Saturday 21 September 2019

Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts in The Name of the Rose (1986)

Sean Connery, as William de Baskerville, inspecting a manuscript
I ended the previous post with a modern copy of a medieval manuscript, that had been made as a prop for the film The Name of the Rose [Wikipedia], based on Umberto Eco's book about a medieval manuscript, library, and murder mystery. I later decided to have a look at the film to see if I could see the facsimile manuscript's appearance. I don't have a copy of the full movie, but there is a scene (full of inaccuracies and anachronisms) available on Youtube (embedded below) set in the monastery's scriptorium, and just for fun I decided to take a series of screenshots, to see how many of the manuscripts included in the scene are identifiable.

[The 4½-minute scene should play if if click this YouTube link, with the usual options to pause, watch full-screen, etc.; but you don't have to watch it in order to understand what follows]

Here is an overview of the scriptorium, as seen when the heroes of the story (the Franciscan William de Baskerville, played by Sean Connery, and his young protégé Adso of Melk, played by Christian Slater) first enter the room:

One manuscript is shown in close-up, and is therefore the easiest to identify:
It is the Beatus page from the St-Omer Psalter (BL, Yates Thompson, MS 14):
Although details of the border ornament around three sides of the page have been changed, the Beatus initial has been copied closely:

Although we never see more than a partial view of this manuscript:
 it is so distinctive that it can be identified as the Silos Apocalypse (BL, Add. MS. 11695):

Similarly, we never get a good look at the manuscript in the foreground here:
and here:
but the verso, at least, is a copy of the II Kings initial in the Winchester Bible [Wikipedia]:

We get a few other glimpses of the manuscript in the background of those shots:
The layout and iconography show this to be the Ingebourg Psalter [Wikipedia]. I can't find an online image of the double-page spread, but here is the verso, depicting the Transfiguration:

One manuscript that appears several times is very indistinct:
But on its last appearance one can just about discern a large asymmetrical letter "N" in the middle:
allowing us to recognise it as the "In principio" page of the Gospel of John in the Arnstein Bible, vol. II (BL, Harley MS 2799, digitized here):
Despite having two good views of it, the one that took me the longest to (partially) identify is this:
The verso is fol. 1v from the 8th-century Corbie Hexameron (Paris, BnF, MS Lat. 12135):
I have not yet worked out where the facing recto is from. It is certainly based on a different manuscript, perhaps 9th-century, and the spelling "describtio" in the first line might to be a clue to its origin. Here is an enhanced detail:
Can anyone identify it?

We never get a very good view of this one, but it is presumably 14th-century, French:

And finally, this last one is so strange that if it is a copy of a real manuscript, it ought to be recognisable, but I don't:
Is it perhaps another early Spanish Apocalypse manuscript?


  1. I seem to recall that François Avril was the 'scientific' or 'technical' advisor for the film of "The Name of the Rose." Assuming that my recollection is correct, he can perhaps easily identify all of the manuscripts displayed in the scriptorium scenes.

  2. The credits on IMDB include the following:
    François Avril ... manuscript advisor
    Jacques Le Goff ... supervising historical advisor
    Michel Pastoureau ... heraldry advisor



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