Sir Thomas Malory


The single known manuscript of Malory's Morte D'Arthur was discovered by Walter Oakeshott in 1934 among the manuscripts in the Warden and Fellows' Library, Winchester College. Through a public fund it was bought by the British Library on 26 March 1976 for £150,000.

The text of the manuscript differs considerably from that printed by William Caxton in 1485. However, research by Lotte Hellinga, using modern scientific aids, has revealed that the manuscript must have passed through Caxton's hands, for it bears unmistakable smudges of printers' ink and the impressions of certain of Caxton's types. Unless he finally turned to one or more other manuscript for his text (or for part of his text), it is possible that Caxton's printed text is his own ‘edited’ version of Malory's work based on the extant manuscript. This interpretation remains, however, open to debate.

Additional research by Hilton Kelliher into the provenance of the manuscript, through the name of a former owner, Richard Followell, lends support to its authority by linking it with the Malory family in Northamptonshire.

One other item recorded below (MaT 2) is a sixteenth-century index of Malory's work, not generally known until its appearance at auction in 1978.

Peter Beal