Nature forging a baby from BL Harley 4425, f. 140
Detail of a miniature depicting Nature forging a baby. Image taken from f. 140 of Roman de la Rose (index Romance of the Rose). Written in French.
Roman de la Rose was one of the most widely read works in France for three centuries, and possibly the most read book in Europe in the 14th and 15th centuries. The work started around 1220, possibly by Guillaume de Lorris, and continued later by Jean de Meun: between 1269 and 1278. This particular manuscript was copied from a printed edition published at Lyon, probably around 1487. "Romance of the Rose" was both popular and controversial provoking attacks of many writers and moralists of the 14th and 15th centuries. The medieval French poem styled as an allegorical dream vision with a purpose to entertain and to teach others about the Art of Love. The "Rose" of the title is seen as the name of the lady and as a symbol of female sexuality in general. The other characters' names also serve as abstractions of the various factors that are involved in a love affair. Its emphasis on sensual language. Historian Johan Huizinga writes: "It is astonishing that the Church, which so rigorously repressed the slightest deviations from dogma of a speculative character, suffered the teaching of this breviary of the aristocracy (for the Roman de la Rose was nothing else) to be disseminated with impunity." About 320 manuscripts of the text survive, nearly 200 of these are illustrated.