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Collection Highlight: The Herpich Arthuriana Collection: The Morte d'Arthur

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).

The Morte d'Arthur



Introduction


The Morte d'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory has had a lasting impact on global society. At the Robbins Library, we have another collection (alongside our general collection) that displays this worldwide influence: the Barry Gaines Collection, which contains many different translations of the Morte d'Arthur from around the world. The amount of media that has taken inspiration from this 15th-century text shows the importance of appreciating literature through the ages. It has inspired millions of novels, comics, tv shows, and movies, but why? There has been a fascination with the legend of King Arthur all this time for many different reasons. From the romance and chivalry to the battles and the allure of magic, these legends contain something for every reader. No matter what genre someone prefers, there is likely to be some media inspired by King Arthur for them to enjoy. The nature of this original text has become so woven into Anglo-American society that most people understand basic references to Excalibur, the Holy Grail, and the Round Table. The characters are so malleable and can be adapted to all different kinds of situations, problems, time periods, enabling them to become so well known and ingrained in society.

La Mort D’Arthur

Malory, Sir Thomas. La Mort D'Arthur. Vol. 1-3. London: R. Wilks, 1816.


This particular edition of La Mort D’Arthur, printed in 1816, was “newly refined and published for the delight and profit of the reader.” Crafted into three volumes, they are pocket-sized and easily transportable. They also include a foldout illustration of the Round Table from early print editions of the text. From their size and make, it is easy to see that these books are meant to be carried on-the-go and read bit by bit from day to day. This unique make shows that these books were popular at the time, or at least popular enough for the public to want to have easy access to them. It’s an interesting concept, and goes to show how this text maintained popularity through the years while reading practices changed.