Arthurian Legend

These manuscripts--English and French, history and romance-- demonstrate the international and translingual development of the Arthurian myth. 

Takamiya MS 12: Brut chronicle

Takamiya MS 12. The Brut, or The Chronicles of England. England, fifteenth century

The legend of King Arthur owes much of its early popularity to medieval chronicles, histories which contained fantastic stories of giants and monsters alongside narratives of the kings of Britain. One such history, the Brut chronicle, survives in over one hundred and eighty-one manuscripts, including Takamiya MS 12, a Middle English translation. 

Takamiya MS 99: Livre du Lancelot du Lac: three miniatures. (Miniature 3) Takamiya MS 99: Livre du Lancelot du Lac: three miniatures. (Miniature 2)

Takamiya MS 99. Three miniatures (two on display) from Le Livre de Lancelot du Lac. Paris, circa 1440. 

While Arthur was a British king, his legend was well-known across Europe. Indeed, it is a Frenchman, Chretien de Troyes, who is often credited with introducing Lancelot into Arthurian romance, and the two miniatures displayed here (Takamiya MS 99) are derived from the Middle French Livre de Lancelot du Lac. The first depicts Lancelot's arrival in the city of Gorre, and the second depicts King Baudemagnus of Gorre leading his men into battle against the Romans. 

Takamiya MS 34: King Arthur and the knights of the round table

Takamiya MS 34. John Grinken, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. England, c. 1580.

English writers were also influenced by French Arthurian texts, and none more famously than Sir Thomas Malory. His Morte Darthur is influenced by both French and English sources. In Takamiya MS 34, John Grinken collected fanciful coats of arms for each of Malory’s Knights of the Round Table as well as summaries of their adventures. Perhaps the most notable knight included on this page is Sir Agravaine, brother of Gawain. There is a striking omission in this entry, however: Grinken declines to mention that Agravaine played a central role in exposing the adulterous affair between Lancelot and Guinevere, focusing instead on the knight’s less controversial exploits.

Arthurian Legend