenes transplant the beholder in the amorous dream of the protagonist. The work contains, along with the charming miniatures, countless additional decorative elements. The text is adorned with a total of 624 colorful and laboriously decorated Gothic initials. Additionally, a few historicized borders enliven the manuscript. The Romance of the Rose of Berthaud d'Achy is a true firework of medieval book art.

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