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14th C Manuscript Acquisition to Engage Scholars and New Graduate Courses

Library’s acquisition reunites two manuscripts once bound together

By Julia Morse
News Office

From left to right: “The Queen conversing with a Doctor.” Reproduced from: Jacobus de Cessolis. “Le Jeu des Échecs Moralisé.” Anonymous compilation of translations by Jean Ferron and Jean de Vigny. France, ca. 1365. 13 illuminations by the Master of Saint Voult. University of Chicago MS 392; How Openness and Pity face Resistance to reprimand him for his cruelty” and “How Openness rebukes Fair Welcoming for having left the Lover alone for too long.” Reproduced from: Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun. “Le Roman de la Rose.” France, ca. 1365. 40 illuminations by the Master of Saint Voult. University of Chicago Library MS 1380.

After a century-long separation, a 14th-century manuscript of the French love poem “Le Roman de la Rose” was reunited with its mate at the University Library.

“Bringing the two parts of this book back together will enable discoveries that would not be possible if they remained apart,” said Alice Schreyer, Director of the Special Collections Research Center at the library.

The manuscript of “Le Roman de la Rose” (“The Romance of the Rose”) was separated in 1907 from another 14th-century manuscript: Le Jeu des Échecs Moralisé (“The Moralized Game of Chess”), which the library had acquired in 1931.

Both manuscripts will be on display as part of the exhibition, “Romance and Chess: A Tale of Two Manuscripts Reunited.” The exhibition will be on view in the Special Collections Research Center from Thursday, Feb. 14 through Friday, March 14.

Daisy Delogu, Assistant Professor in Romance Languages & Literature, said, “This Le Roman de la Rose manuscript has extraordinary potential to enrich research and teaching opportunities here at Chicago, and will be of interest to scholars of manuscript culture and literary studies worldwide. Le Roman de la Rose is arguably the single-most influential vernacular text of the late French Middle Ages.”

Beginning next fall, Delogu and Aden Kumler, Assistant Professor in Art History and the College, plan to teach a graduate seminar focusing entirely on Le Roman de la Rose.

“This Le Roman de la Rose manuscript will make an ideal centerpiece for a wide range of teaching projects,” Kumler said. “I am excited to make it a focal point of several courses, including classes examining the commercial book trade in Paris, the politics of luxury in the Middle Ages and the history of medieval illuminated manuscripts.”

[Adds Christina von Nolcken, Associate Professor in English Language & Literature], “The reunion of parts of a medieval manuscript proves a rare and wonderful opportunity. This is especially the case today, when scholars tend to work with manuscripts rather than with individual texts.”

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