The Name of the Rose

The Forbidden Book Symbol Icon

Jorge of Burgos orchestrated the deaths of five of his fellow monks in order to protect the secrecy of a single book—a book that comes to symbolize the dangers of forbidden knowledge. This book is shrouded in many layers of secrecy and obscurity: it is concealed in a hidden room in the library, the finis Africae; it is a composite volume of several works including a text in Arabic, making it a challenge to interpret; it is written on linen paper, a new and still somewhat unfamiliar technology in medieval Italy; and most disturbingly of all, its pages have been contaminated with poison. In all, it is a book that seems to not want to be read. Rather than inviting the reader in by advertising its contents, the manuscript has mysterious features that work to conceal its true nature, such that when William of Baskerville sees the book in the infirmary, he doesn’t realize what he is looking at until it is too late. Even if someone manages to unravel the mystery, Jorge’s poison ensures that no one who attempts to read the book will survive to tell the tale: Berengar of Arundel and Venantius of Salvemec both died after ingesting the poison with their hands and tongues, underscoring the book’s function as a symbol of the risks of pursuing forbidden knowledge. Jorge believes that the manuscript—which contains the only surviving copy of the lost second book of Aristotle’s Poetics, on comedy—is a dangerous book that poses an existential threat to the authority of the church and the endurance of God’s intended social order. He also believes, as he tells Willam and preaches in his apocalyptic sermon, that it is a sin to desire to know too much. After Jorge has poisoned it, the book becomes physically as well as intellectually threatening. This is a graphic demonstration of Jorge’s conviction that knowledge is dangerous, as attempting to read the forbidden book has quite literally fatal consequences.

The Forbidden Book Quotes in The Name of the Rose

The The Name of the Rose quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Forbidden Book. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Interpretation of Signs Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Mariner Books edition of The Name of the Rose published in 2014.
First Day Quotes

[O]nly the librarian knows, from the collocation of the volume, from its degree of inaccessibility, what secrets, what truths or falsehoods, the volume contains. Only he decides how, when, and whether to give it to the monk who requests it; sometimes he first consults me. Because not all truths are for all ears, not all falsehoods can be recognized as such by a pious soul.

Related Characters: Abo of Fossonova (speaker), Malachi of Hildesheim
Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation long mobile

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other The Name of the Rose quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
Second Day Quotes

This place of forbidden knowledge is guarded by many and most cunning devices. Knowledge is used to conceal, rather than to enlighten. I don’t like it. A perverse mind presides over the holy defense of the library.

Related Characters: William of Baskerville (speaker)
Page Number: 187-188
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Third Day Quotes

There, I said to myself, are the reasons for the silence and the darkness that surround the library: it is the preserve of learning but can maintain this learning unsullied only if it prevents its reaching anyone at all, even the monks themselves. Learning is not like a coin, which remains physically whole even through the most infamous transactions; it is, rather like a very handsome dress, which is worn out through use and ostentation. Is not a book like that, in fact? Its pages crumble, its ink and gold turn dull, if too many hands touch it.

Related Characters: Adso of Melk (speaker)
Page Number: 198
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Fourth Day Quotes

“But then,” I said, “what is the use of hiding books, if from the books not hidden you can arrive at the concealed ones?”

“Over the centuries it is no use at all. In a space of years or days it has some use. You see, in fact, how bewildered we are.”

“And is a library then, an instrument not for distributing the truth

but for delaying its appearance?" I asked, dumbfounded.

Related Characters: Adso of Melk (speaker), William of Baskerville (speaker)
Page Number: 306
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Fifth Day Quotes

The good of a book lies in its being read. A book is made up of signs that speak of other signs, which in their turn speak of things. Without an eye to read them, a book contains signs that produce no concepts; therefore it is dumb. This library was perhaps born to save the books it houses, but now it lives to bury them.

Related Characters: William of Baskerville (speaker), Benno of Upsala
Page Number: 422-423
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Sixth Day Quotes

“He wants me to leave tomorrow morning, does he? Very well, it’s his house; but by tomorrow morning I must know. I must.”

“You must? Who obliges you now?”

“No one ever obliges us to know, Adso. We must, that is all, even if we comprehend imperfectly.”

Related Characters: William of Baskerville (speaker), Abo of Fossonova
Related Symbols: The Forbidden Book
Page Number: 482
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Get the entire The Name of the Rose LitChart as a printable PDF.
The name of the rose.pdf.medium

The Forbidden Book Symbol Timeline in The Name of the Rose

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Forbidden Book appears in The Name of the Rose. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Second Day
Knowledge and Secrecy Theme Icon
Judgement and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
...cryptic statement prompted both Venantius and Adelmo to approach Berengar separately and ask for a forbidden book labeled “finis Africae” in the catalogue. (full context)
The Interpretation of Signs Theme Icon
Knowledge and Secrecy Theme Icon
Judgement and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
...appears that Adelmo had agreed to sleep with Berengar in exchange for access to the forbidden book located in the “finis Africae.” From this information, William hypothesizes that a distressed and guilty... (full context)
Fifth Day
The Interpretation of Signs Theme Icon
Knowledge and Secrecy Theme Icon
Judgement and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
...takes his advice and flees that night. After supper, Benno admits that he stole the forbidden book from the infirmary and returned it to the library when Malachi chose him for the... (full context)
Sixth Day
The Interpretation of Signs Theme Icon
Knowledge and Secrecy Theme Icon
...check the library catalogue. Back in the scriptorium, he sees a catalogue entry for a mysterious book labeled “finis Africae” containing four titles bound together, including a copy of the Coena. William... (full context)
The Interpretation of Signs Theme Icon
Knowledge and Secrecy Theme Icon
Judgement and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
...text, followed by texts in Syriac, Latin, and Greek. This book, then, is indeed the forbidden book they saw in the infirmary and identified in the catalogue. Benno describes the pages of... (full context)
Seventh Day
Knowledge and Secrecy Theme Icon
Religion and Politics Theme Icon
...him (spurred on by the Italian faction) to open the finis Africae and reveal the forbidden book . Jorge pretended to agree and said that he would kill himself in the secret... (full context)
The Interpretation of Signs Theme Icon
Knowledge and Secrecy Theme Icon
...Severinus by claiming that Berengar had been sexually intimate with him in exchange for the forbidden book from the finis Africae, prompting Malachi, who was in love with Berengar, to kill Severinus... (full context)
The Interpretation of Signs Theme Icon
...This was how Venantius died, then: he broke into the finis Africae, and found the forbidden book . When he read it, he ingested the poison. He went downstairs into the kitchen... (full context)
Knowledge and Secrecy Theme Icon
The Subversive Power of Laughter Theme Icon
Jorge asks how William guessed that the forbidden book contained the second book of the Poetics. William explains that he recognized some of the... (full context)
Knowledge and Secrecy Theme Icon
William admires Jorge’s ingenuity in spreading the poison on the forbidden book while blind, and in coming up with such a subtle and untraceable way of killing... (full context)
The Subversive Power of Laughter Theme Icon
Judgement and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
...death will be of no consequence and begins to eat the poisoned pages of the forbidden book . He quotes the Book of the Apocalypse: “take it and devour it, it will... (full context)