Much attention has been paid to the mystery of what the title of the novel refers to. In fact, Eco has stated that his intention was to find a "totally neutral title". In one version of the story, when he had finished writing the novel, Eco hurriedly suggested some ten names for it and asked a few of his friends to choose one. They chose The Name of the Rose. In another version of the story, Eco had wanted the neutral title Adso of Melk, but that was vetoed by his publisher, and then the title The Name of the Rose "came to me virtually by chance."
The book's last line, "Stat rosa pristina nomine, nomina nuda tenemus" translates exactly as: "The primordial rose abides through its name; we hold names that are naked." One may make nominalist hay of that, or much else. Approximately, so some say, the tag translates as "Yesterday's rose endures in its name, we hold empty names". The general sense, as Eco pointed out, was that from the beauty of the past, now disappeared, we hold only the name. In this novel, the lost "rose" could be seen as Aristotle's book on comedy (now forever lost), the exquisite library now destroyed, or the beautiful peasant girl now dead. We only know them by the description Adso provides us — we only have the name of the book on comedy, not its contents. As Adso points out at the end of the fifth day, he does not even know the name of the peasant girl to lament her. Does this mean she does not endure at all?
Perhaps this is a deliberate mis-translation. This quote has also been translated as "Yesterday's Rome stands only in name, we hold only empty names". This line is a verse by twelfth century monk Bernard of Cluny (also known as Bernard of Morlaix). Medieval manuscripts of this line are not in agreement (but the best are secure for Roma). Roma here introduces a "false" quantity, with a short-o for the Classical long-o; thus, a foolish scribe, or a merely a fool, wrote the "Classically impeccable" rosa, which betrays the...
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