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Thread: Best edition of Morte D'Arthur

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    In the fog Charles Darnay's Avatar
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    Best edition of Morte D'Arthur

    Shameful confession time....I have not read Malory's Morte D'Arthur. I have read Idylls of the King and considered that sufficient: but I would like to rectify my monumental gap in Arthurian lore.

    So what are people's recommendations as far as editions go? I'm looking for one that preserves the original as much as possible.
    I wrote a poem on a leaf and it blew away...

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    Registered User Calidore's Avatar
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    My Arthurian books are among those in storage, but I think I've got two copies of that: One published by Oxford Worlds Classics for reading (lots of notes), and one very heavily illustrated by Aubrey Beardsley for looking at.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Charles Darnay View Post
    Shameful confession time....I have not read Malory's Morte D'Arthur. I have read Idylls of the King and considered that sufficient: but I would like to rectify my monumental gap in Arthurian lore.

    So what are people's recommendations as far as editions go? I'm looking for one that preserves the original as much as possible.
    He wrote in a pretty straightforward Early Modern English, most editions with a simple gloss for obscure words should be adequate.

    (Most are published with modern typography like Shakespeare to ease reading)

    I have the Norton, which I was pretty happy with.
    Last edited by OrphanPip; 05-20-2012 at 05:20 AM.
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    Cool If you are willing to spend some money ....

    get the Limited Editions Club three-volume edition with modernized spelling. Except for the spelling, it will be close to Caxton's 15th century printing. Mallory dropped off his manuscript with William Caxton to be printed, but he had the misfortune to die thereafter. Caxton edited Mallory's work before printing, and all editions are based on Caxton's printing since it is the only copy which has come down to us.

    The Limited Editions Club 3-volume edition, printed in 1936, was printed by The Golden Cockerell Press in England and illustrated by the founder of the press, Robert Gibbings, whose illustrations are reminiscent of those of Arthur Beardsley. This book can be had in a fine copy for about $250, a small sum for such a glorious work.

    I just finished Idylls of the King and am up to Book 5 of Mallory. Others I would recommend would be Geoffrey of Monmouth's Arthurian legends, Tristram and Isolde, and Gawain and the Green Knight. Then top off your Arthurian reading with Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, a funny and superlative work.

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    Registered User Calidore's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dfloyd View Post
    Caxton edited Mallory's work before printing, and all editions are based on Caxton's printing since it is the only copy which has come down to us.
    Not all--there's also the "Winchester Manuscript", which was found later and shows that Caxton made numerous revisions. The Oxford Worlds Classic version uses this manuscript.
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    In the fog Charles Darnay's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dfloyd View Post
    I just finished Idylls of the King and am up to Book 5 of Mallory. Others I would recommend would be Geoffrey of Monmouth's Arthurian legends, Tristram and Isolde, and Gawain and the Green Knight. Then top off your Arthurian reading with Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, a funny and superlative work.
    I have actually read all of these.

    Quote Originally Posted by Calidore View Post
    Not all--there's also the "Winchester Manuscript", which was found later and shows that Caxton made numerous revisions. The Oxford Worlds Classic version uses this manuscript.
    Interestingly enough, as I have, even though Winchester's may be a more faithful edition, Caxton's seems to be preferred. For my part, Caxton was the edition used in 19th century England, the one that the Pre-Raphaelites and Tennyson would have been familiar with - and that is why I will be sticking with a Caxton edition.
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    I bought the Norton critical edition for university.

    Here's the product description:

    Based on the Winchester Manuscript, this edition of the famous mediaeval romance offers substantial critical and contextual support for the student. Using the original spelling, the editor has restored the paragraphing and the narrative structure of the romance. Four chronologies, including one of the Wars of the Roses, contemporary accounts of the war, material on chivalry, tournaments and battle, and a guide to reading Malory's English are included.

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    Registered User Calidore's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Charles Darnay View Post
    I have actually read all of these.



    Interestingly enough, as I have, even though Winchester's may be a more faithful edition, Caxton's seems to be preferred. For my part, Caxton was the edition used in 19th century England, the one that the Pre-Raphaelites and Tennyson would have been familiar with - and that is why I will be sticking with a Caxton edition.
    I've never compared the two, but it could well be that Malory needed an editor. Interesting that both Oxford and Norton used the Winchester, though. Maybe Winchester, being closer to the original, is better for academic purposes, but Caxton is a better read.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Charles Darnay View Post
    Interestingly enough, as I have, even though Winchester's may be a more faithful edition, Caxton's seems to be preferred. For my part, Caxton was the edition used in 19th century England, the one that the Pre-Raphaelites and Tennyson would have been familiar with - and that is why I will be sticking with a Caxton edition.
    And yet you said you wanted one closest to the original - presumably the one closest to Malory's original would not be a heavily edited version by Caxton.

    Facetiousness aside, the standard edition is by Vinaver, but I don't have it to hand so I don't know if it has sufficient glosses (the text is in the original Middle English). Otherwise, I would recommend the recent Oxford Worlds Classic print.

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    In the fog Charles Darnay's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Polednice View Post
    And yet you said you wanted one closest to the original - presumably the one closest to Malory's original would not be a heavily edited version by Caxton.

    Facetiousness aside, the standard edition is by Vinaver, but I don't have it to hand so I don't know if it has sufficient glosses (the text is in the original Middle English). Otherwise, I would recommend the recent Oxford Worlds Classic print.
    You are quite right in that. I am inconsistent.

    Allow me to explain....

    I have been doing some work on Pre-Raphaelite art and poetry ever since I became obsessed with this painting, a few weeks ago: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedi..._of_Merlin.jpg

    Morte D'Arthur comes up fairly often in the works of the PRB (and in the poems of Morris in particular) and it got me thinking "what a shame I have not read this yet." My first instinct, as it usually is, was to find an edition closest to the original, but as this thread developed and I looked into the comparison of editions, I realized that Rossetti, Morris, and Burne-Jones most likely read the Caxton edition - and in a strange way, I feel a connection if I am reading the same version they read.

    So I went with a fairly unadulterated Caxton text.
    Last edited by Charles Darnay; 05-24-2012 at 08:43 PM.
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    It sounds like an amazing text. I must ask, you said that it most closely reflects the Caxton printing, but from the little bit that I know the Winchester Manuscript threw some doubt over the accuracy of Caxton's editing. Is it better to stick to Caxton's printing or to find an edition that takes into account the manuscript?

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Slightly off topic, but why isn't Morte d'Arthur better regarded than it is? It has been around for long enough, but it's not up there with the Canterbury Tales. Also, what language was it originally written in? Morte d'Arthur sound French.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kev67 View Post
    Slightly off topic, but why isn't Morte d'Arthur better regarded than it is? It has been around for long enough, but it's not up there with the Canterbury Tales. Also, what language was it originally written in? Morte d'Arthur sound French.
    It was written in English. Most of the stories that Malory based his work on were the popular French versions of the Arthurian texts (they introduced characters like Lancelot and the elements of chivalry to the legends) which often used the same title.
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    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kev67 View Post
    Slightly off topic, but why isn't Morte d'Arthur better regarded than it is? It has been around for long enough, but it's not up there with the Canterbury Tales. Also, what language was it originally written in? Morte d'Arthur sound French.
    it was certainly highly regarded by the Victorians, as Charles Darnley was saying above. It was the principal source for knowledge of Arthurian lore.

    It is in English, but definitely not modern English. On the other hand it is not Middle English such as Chaucer was using less than one hundred years earlier. The World's Classics edition edited by Helen Cooper(recommended above) modernises some of the spelling, but I needed to concentrate reading it eg - chosen at random:

    "Now Jesu defend me, said Beaumains, from such villainous death and shondship of harms; for rather than I should so be fared withal, I will rather be slain in plain battle."

    I wonder if Charles D ever found a modern edition of Caxton. He asked five years ago.
    Last edited by Jackson Richardson; 05-21-2017 at 02:25 AM.
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