The Name of the Rose

The Fragments of the Library Symbol Analysis

The Fragments of the Library Symbol Icon

Although William of Baskerville describes the abbey’s library as the “greatest in Christendom,” its thousands of books are all destroyed in a raging fire at the end of Adso of Melk’s narration. Decades later, an older Adso returns the site in northern Italy where the abbey had once stood. He patiently gathers up a few tattered remains of the library: “scraps of parchment,” “intact bindings,” a few rotten pages where he can sometimes see a “title,” or “an image’s shadow” or “the ghost of one or more words.” These fragments of books symbolize the larger whole of the lost library and its vast body of knowledge. As Adso puts it, this “lesser library” is a “symbol of the greater, vanished one.” Over the succeeding years, he collects copies of books that he had seen at the abbey and tries to use these incomplete pages to imaginatively reconstruct the library. This endeavor is related to Umberto Eco’s own literary project in The Name of the Rose. Like Adso, Eco imagines a book that had once existed (the second book of Aristotle’s Poetics) but is now lost. Nevertheless, he uses the available evidence to create a plausible reconstruction of what Aristotle might have written on comedy. The notion of a fragment that can stand in for a lost whole is thus central to the novel. Adso uses the metaphor of a dismembered body in writing about the library’s fragmented and burnt remains, which he describes as “membra” and “amputated stumps of books.” By imagining these scattered parts as a symbol of the vanished body, Adso hopes that through these “fragments, quotations, and unfinished sentences…a message might reach [him]”. He devotes an entire day to a seemingly fruitless task—collecting pages of books that can no longer be read—because he believes that those fragments have a greater symbolic meaning.

The Fragments of the Library Quotes in The Name of the Rose

The The Name of the Rose quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Fragments of the Library. 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.
"Naturally, A Manuscript" and Prologue Quotes

On sober reflection, I find few reasons for publishing my Italian version of an obscure, neo-Gothic French version of a seventeenth-century Latin edition of a work written in Latin by a German monk toward the end of the fourteenth century.

Related Characters: Unnamed Narrator (speaker), Adso of Melk
Related Symbols: The Fragments of the Library
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:
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Last Page Quotes

Mine was a poor harvest, but I spent a whole day reaping it, as if from those disiecta membra of the library a message might reach me. […] At the end of my patient reconstruction, I had before me a kind of lesser library a symbol of the greater, vanished one: a library made up of fragments, quotations, unfinished sentences, amputated stumps of books.

Related Characters: Adso of Melk (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Fragments of the Library
Page Number: 536-537
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Fragments of the Library Symbol Timeline in The Name of the Rose

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Fragments of the Library appears in The Name of the Rose. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Last Page
The Interpretation of Signs Theme Icon
...a bookcase, largely rotted by termites but containing a few pages. He salvages these few fragments of the library, hoping to reconstruct what had once been the greatest collection of books... (full context)
The Interpretation of Signs Theme Icon
Over the years, he writes, he has read and re-read these fragments, as if a message from the library might reach him. He is increasingly convinced that... (full context)