Project history and information

Current Phase

In 2016, we began an initiative to upgrade our manuscript viewer to a IIIF-compliant viewer. This new viewer was launched in December 2017. The Rose Library also became part of a larger aggregating site, the Digital Library of Medieval Manuscripts, which also hosts the Christine de Pizan Digital Scriptorium. The use of a IIIF viewer and WordPress-based counterpart site, allows us to be more responsive to future digital advancements and to upgrade our capabilities in a more agile fashion.

Phase II

In 2007, the Bibliothèque nationale de France and the Roman de la Rose Digital Library began a partnership to digitize all the Rose manuscripts held in Paris and in municipal and university libraries in France for the site. With funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, this joint project made available about half of the roughly 300 Rose manuscripts known to be extant. These manuscripts began to appear on the site through December 2009. Codicological descriptions of all these manuscripts and other scholarly content has been added over time, and we continue to enrich our site with new transcriptions, image descriptions, and manuscript metadata.

Two exhibitions of Roman de la Rose manuscripts, at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore and the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris, have also been planned in conjunction with the Digital Library. The exhibition at the Walters Art Museum, Romance of the Rose: Illuminated Visions of a Medieval Masterpiece, went from the 24th of January to the 19th of April of 2009. The Paris exhibition will take place in 2010 or 2011.

Initial Project

This project first began in 1996 when Stephen G. Nichols, James M. Beall Professor of French and Chair of the Romance Languages and Literatures Department at Johns Hopkins University, approached staff at the Milton S. Eisenhower Library about digitizing Roman de la Rose manuscripts for teaching purposes. After receiving funding from Ameritech Library Services, the Getty Grant Program, the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, and the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, the Eisenhower Library created the prototype Roman de la Rose: Digital Surrogates of Medieval Manuscripts on this site, which came to include six Rose manuscripts from various libraries in the US and UK.

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 prototype site made possible and then, over time, improved.

At one workshop in 1998, participants including academics, librarians, curators and technologists tested this prototype and recommended expanding the project as a digital library by adding manuscripts and scholarly content. Further Rose manuscripts, one in Chicago, one in Paris, two in Japan, two in private collections, as well as two early printed books in Washington D.C., were photographed for the project, and these images were made available to users of the site. The value of and interest in examining different copies of a single text held in various repositories and not always easily accessible was immediately clear both to scholars and the general public alike.