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Discovery of early reference to Merlin energizes scholars of Arthurian legend


Medieval manuscript was found hidden in library book.

An early reference to Merlin and other characters from the Arthurian legend has been found hidden in a library book in England.

Fragments of a manuscript from the Middle Ages were found hidden in a series of 16th-century books in the archive of Bristol Central Library, BirminghamLive reported.

The fragments are thought to come from the Old French sequence of texts known as the Vulgate Cycle or Lancelot-Grail Cycle, dating back to the 13th century.

“Parts of the Vulgate Cycle were probably used by Sir Thomas Malory as a source for his Le Morte D’Arthur, which is itself the main source text for many modern retellings of the Arthurian legend in English,” BirminghamLive reported.

The handwritten parchment fragments containing the name of Merlin the magician were discovered by Michael Richardson, of the University of Bristol’s special collections library. The fragments were bound inside a four-volume edition of the works of the French scholar and reformer Jean Gerson. Richardson “recognized several familiar Arthurian names and contacted Dr. Leah Tether, president of the British branch of the International Arthurian Society, to see if the finds were in any way significant.”

Tether then put a team of experts together to discover more about how the fragments made their way to Bristol, including when and where they were made and how they came to be bound in the Gerson volumes.

“These fragments of the Story of Merlin are a wonderfully exciting find, which may have implications for the study not just of this text but also of other related and later texts that have shaped our modern understanding of the Arthurian legend,” Tether said. “Time and research will reveal what further secrets about the legends of Arthur, Merlin and the Holy Grail these fragments might hold.”

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