Johns Hopkins University

Spring 2008
Vol. 5, No.2

RESEARCH

A Eulogy to FUSE

Pooling Expertise to Combat Pollution

Student Research: From the Field

>High-Tech Access for a Centuries-Old Poem

For Female Would-Be Presidents, Press is Hard to Get

Fractured Origins

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High-Tech Access for
a Centuries-Old Poem

Grants of $779,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will allow Johns Hopkins and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF) to provide scholars with virtual access to more than half the known versions of Le Roman de la Rose, a medieval poem on the art of love that was the most-read work of French literature for hundreds of years.

The two grants will enable the pioneering Roman de la Rose project at Johns Hopkins' Sheridan Libraries to digitize 90 manuscripts of the poem held in the BNF and another 40 manuscripts from university and municipal libraries throughout France.

The French national library's holdings of one of the most popular and widely reproduced vernacular works of the Middle Ages constitute not only the most extensive collection of Rose manuscripts, but also the most varied in format, text, illumination, and decoration. In all, more than 250 widely varying manuscripts are thought to survive today, scattered primarily in libraries and museums throughout Europe and North America.

One of the two grants, for $731,000, will fund the transfer of all 130 French manuscripts to an electronic format, boosting the Sheridan Libraries' virtual collection to a total of 150 manuscripts.

"The Mellon grant enables us to make available for worldwide scholarship more than half of the Rose manuscripts known to be extant today," notes Winston Tabb, Sheridan Dean of University Libraries at Johns Hopkins.

Working with colleagues at Stanford University Libraries, the Rose project team will use a second Mellon award of $48,000 to make its digital library and Stanford's more compatible. Parker Library on the Web is a collaborative venture between Stanford and Corpus Christi College at Cambridge University to produce an interactive virtual library comprising more than 500 manuscripts from the 6th to the 16th centuries from the Parker Library at Corpus Christi.The Parker project is also Mellon-funded.

"Rose scholarship has long focused on a few manuscripts available in Paris," notes Arts and Sciences' Stephen Nichols, the James M. Beall Professor of French and Humanities and co-director of the project. "The idea was to study the text of the work, but not the colorful and informative paintings found on many manuscript pages."

The new digital access, Nichols says, "will now allow scholars to study the paintings and poetry together, revealing evolving styles of manuscript painting and linguistic change. Students will experience the variations of the work as medieval people would have known it."