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Collection Highlight: The Herpich Arthuriana Collection: Historical and Mystical Interpretations

This collection highlight explores different genres in the David Herpich Arthuriana Collection, held in the Rossell Hope Robbins Library. This collection highlight has been curated and created by Ayiana Crabtree (Class of 2022).

Historical and Mystical Interpretations


Historical interpretations of the medieval legends are really the basis for all other materials. While all the other materials included in this collection would be considered modern interpretations, these historical interpretations are some of the older works in the collection, giving two meanings to their categorization of historical. Ranging from an interpretation of the geographic area in which the ‘historical Arthur’ might have lived, to interpreting the legends through a religious lens, to incorporating the stories and characters into moralized stories, the legends really became a source for a vast amount of uses. 

Glastonbury: Avalon of the Heart

Fortune, Dion. Glastonbury: Avalon of the Heart. Northamptonshire, England: The Antiquarian Press, 1986.

This book details a history of Glastonbury, the place the many scholars believe to be the burial site of King Arthur. The author takes it upon herself to describe three ways of approaching Glastonbury: by way of legends associated with it, through the known history of the area, and through the mystical path. She discusses how Glastonbury has had a great but never too dominating influence on the history of England. It is this “true vision” of the mystical way, encompassing all aspects of the area, both seen and unseen, which reveals Glastonbury as the Avalon of the Heart. This book does a fantastic job of giving an insight into how the legends may have stemmed from fact, and would be perfect for those interested in the history of the area.

The Holy Grail: The Silent Teacher

Hanford Ford, Mary. The Holy Grail: The Silent Teacher. Vol. 1. Chicago: Alice B. Stockham & Co., 1897.

This book is volume one of three in the Message of the Mystics, a series by the author about what she believes to be ethical and spiritual truth. It discusses the mystical connections of the Legend of the Holy Grail as a simultaneous symbol of Christianity and Paganism. It explores the theory that medieval and Roman texts use Kabbalistic numerology to convey hidden esoteric messages. It represents a part of the collection that conveys deeper thought and the symbolism of people, objects, places, and events in the medieval legends.

The Lost Land of King Arthur

Cuming Walters, J. The Lost Land of King Arthur. London: Chapman and Hall Ltd., 1909.

This book is a compilation of many classic works that are related to the original legends. For this purpose, it is simply a guide of all the important stories retold in more modern English. The foreword of the book explains that it is an impressionistic view given of the region once called Cameliard and Lyonnesse. The author attempts to take a view that is different from previous interpretations, and to gather details that might not be what you expect, telling a story in which there is so much romance that it might be completely taken for the tale of a fairy-land. This book would be good for those looking for a historically romantic telling of the legend.

The Story of King Arthur

Martin, Winona C. The story of King Arthur in 12 Tales. New York: Coward-McCann Inc., 1915.

This book in particular is an interesting addition to the collection because of its nature. It is to serve as a book for Mothers, Teachers, and Children’s Librarians, for it contains Twelve tales about King Arthur that each contain a moral about chivalry and correct behaviour. The purpose of this book, in its original form, would have been for the women in society to educate young children in the correct ways to behave. In modern times, this shows how the legends were adapted to not only be fun stories for children, but also to teach important moral lessons and proper societal values.