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The Name of the Rose

The Name of the Rose

4.2 122
by Umberto Eco

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Umberto Eco’s first novel, an international sensation and winner of the Premio Strega and the Prix Médicis Etranger awards.


Umberto Eco’s first novel, an international sensation and winner of the Premio Strega and the Prix Médicis Etranger awards.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Eco, an Italian philosopher and best-selling novelist, is a great polymathic fabulist in the tradition of Swift, Voltaire, Joyce, and Borges. The Name of the Rose, which sold 50 million copies worldwide, is an experimental medieval whodunit set in a monastic library. In 1327, Brother William of Baskerville arrives to investigate heresy among the monks in an Italian abbey; a series of bizarre murders overshadows the mission. Within the mystery is a tale of books, librarians, patrons, censorship, and the search for truth in a period of tension between the Papacy and the Holy Roman Empire. The book became a hit despite some obscure passages and allusions. This deftly abridged version, ably performed by Theodore Bikel, retains the genius of the original but is far more accessible. Foucault's Pendulum, Eco's second novel, is a bit irritating. The plot consists of three Milan editors who concoct a series on the occult for an unscrupulous publishing house that Eco ridicules mercilessly. The work details medieval phenomena including the Knights Templar, an ancient order with a scheme to dominate the world. Unfortunately, few listeners will make sense of this failed thriller. The Island of the Day Before is an ingenious tale that begins with a shipwreck in 1643. Roberta della Griva survives and boards another ship only to find himself trapped. Flashbacks give us Renaissance battles, the French court, spies, intriguing love affairs, and the attempt to solve the problem of longitude. It's a world of metaphors and paradoxes created by an entertaining scholar. Tim Curry, who also narrates Foucault's Pendulum, provides a spirited narration. Ultimately, libraries should avoid Foucault's Pendulum, but educated patrons will form an eager audience for both The Name of the Rose and The Island of the Day Before.-James Dudley, Copiague, N.Y.
From the Publisher
“A brilliantly conceived adventure into another time, an intelligent and complex novel, a lively and well-plotted mystery.”

“The novel explodes with pyrotechnic inventions, literally as well as figuratively . . . The narrative impulse that commands the story is irresistible . . . Mr. Eco’s delight in his narrative does not fail to touch the reader.”

“Like the labyrinthine library at its heart, this brilliant novel has many cunning passages and secret chambers . . . Fascinating . . . Ingenious . . . Dazzling.”

“Whether you’re into Sherlock Holmes, Montaillou, Borges, the nouvelle critique, the Rule of St. Benedict, metaphysics, library design, or The Thing from the Crypt, you’ll love it. Who can that miss out?”

“[The Name of the Rose] is an example of that rare publishing phenomenon, the literary mega best seller which transcends linguistic boundaries . . . [It has] a gripping mystery, vivid characterization, an atmospheric setting, fascinating period detail, sly humour, dramatic confrontations, stunning set pieces, and a supple, eloquent prose that can shift its register to encompass the experience of faith, doubt, horror, erotic ecstasy, and despair.”
—from the Introduction by David Lodge

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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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14 Years

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In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. This was beginning with God and the duty of every faithful monk would be to repeat every day with chanting humility the one never-changing event whose incontrovertible truth can be asserted. But we see now through a glass darkly, and the truth, before it is revealed to all, face to face, we see in fragments (alas, how illegible) in the error of the world, so we must spell out its faithful signals even when they seem obscure to us and as if amalgamated with a will wholly bent on evil.
   Having reached the end of my poor sinner’s life, my hair now white, I grow old as the world does, waiting to be lost in the bottomless pit of silent and deserted divinity, sharing in the light of angelic intelligences; confined now with my heavy, ailing body in this cell in the dear monastery of Melk, I prepare to leave on this parchment my testimony as to the wondrous and terrible events that I happened to observe in my youth, now repeating all that I saw and heard, without venturing to seek a design, as if to leave to those who will come after (if the Antichrist has not come first) signs of signs, so that the prayer of deciphering may be exercised on them.
   May the Lord grant me the grace to be the transparent witness of the occurrences that took place in the abbey whose name it is only right and pious now to omit, toward the end of the year of our Lord 1327, when the Emperor Louis came down into Italy to restore the dignity of the Holy Roman Empire, in keeping with the designs of the Almighty and to the confusion of the wicked usurper, simoniac, and heresiarch who in Avignon brought shame on the holy name of the apostle (I refer to the sinful soul of Jacques of Cahors, whom the impious revered as John XXII).
   Perhaps, to make more comprehensible the events in which I found myself involved, I should recall what was happening in those last years of the century, as I understood it then, living through it, and as I remember it now, complemented by other stories I heard afterward — if my memory still proves capable of connecting the threads of happenings so many and confused.
   In the early years of that century Pope Clement V had moved the apostolic seat to Avignon, leaving Rome prey to the ambitions of the local overlords: and gradually the holy city of Christianity had been transformed into a circus, or into a brothel, riven by the struggles among its leaders; though called a republic, it was not one, and it was assailed by armed bands, subjected to violence and looting. Ecclesiastics, eluding secular jurisdiction, commanded groups of malefactors and robbed, sword in hand, transgressing and organizing evil commerce. How was it possible to prevent the Caput Mundi from becoming again, and rightly, the goal of the man who wanted to assume the crown of the Holy Roman Empire and restore the dignity of that temporal dominion that had belonged to the Caesars?
   Thus in 1314 five German princes in Frankfurt elected Louis the Bavarian supreme ruler of the empire. But that same day, on the opposite shore of the Main, the Count Palatine of the Rhine, and the Archbishop of Cologne elected Frederick of Austria to the same high rank. Two emperors for a single throne and a single pope for two: a situation that, truly, fomented great disorder. . .
   Two years later, in Avignon, the new Pope was elected, Jacques of Cahors, an old man of seventy-two who took, as I have said, the name of John XXII , and heaven grant that no pontiff take again a name now so distasteful to the righteous. A Frenchman, devoted to the King of France (the men of that corrupt land are always inclined to foster the interests of their own people, and are unable to look upon the whole world as their spiritual home), he had supported Philip the Fair against the Knights Templars, whom the King accused (I believe unjustly) of the most shameful crimes so that he could seize their possessions with the complicity of that renegade ecclesiastic.
   In 1322 Louis the Bavarian defeated his rival Frederick. Fearing a single emperor even more than he had feared two, John excommunicated the victor, who in return denounced the Pope as a heretic. I must also recall how, that very year, the chapter of the Franciscans was convened in Perugia, and the minister general, Michael of Cesena, accepting the entreaties of the Spirituals (of whom I will have occasion to speak), proclaimed as a matter of faith and doctrine the poverty of Christ, who, if he owned something with his apostles, possessed it only as usus facti. A worthy resolution, meant to safeguard the virtue and purity of the order, it highly displeased the Pope, who perhaps discerned in it a principle that would jeopardize the very claims that he, as head of the church, had made, denying the empire the right to elect bishops, and asserting on the contrary that the papal throne had the right to invest the emperor. Moved by these or other reasons, John condemned the Franciscan propositions in 1323 with the decretal Cum inter nonnullos.
   It was at this point, I imagine, that Louis saw the Franciscans, now the Pope’s enemies, as his potential allies. By affirming the poverty of Christ, they were somehow strengthening the ideas of the imperial theologians, namely Marsilius of Padua and John of Jandun. And finally, not many months before the events I am narrating, Louis came to an agreement with the defeated Frederick, descended into Italy, and was crowned in Milan.
   This was the situation when I — a young Benedictine novice in the monastery of Melk — was removed from the peace of the cloister by my father, fighting in Louis’s train, not least among his barons. He thought it wise to take me with him so that I might know the wonders of Italy and be present when the Emperor was crowned in Rome. But the siege of Pisa then absorbed him in military concerns. Left to myself, I roamed among the cities of Tuscany, partly out of idleness and partly out of a desire to learn. But this undisciplined freedom, my parents thought, was not suitable for an adolescent devoted to a contemplative life. And on the advice of Marsilius, who had taken a liking to me, they decided to place me under the direction of a learned Franciscan, Brother William of Baskerville, about to undertake a mission that would lead him to famous cities and ancientabbeys. Thus I became William’s scribe and disciple at the same time, nor did I ever regret it, because with him I was witness to events worthy of being handed down, as I am now doing, to those who will come after us.

I did not then know what Brother William was seeking, and to tell the truth, I still do not know today, and I presume he himself did not know, moved as he was solely by the desire for truth, and by the suspicion — which I could see he always harbored — that the truth was not what was appearing to him at that moment. And perhaps during those years he had been distracted from his beloved studies by secular duties. The mission with which William had been charged remained unknown to me while we were on our journey, or, rather, he never spoke to me about it. It was only by overhearing bits of his conversations with the abbots of the monasteries where we stopped along the way that I formed some idea of the nature of this assignment. But I did not understand it fully until we reached our destination.
   Our destination was to the north, but our journey did not follow a straight line, and we rested at various abbeys. Thus it happened that we turned westward (though we ought to have been going east), almost following the line of mountains that from Pisa leads in the direction of the pilgrim’s way to Santiago, pausing in a place which, due to what occurred there, it is better that I do not name, but whose lords were liege to the empire, and where the abbots of our order, all in agreement, opposed the heretical, corrupt Pope. Our journey lasted two weeks, amid various vicissitudes, and during that time I had the opportunity to know (never enough, I remain convinced) my new master.

Meet the Author

Umberto Eco is a professor of semiotics at the Universityof Bologna. His other books include Foucault's Pendulum, The Island of the Day Before, and three collections of popular essays, Travels in Hyperreality, Misreadings, and How to Travel with a Salmon and Other Essays. He lives in Milan.

Brief Biography

Bologna, Italy
Date of Birth:
January 5, 1932
Date of Death:
February 19, 2016
Place of Birth:
Alessandria, Italy
Ph.D., University of Turin, 1954

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The Name of the Rose 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 123 reviews.
DrJimC More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent book, but I feel it useful to provide editing feedback in this early stage of eBooks. The maps of the abbey and the library are poorly transferred to the eBook format. In both cases, only the upper left corner of each of these maps are visible on the BN nook. This does not seriously detract from this fantastic novel, but I was disappointed by the seeming lack of effort to format these images appropriately for the nook.
william_deeds More than 1 year ago
If I were asked which book had greatly impacted my intellectuality, I would say it was "The Name of the Rose" by Umberto Eco. Even though the book was very challenging and complex, the literary elements used (in the novel) made it a very well written book. It entertained me for five complete days in which I was successfully forced to isolate myself from the world, only to live this medieval experience at its best. After reading those exhausting first 100 pages (that were the most challenging from the entire book) in which the abbey was being described with excessive detail, I really got hooked up even more. The plot advanced extremely fast after these first 100 pages, and before I even knew it, I was finishing the novel with tremendous pride. After reading "The Name of the Rose" everything was worth it; all my time, my effort, etc. invested gave their respective "healthy fruits". Many appropriate elements in the book, not seen in any other book, successfully made me feel as if I were part of the most intriguing era: the medieval era. The Latin phrases disseminated throughout the text, the magnificent descriptions of the abbey, the historical context in which this book took place in, but especially, the ideas expressed in the book, were the elements that made this book superior from the others to such a level that a movie was made to fulfill the vast excellence of this work (although the movie is not as good as the book). The author also used an opportune book structure throughout the text that was historically used by the medieval intellectuals (the scholars). When they wrote books, the medieval scholars used summaries at the beginning of each chapter, and this made me feel (even more) as if I were part of the medieval era. All the ideas, superstitions, beliefs, etc, exposed in the book really made me think seriously. It is extremely interesting how the author combined religion and philosophy in the book. For instance, the blind scholar Jorge of Burgos feverously made a very profound point about religion that came in hand with the philosophy of life (or existentialism). Jorge played a huge roll in the novel using, as a justification for his actions, the seriousness of life (not laughing at anything since it is a great offense to God). This was the main point (with many more) were philosophy and religion of the medieval era fought against each other, and this combination really left me pondering a lot. Besides this, the book carried out the idea of history throughout its plot, which I really liked. This historical consistency seen throughout the novel gave me a very high-quality history lesson about a specific part of the medieval era. This is a very well written book that should be read only when you feel intellectually and physically strong enough (since this book is not that simple and requires quite a lot of time). I sincerely recommend, and it's a must read book. Waste no more time, and READ IT NOW!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had no idea when I picked up this random book hiding on a shelf in a bookstore that I would not be able to put it down for 2 weeks. It blows Tolken's books out of the water. I didn't think I could find a better mystery than A Tale of Two Cities, but did I ever.
Anthrogrl More than 1 year ago
Umberto Eco's novel takes place in the Middle Ages- the investigator is Brother William of Baskerville (a nod to another famous sleuth) who, assisted by his apprentice Adso, uncovers a series of murders during a thelogical summit at a wealthy monastery. Mystery and history-buffs will enjoy this novel, although the plot can be difficult to follow due to Eco's tendency to digress into complicated theological arguments and vague historical references. 'The Name of the Rose' is a hefty read that can be dull in some parts, but overall it is an enjoyable story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is definitely hard to get into. Even Eco comments in his notes in the back that his friends and editor suggested lightening up the first 100 pages or so. I found myself lost in the different monk factions and their political agendas which, while interesting, were a bit 'thick' to get through. Yes, some of this was critical to understanding the characters' motivations, but it could have been done in such a way as to be less 'plodding'. Once I made it past that, it was an enjoyable read. So,if you undertake this book, don't be discouraged by the beginning!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Despite the fact that reading an Umberto Eco book can make a reader feel gravely undereducated, The Name of the Rose's core story is truly a masterpiece. A patient, attentive reader will be rewarded with a compelling, suspensful, layered mystery combined with keen insight into the disturbing religious zeal of Europe in the Middle Ages. The only drawback I found was the occasional long-winded digressions into things that didn't seem to contribute much, if anything to the story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I strongly recommend this italian novel written by Umberto Eco! It is set in North of Italy in the middle ages and the main characters are 2 franciscan monks, who investigate some murders which happen in a monastery. The book is a historical novel and it has been considered an authentic masterpiece. What pushed me to read the book is the fact that the film based on this book has always been my favourite. So I decided to read it and, surprisingly enough, I found it even more memorable than the film. It really immerses you in the atmosphere of the time, and the plot, so full of suspanse, makes the book unputdownable. What struck me has been the possibility to find in the book a mixture of different elements, such as the romanticism of a love story, the suspense of a detective book and, above all, a deep reflection and criticism on the society of the time, considered by the writter as the childhood of our modern Europe. In this novel you will flind everything you could look for in a book. I can assure that reading it will be an unforgettable experience.
douahe More than 1 year ago
Eco's "The Name of the Rose" epitomizes everything that historical fiction should be. Fictional events set in true cultural history. Eco's mastery of medieval history and philosophy is indicated in every aspect of the story. His depictions of medieval monastic society are fantastic. His grasp of the philosophical struggles going on between the different Mendicant orders, the Mendicant orders and the greater Catholic Church, and different factions inside the Church. The murder mystery he tells is intricately tied to the philosophical and cultural struggles of the time. The slowly shifting paradigms are exquisitely integrated into the plot. Unless you have a good grasp of Latin, French and German I highly recommend purchasing the companion book for The Name of the Rose. It provides translations for all of the passages not already translated into English.
Guest More than 1 year ago
To say that Umberto Eco is a literary phenomenon would not be going too far. 'The Name of the Rose' is a wonderfully written novel that intertwines mystery and philosophy in the captivating late Middle Ages. It is a book that can be enjoyed by both the thinker and the sleuth, although I think that one who is both will get even more out of it. I read 'Angels and Demons' as well as 'The Da Vinci Code,' and 'The Name of the Rose' is still the uncontested heavyweight champ. Also, the movie does little to reveal Signore Eco's literary skill, so stick with the book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is definitely a difficult read (I had to have a dictionary close by) but it was also a wonderful, suspenseful, absolutely engrossing book. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was tough for me to get through, but I kept at it because I was certain it had good qualities. And it did! There were parts that were very wordy and rather dull, but the good parts were great. In retrospect, I'm very glad I stuck with it... the historical aspects were very thought provoking, and it was a darn good mystery. Would recommend it to an adventurous, serious reader, but not for a lightweight.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Quite simply the finest historical novel ever written. Eco raised the bar both in historical fiction and whodunnits. One of the most literary works of modern times, an absolute must.
carlosmock More than 1 year ago
In the year 1327, Brother William of Baskerville is assigned an investigation of a possible heresy in a wealthy Italian Abbey, Abbaye de la Source, somewhere between Pompeii and Passy. The Novel is narrated by a young Benedictine novice and William's assistant, Adso of Melk. The story occurs in seven days of 1327, and the chapters are related to the daily monastic life of a Benedictine convent's canonical hours: Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, Nones, Vespers, and Compline. The book is 503 pages long, so it comes to around 72 pages/day. The religious bacground is ruled by the protagonists Pope John XXII (1249 - December 4, 1334), born Jacques Duèze (or d'Euse), who was pope from 1316 to 1334. He was the second Pope of the Avignon Papacy. (1309-1377), elected by a conclave in Lyon assembled by Philip V of France. Like his predecessor, Clement V, he centralized power and income in the Papacy, living a princely life in Avignon and spending a lot of money for his court and his wars. The Pope opposed Louis IV of Bavaria as emperor, and Louis, in turn invaded Italy, and set up an antipope, Nicholas V. Pope John XXII had set a a constitution concerning the taxae sacrae poenitentiariae in which the pope exploited the sins of the religious in order to squeeze out more money by creating the indulgence. However the Franciscans had a vow of poverty and opposed this doctrine, thus the Pope wanted to declare them heretics because the Franciscan belief was not good for his business. So William of Baskerville arrives to the Abbaye de la Source to see if a mediation is possible between the two factions, since there is a suspicion that some of the members of the abbey are against the indulgences. His mission is overshadowed by a series of bizarre deaths and accusations of homosexuality between certain monks-so Brother William, aided by Adso, turn detectives. Their mission now is to find the killer before the two factions: the Italians who believe in the vow of poverty, and the French who want to continue the practice of indulgence arrive for a meeting to consider a compromise. William's tools are the logic of Aristotle, the theology of Aquinas, the empirical insights of Roger Bacon-all sharpened to a glistened edge by wry humor and a ferocious curiosity. William collects evidence, deciphers secret symbols and coded manuscripts, and digs into the eerie labyrinth of the abbey, where the most interesting things happen at night. His foes are secrecy, religious rules and a secret desire to guard the library-for only the librarian can control the knowledge that leaves the convent. It is no accident that the book starts out as a mystery and continues to deceive the reader until the climactic end-until the reader realizes that this is a mystery in which very little is discovered and the good detective is defeated. It is no accident, either, that the book should have been edited-it contains long didactic passages that even the book editors requested be edited out. The author's explanation for boring you too death with them is that if somebody wanted to enter the abbey and live there for seven days-he had to accept the abbey's slow pace. Therefore there are several hundred pages that are purposely left as a penance or an initiation. Unfortunately for us, the readers, the penance is almost all the way to the end-until we discover that the historical premise and the crimes had nothing to do with the book. But rather it was a theologic
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read the spanish version of this book back in 1987 while in school, i loved it, if you watch the movie with sean connery you will understand it better. The book gives you more details and scenarios which makes the book a little tedious but i totally recommend it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Name of the Rose is a masterful blending of fiction, history, and a whole lot of murders. It seemed to run similar to an Agatha Christie novel with the historical aspects of the book shining through to add to the feeling that the book expresses. The book is a historical fiction and a murder mystery too which makes for a fast paced plot that keeps you riveted till the shocking conclusion. A must for anyone who loves mysteries, historical fiction or just a good book to read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
A friend of mine recommended this book, but ruined the ending before I read it. I was still intrigued by the concept behind the book, so I decided to buy it. I wasn't disappointed either. I can't say I understood all of the historical references, but aside from that the intricate plot development was amazing. I never would have suspected the ending. A wonderful labyrinth of surprises.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Umberto Eco knows how to creat great atmospheres, how to thrill the reader, and most of all, how to write. The most amazing is how easily he pulls a fiction story out of History. Simply amazing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Big concepts taught in an interesting plot.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although this book had a great story line, it was soooo difficult to get through. I had to make myself stay with it. There are too many long wordy paragraphs that lost me.
wsj1238 More than 1 year ago
A very enjoyable book, and have told all my friends about this great book.
anne_jindra More than 1 year ago
Incredible book and movie (with Sean Connery) by Umberto Eco, an incredible Italian philosopher who studied semiotics. Name of the Rose explores medieval Italy during the Inquisition, as a monk serves his order by exploring a series of murders that no one wants solved... Brace yourself for some hardcore philosophia- I pulled this from one of my old discussions at partiallyexaminedlife.com so it's the worlds best way to get the most out of the book (adventure meets understanding :) I’m not terribly far in, but a good chunk of philosophy is covered in the first few chapters. So far some cool things I’ve found (most points were found in the paper Murder and Mayhem in a Medieval Abbey: The Philosophy of the Name of the Rose -David G. Baxter): First off the preface is a fake. Eco wrote it to situate the novel in a historical context. The fact that it is also fictional was, I felt, an excellent lead in to a book about understanding signs and significance. The very fact that it is fictional is alluded to when the author states “In short, I am full of doubts. I really don’t know why I have decided to pluck up my courage and present, as if it were authentic, the manuscript of Adso of Melk,” and again on the first page, “now repeating verbatim all I saw and heard without venturing to seek a design, as if to leave to those who will come after… signs of signs, so that the prayer of deciphering may exercised on them.” Also of note in the last quote is a reference to the idea found frequently in Apologetics that all true knowledge is a priori, not deriven from facts and deductive logic. The theory of interpreting signs in order to acquire knowledge of things (concrete in the world) was systematized by William of Occam, who is mentioned several times in conjunction with Plato’s ideals. Plato held the opinion that all of the things of the world had an ideal form from which they derove their existence. It’s also interesting to note that Occam was decried for heresy over an interpretation of Apostilic poverty- it conflicted with the notions held by Pope John XXII as it dictated that the church and its servants should live in poverty (the only property belonging to them would belong only in the sense of being used by them). This is the subject of the conference which is called at the Abbey which is the setting of our novel. The protagonist lends himself to a comparison with Sherlock Holmes, not the least because he is from Baskerville. This, in turn, moves to a study of deductive logic, which William freely admits he does not practice (nor does Holmes, truly). Deductive logic is unveiling a truth by following definitions back to their source. For instance given the statements, “All men are mortal,” and “Socrates is a man,” we may understand that Socrates is a mortal. In contrast, William (of Baskerville) uses Abductive logic. The process of using signs to build a hypothesis which is then forwarded for the purpose of eliciting more signs. There are four steps to Abductive Reasoning, which can be illustrated in following the dialogue of the first chapter with regards to the Abbot’s horse, Brunellus.... Tatianna Anne Jindra On YouTube BadFantasyRx https://badfantasyrx.blogspot.com/2016/12/il-nom-de-rosa-name-of-rose-lets-read.html
Samplin More than 1 year ago
Not for the Casual Reader Getting through this book took a lot of effort and stamina. Yup it was heady stuff, full of all sorts of history and a pretty good story to boot. That said, I have not seen that much Latin since Vatican II. I was amazed that I was actually able to read some of it and it's been 60 years since I opened a Latin textbook. The story is encased in a lot of information about a period of time that is not a familiar subject for most. A series of deaths in a monastery turn out not to be natural and a priest of another orders is engaged to figure out the mystery.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
And be a black hole today. Do not judge a book by the movie if you saw the movie first. Best sellers become out of print except on nook so new on nook may be out of date and not a golden oldie reissued either