THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Medieval manuscripts blog

03 October 2013

It's a Busy Life in Camelot

Those who are familiar with Royal MS 14 E iii, the gorgeous Arthurian manuscript which was in our Royal Exhibition last year and is now fully digitised on our Digitised Manuscripts site, will know that it contains The Estoire del Saint Graal, La Queste del Saint Graal, and Morte Artu, which tell the religious and mystical sections of the legends of King Arthur.

Add MS 10282 f. 91 K147734
Detail of a miniature of Arthur and Merlin at dinner at Pentecost, northern France (Saint-Omer or Tournai), c. 1316, Add MS 10292, f. 91r

In our collections we have another manuscript made at the same time by the same workshop in northern France, which contains the entire French prose ‘Vulgate Cycle’, as it is often called, and is now divided into 3 volumes: Additional MSS 10292, 10293 and 10294.  Our virtual exhibition on Arthurian manuscripts on the Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts puts these manuscripts into context.

In addition to the texts in the Royal manuscript, these three volumes also contain the Histoire de Merlin, about Merlin’s early involvement in the story, and the Lancelot du Lac, the original stories of Lancelot and the Knights of the Round Table and their chivalric exploits, including the love story of Lancelot and Guinevere.

There are catalogue entries and a selection of images already online in our Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts, but these manuscripts contain over 600 of these colourful, imaginative images, which are soon to be available online, as we are currently preparing them for digitisation. Here is a selection of the delights in store:

Add MS 10282 f. 42v K151434
Detail of a miniature of King Celidoine at sea in a small boat, with a lion, northern France (Saint-Omer or Tournai), c. 1316, Add MS 10292, f. 41v   Quiz question: who is King Celidoine and why is he having a 'Life of Pi' experience?  (A tip: see H. Oskar Sommer, The Vulgate Version of the Arthurian Romances (Washington, 1909-1916), a 7 volume edition based on the Additional Manuscripts.  It is available online here; happy searching!

Add MS 10283 f. 292v K149438
Detail of a miniature of Lancelot, fully armed, joining knights and ladies in an enchanted dance in a forest, northern France (Saint-Omer or Tournai), c. 1316, Add MS 10293, f. 292v

Add MS 10283 f. 325v K147523
Detail of a miniature of Lancelot and Guinevere, northern France (Saint-Omer or Tournai), c. 1316, Add MS 10293, f. 325v

Add_ms_10294_f029v_detail
Detail of a miniature of Hector and Gawain meeting in a forest, northern France (Saint-Omer or Tournai), c. 1316, Add MS 10294, f. 29v

Add_ms_10294_f089r
Miniatures of a lady being wounded by a sword while she mourns for Gawain, and of King Arthur ont the Wheel of Fortune with a blindfolded Lady Fortuna, northern France (Saint-Omer or Tournai), c. 1316, Add MS 10294, f. 89r

Watch this space and be the first to know when the full digitisation of these gorgeous manuscripts appear online!  Or follow us on Twitter @BLMedieval.

- Chantry Westwell

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