Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun, Roman de la rose
France, thirteenth century

St John’s College, MS G.5, f. 41r
France?, mid fourteenth century (with fifteenth century additions)
Vellum, 238 x 171 mm (169 x 135 mm), II + 163 + II ff.

In the course of a lengthy tirade, Jean de Meun’s Reason makes an obscene reference to the castration of Saturn. The scribe of this manuscript, clearly disapproving of what some might think the immodest aspects of classical mythology, omitted the passage. His expurgation, however, was not ultimately effective, for a later hand has carefully added an asterisk (first column, five lines from the bottom) and inserted the missing text at the foot of the page. The offending passage reads, in English: ‘Saturn, whose balls, Jupiter, his harsh and bitter son, cut off as though they were sausages and flung into the sea, whence Venus was born, as the book says.’ The manuscript was given to St John’s College by Thomas, Earl of Southampton, in 1635.

By permission of the Master and Fellows of St John’s College, Cambridge.

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