Roman de la Rose Donations

We have launched a Roman de la Rose donations page available at As this page indicates, the generous support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has allowed us to build the Roman de la Rose Digital Library, but we will need your contributions to help sustain and further develop this resource. We realize that economic conditions are difficult, so your donations will be especially appreciated.

Usage statistics (November 2008)

Following the first two months of the Roman de la Rose Digital Library, we have noted the following usage statistics:

  • 2,056 visits from 72 different countries or territories
  • The top five countries represented (in order): United States, United Kingdom, France, Spain, Germany
  • 1,500 absolute unique visitors
  • 28% of these visitors have returned to the site
  • 68 of these visitors have used the site 9-14 times
  • 38 of these visitors have used the site 15-25 times
  • 103 of these visits lasted between 10-30 minutes
  • 20 of these visits lasted over 30 minutes

We have heard directly from two scholars who are using the Roman de la Rose Digital Library for teaching or research purposes. We are launching a survey in November as part of our effort to develop the Roman de la Rose membership society. We hope that you will join our growing community.

Usage statistics (October 2008)

It’s been about one month since we launched the new Roman de la Rose Digital Library. We are planning to publicize the Digital Library through various mailing lists in a few days. Even without widespread publicity, we have noted the following usage statistics in the first month (we have filtered out our own use of the site):

  • 906 visits from 49 different countries or territories
  • The top five countries represented (in order): United States, Spain, United Kingdom, France, Germany
  • 640 absolute unique visitors
  • 30% of these visitors have returned to the site
  • 32 of these visitors have used the site 9-14 times
  • 22 of these visitors have used the site 15-25 times
  • 50 of these visits lasted between 10-30 minutes
  • 16 of these visits lasted over 30 minutes

We look forward to more visits over time.

The viewing tools

With the high resolution images on the site, and using such viewing tools as the “zoom in” button, the “drag image” button, and the “popup window” button, the user interested in illustrations of the Roman de la Rose is now able to examine and compare these in greater detail than ever before. This is perhaps especially helpful in identifying artists and their different methods of work in the various manuscripts. For instance, the artist Jeanne de Montbaston, who lived and worked in Paris in the second quarter of the fourteenth century, is thought responsible for all 42 illuminations of Walters 143. This includes the border and frontispiece with four scenes on folio 1r and the 41 framed panel illustrations that follow.

We are better able to understand Jeanne’s use of thin brown lines to represent facial features and drapery by zooming in on the illumination on folio 69v of Walters 143, for example, and to see that the face of the character of Faux Semblant (False Seeming), who is tonsured and dressed in the black and white robes of a Dominican, was rubbed away and then redrawn by a hand different from Jeanne’s. If we use the “drag image” button to move a little to the right, we find the letters “b” and “a” have been written beside the scene. These are possibly directions for Jeanne made by the scribe. What the letters might have indicated to her remains unknown. Perhaps someone has an idea they would like to suggest or can find other directions to Jeanne in Walters 143 using the different viewing tools.

A New Form of Data Mining

This past week, Johns Hopkins University hosted an international colloquium “Philology, History, Theory: Rethinking the New Medievalism” in honor of Stephen G. Nichols. The French Embassy, The Fritz Thyssen Foundation, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation also provided support for the colloquium. Over the course of three days, I had the stimulating opportunity to interact with several scholars, some of whom are experts on the Roman de la Rose. During a rare opportunity to view a few of the treasures from the Walters Art Museum’s manuscript collection, I overhead Will Noel and Howard Bloch discussing digital manuscripts. They mentioned that digital images allow us to examine details that are not otherwise discernible. Bloch mentioned that there are details in facial expressions that “must have been painted with a brush of a single hair”. Noel noted that these artistic expressions must have been personal in nature, rather than intended for viewers of the manuscript. Bloch cited artwork on the top of cathedrals as another example.

I find it thoroughly exciting that now we might view these personal artistics expressions that have been hidden for so long. Through the Roman de la Rose Digital Library, we have an unprecedented opportunity to figuratively climb to the top of the cathedral.

Codicological descriptions

Among the many new features of the Roman de la Rose Digital Library is the inclusion of detailed codicological descriptions for each of the digitized manuscripts available on the site. These descriptions provide a way to quickly assess the relevance of manuscripts for further study.

The codicological descriptions in the digital library follow the Analytical Description of Manuscripts (ADM) convention developed by Albert Derolez and adapted for us by Timothy Stinson. This convention divides the description into ten sections with information about the location, physical description, decoration, history, etc. There is both an English and French version of each description.

Codicological descriptions are accessed via the “Select a book by” list in the left-hand navigation bar. Clicking on “Date”, for example, will open a menu with several choices each from the 14th-, 15th- and 16th-centuries. At that point you can click on one of the individual manuscripts listed and see its description. When an individual description is shown in the main browser window, you will see “codicological description” highlighted in the left navigation bar. You may then click on either “Page turner” or “Browse images” to access page images of that manuscript.

There are currently “full” codicological descriptions for some manuscripts, “brief” descriptions for a few, and no descriptions for fewer. We will eventually have full descriptions for each manuscript.

Foliation errors in Senshu 3 and BnF, fr. 12595

Two foliation errors have been found in the current display.

Sylvia Huot observed that Senshu University, MS 3, is numbered incorrectly from folio 76r to about folio 146r. The current site displays folio 75r twice (once following 74v and once again following 75v). After this repeated image all verso folios are correct but recto folios are off by one. Sylvia Huot has generously offered to solve this problem during her coming visit to Senshu University.

While finalizing the codicological description of BnF, fr. 12595, Timothy Stinson observed that folio 30 is missing in the original exemplar. The current folio 30r in the Rose Digital Library is actually folio 31r in the codex. All foliation afterwards is therefore off by one.

These problems will be solved as soon as possible.

Roman de la Rose launch celebration

To celebrate the launch of the new Roman de la Rose Digital Library, the production team held a small party in the offices of the Library Digital Programs in the Milton S. Eisenhower Library on the Johns Hopkins University campus in Baltimore. After brief remarks from project leaders Stephen Nichols and Sayeed Choudhury, everyone enjoyed cake and champagne.

The new digital library includes more content and many new features not available on the previous Roman de la Rose site. Subscribe to this blog for more information on expanded content and new services.

Welcome – Bienvenue

Welcome to the official Roman de la Rose Digital Library blog. The development of the Roman de la Rose poem begins with Guillaume de Lorris around 1230 and continues with Jean de Meun approximately forty years later. During the next few centuries, the poem was written, re-written, annotated, illustrated, and interpretated by a distributed community of individuals. While web-based technologies may be heralding a new movement of collaboration and sharing, we sometimes forget that there are prominent examples of such interaction from history. The Roman de la Rose was pre-Web 2.0.

In a fundamental way, everything old is new again. Our guiding force and leading scholar, Stephen G. Nichols, has observed how the development of this Digital Library emulated the creation of physical manuscripts in the medieval scriptorium. He has also noted that while the production process may seem familiar, the similarities end at that point. The Roman de la Rose Digital Library offers an unprecedented opportunity to interact with these rich treasures. The Digital Library offers additional content, a new design, and enhanced functionality. More importantly, it represents a major shift from viewing digitized manuscripts as surrogates toward a data-centric view. The Library offers interaction that is possible only in the digital realm. We have not attempted to build a structure, but rather scaffolding that offers enough of an environment to navigate without constraining or inhibiting potential use. Jean de Meun, Guillaume de Lorris, and anyone else who contributed to the poem may have never realized the long-term impact of their efforts. We hope that we are embarking on a similar journey with the launch of the Roman de la Rose Digital Library.

While we note the exciting possibilities, we are also reminded of the importance of tradition. At one of our planning meetings, Howard Bloch rightly mentioned his concerns that scholarship and investigation of these manuscripts may become completely lexcial. Based on this type of feedback, we developed the page turning functionality and other features that allow one to emulate–and augment–the reading room experience. This combination of content and tools that both excite human senses and provide a foundation for machine processing represent the hallmarks of the Digital Library. We invite you to join the community and become part of the story that will unfold.

We owe a great debt of gratitude to the individual and organizations that have contributed to this resource. Several scholars and advisers have offered guidance that has been critical toward the development of the Digital Library. During the first phase of the project, the Ameritech Library Services, the Getty Grant Program, the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, and the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation provided funding. Only with the generosity and expertise of curators at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, the Morgan Library & Museum in New York, and the Bodleian Library in Oxford, as well as the valuable input of the scholarly community, was the first phase site made possible.

Most recently, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation provided the funding to develop the Roman de la Rose Digital Library and the Bibliothèque nationale de France offered access to all 126 publicly held Roman de la Rose manuscripts in France. Finally, the digital library team at the Sheridan Libraries at Johns Hopkins University deserves tremendous credit for bringing this vision into reality. Their technological creation is a poetic act. All of these individuals’ and organizations’ contributions have made this Digital Library possible.

Your contributions will sustain and develop it over time.