This is the basic and essential reading list for Arthurian enthusiasts and scholars. By ordering through our website, you help support this non-profit journal, the only one of its kind in the world. You may link your order directly to Amazon.com from this page. For additional titles, go to our comprehensive bookstore. Where possible, we have provided you access to electronic texts. Another good starting place is the Camelot Project Bibliography: Sources for the Study of the Arthurian Legends
Anthologies and Reference
Barber, Richard. Arthurian Legends: An Illustrated Anthology, Boydell & Brewer.
Brengle. R., Arthur, King of Britain, Prentice-Hall or Appleton-Century-Crofts.
Wilhelm, James, The Romance of Arthur : An Anthology of Medieval Texts in Translation. Garland.
Lacy, J. Norris, ed. New Arthurian Encyclopedia, or the older Arthurian Encyclopedia. Garland.
Lacy, J. Norris and Geoffrey Ashe, Arthurian Handbook. Garland 1988, revised 1997.
Pre-12th Century Texts
Before the beginning: some Latin histories seem to refer to an Arthur or Arthur-like leader who was a general or leader of the Britons around the year 500; Welsh poems and stories refer to or tell of a legendary Arthur.
Gildas, De Excidio Britanniae (On the Ruin of Britain), (6th c.) pub. British-American Books;
or The Ruin of Britain and Other Documents, ed. and trans. Michael Winterbottom (Phillimore, 1978, vol. 7 of Arthurian Period Sources in the History from the Sources series, gen. ed. John Morris).
Nennius, British History, and the Welsh Annals, (9th c.) ed. and tr. John Morris (Rowman & Littlefield, out of print;
or Phillimore, 1980, vol. 8 of Arthurian Period Sources in the History from the Sources series, gen. ed. John Morris ); also pub. British-American Books.
Welsh Triads, Gododdin, other references: The Arthur of the Welsh : The Arthurian Legend in Medieval Welsh Literature, by Rachel Bromwich, (U. of Wales Press, currently out of print);
or John B. Coe and Simon Young, The Celtic Sources for the Arthurian Legend(Llanerch 1995)
which gives both texts and translation.
The Mabinogion, (11th. c. and after; some editions do not contain the Arthurian tales), Trans. Jones and Jones (Everyman),
or Gantz (Penguin)
For texts and translations of some of these materials, see the online editions at these websites:
Hanes Cymru / Welsh History by Jeff Davies
The Saxon Shore: Lemannis by Jason Godesky--complete Gildas and Nennius, plus other texts such as Jordanes, Giraldus Cambrensis, Bede.
Medieval Sourcebook: Selected Sources -- links from Fordham's pages
THE CAMELOT PROJECT: MENU OF AUTHORS
12th Century Texts and Later Romances
Geoffrey's History is the first book to tell the story of King Arthur, his queen, his knights, his strange begetting, and his death. Over the next century, long narrative poems and tales (romances) and some shorter poems (lais) were written about the adventures of various knights. In some of them, Arthur is just a casual character; in others, his court is vitally important.
Geoffrey of Monmouth, History of the Kings of Britain (ca. 1138), Trans. Lewis Thorpe (great list of names). Penguin, 1981
Geoffrey's Latin work was put into English verse (the Brut) by Layamon and into French verse by Wace (Brut). For these, see Arthurian Chronicles (Medieval Academy Reprints for Teaching, 35) by Wace, Layamon (U. of Toronto Press)
The Life of King Arthur by Wace, Lawman (Everyman Paperback Classics, 1997)
Tristan romances: There are supposed to be two principal versions of the Tristan story, distinguished by whether the potion has a "time limit" and also by the stories of Tristan's marriage and death. One version is represented by Beroul and Eilhart, the other by Thomas, Gottfried, and the Saga. Several short poems also tell episodes from the story.
No-one is quite sure what a Breton lay or lai is, but evidently it involved a short narrative composition related to songs made up on traditional subjects or new ones by the singer-authors. None of these were written down in Breton, but some were recorded in French and in Middle English, and some of these present adventures involving Arthur and his knights.
- The Romance of Tristan and Iseult (Vintage Classics) by Joseph Bedier, tr. Hilaire Belloc.
This combines the "best bits" of the principal 12th. c. French versions, none of which have survived whole in their original form, into a coherent and pleasing narrative.
- Beroul, The Romance of Tristan and the Tale of Tristan's Madness (ca. 1180-1200), tr. Alan S. Fedrick (Penguin)
includes two short poems (lais) about Tristan playing the fool.
- Eilhart von Oberge, Tristrant (ca. 1170), tr. Thomas (U. of Nebraska Press, out of print)--a German version similar to Beroul's
- Thomas of Britain, Tristan (ca. 1170): see next item for easily-available translation. Dorothy Sayers translated this in verse as Tristan in Brittany.
- Gottfried von Strassburg, Tristan and Isolde (ca. 1210), tr. Hatto (prose, Penguin),
includes translations of surviving fragments of Thomas's poem (Gottfried's German romance is based on Thomas's poem).
- The Saga of Tristram and Isond (1226), tr. Paul Schach (U. of Nebraska Press, out of print)
the only Tristan work based on Thomas's poem to survive complete.
Marie de France, two lais, Lanval and Chevrefueil (ca. 1150-90), portray Arthur and Tristan, respectively: The Lais of Marie de France, tr. Brugess and Busby (prose, Penguin);
see also online verse translation by Judy Shoaf, and the wonderful translations of Patricia Ann Terry in The Honeysuckle and Hazel Tree: Medieval Stories of Men and Women (U. of California Press, 1995)
which includes some other lais of the period.
A couple of other 12th-century French lais are Graelent and Guingamor: Two Breton Lays, ed. and trans. Russell Weingartner (Garland, 1985).
A group of poems in Middle English which call themselves Breton Lays have been edited (NOT translated) as Breton Lays in Middle English by Thomas Rumble (Wayne State University Press, 1965)
and Middle English Breton Lays by Anne Laskaya and others (Western Michigan U. Press, 1995); the latter is online under each lay's name at TEAMS MIDDLE ENGLISH TEXTS.
Chretien de Troyes wrote five romances (two unfinished), in French sometime before 1190, and was the first to tell of Lancelot's love for Guenevere and of a Grail.
--The Complete Romances of Chretien De Troyes, trans. by David Staines (prose; Indiana U. Press, 1993)Individual romances of Chretien:
--Arthurian Romances, tr. William W. Kibler and Carroll (prose; Penguin Classics, 1991)
--Arthurian Romances. Including Perceval, tr. D. D. R. Owens (prose; Everyman, 1987)
--Online translations (the 1955 W.W. Comfort prose translation) of four of the romances available though OMACL: The Online Medieval and Classical Library (DL SunSITE)
- Cliges, tr. Burton Raffel (verse; Yale U. Press, 1997)
- Erec and Enide, tr. Burton Raffel (verse; Yale U. Press, 1997),
or Dorothy Gilbert (U. of California Press, 1992
- Yvain or or The Knight With The Lion, tr. Ruth Harwood Cline, (verse; U. of Georgia Press, 1975),
or Burton Raffel (verse; Yale 1987)
- Lancelot or the Knight of the Cart, tr. Ruth Harwood Cline (verse; U. of Georgia Press, 1981),
or Burton Raffel (verse; Yale U. Press, 1997)
- Perceval or the Story of the Grail, tr. Ruth Harwood Cline (verse; U.of Georgia Press, 1986)
or Pickens and Kibler (verse; Garland, 1990),
or Nigel Bryant (prose; Boydell & Brewer--expensive)
- Garland Library of Medieval Literature publishes individual editions of the romances with facing-page verse translations (by Kibler), for those who want to learn some Old French....
Wolfram von Eschenbach wrote a very different version of the Grail story (ca. 1200), based however on Chretien's: Parzival, tr. Hatto (Penguin, 1980), or Katherin Patterson (Lodestar, 1998); there is also a Random House edition. The translation by Mustard and Passage (Vintage, 1961)
is also considered excellent.
High Book of the Grail; Perlesvaus, tr. Nigel Bryant (Boydell and Brewer)
--a French prose romance with a wider scope than Chretien's romance. Also available online from OMACL in the translation of Sebastian Evans, The High History of the Holy Graal
The French "Didot Perceval": The Romance of Perceval in Prose, tr. Dell Skeels (U. of
Washington Press, 1966; out of print).
Diu Crône is a 13th-c. German romance, with Gawain as the hero of many adventures: The Crown, Heinrich von dem Türlin, trans. by J.W. Thomas (U. of Nebraska Press, 1989).
Erex Saga and Ivens Saga : The Old Norse Versions of Chrétien De Troyes's Erec and Yvain, trans. Foster Blaisdell and Marianne E. Kalinke (U. of Nebraska Press, out of print)
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, tr. from Middle English by Marie Boroff (verse; Norton, 1967),
tr. Theodore Silverstein (verse, U. of Chicago Press, 1974, with illustrations) tr. Burton Raffel (verse; New American Library 1996),
tr. Stone and Barron (verse; Penguin), Sir Gawain and the Green Knight with Pearl and Sir Orfeo, tr. J. R. R. Tolkien (verse; Ballantine).
Chaucer's Wife of Bath's Tale in the Canterbury Tales is another lively tale of Arthur's court.
Three Arthurian Romances : Poems from Medieval France : Caradoc, the Knight With the Sword, the Perilous Graveyard, tr. Ross Gilbert Arthur (Everyman)
Cyclical Works (13th-15th c.)
Medieval works that attempt to tell the entire story of Arthur and his knights:
The Lancelot-Grail Cycle, also known as the "Prose Lancelot" or "Vulgate Lancelot," is a 13th-century French compilation of as many of the romances as the author knew, combined into one fairly coherent story from Arthur's birth to his death, with episodes from the life of Christ and Joseph of Arimathea to give the background of the Grail.
Lancelot-Grail : The Old French Arthurian Vulgate and Post-Vulgate in Translation, tr. Norris J. Lacy 5 volumes (Garland)
this is a hardback but worth looking for in the library!
The last two major sections of the cycle are published as:
Lancelot of the Lake, tr. Corin Corley (Oxford World's Classics)
- The Quest of the Holy Grail, tr. Matarasso (Penguin)
- The Death of King Arthur, tr. James Cable (Penguin)
- From Camelot to Joyous Guard : The Old French La Mort Le Roi Artu, tr. J. Neale Carman (U. of Kansas Press, out of print
a shorter version of the Prose Lancelot, based on the edition of Elspeth Kennedy, who wrote the excellent introduction to this translation.
An even longer complilation is the "Prose Tristan" which makes Tristan a central character of the Arthurian adventures:
The Romance of Tristan : The Thirteenth-Century Old French 'Prose Tristan' tr. Renée L. Curtis. Oxford University Press, World's Classics.
Thomas Malory 's work has a special place for English readers. Because different editors use different basic versions (either the Winchester Manuscript or Caxton's edition), and make different decisions about modernizing or translating Malory's language, read a few pages of any edition you might want to buy so that you can decide if this will be comfortable for you.
- Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur : King Arthur and the Legends of the Round Table, ed. Keith Baines (New American Library)
- Le Morte D'Arthur, ed. Cowan, 2 vol (Penguin)
Vol. 1: Order Here
Vol. 2: Order Here
- Le Morte D'Arthur from the Winchester Manuscript, ed. Cooper (Oxford World's Classics)
- The Morte Darthur (York Medieval Texts), ed. D. S. Brewer (Northwestern U. Press)
- King Arthur and His Knights, ed. Eugene Vinaver (Oxford U. Press)
King Arthur's Death, tr. Brian Stone (Penguin) the Middle English Alliterative and Stanzaic Arthur poems.
Sites for Furthur Reading
either in the original languages or in translation, medieval and/or modern works:
TEAMS MIDDLE ENGLISH TEXTS -- includes many English Arthurian works in the Middle English, with running glossary
The Online Medieval and Classical Library (DL SunSITE) -- OMACL, French romances in translation and English ones in classic editions.
THE CAMELOT PROJECT: MENU OF AUTHORS -- not only medieval texts but also many online 19th and early-20th century Arthurian poems and stories (also check out the art archive)
Arthurian Booklist -- an extensive bibliography by Cindy Tittle Moore: primary texts, from medieval up through modern fantasy novels (last updated 1995).
Medieval Sourcebook: Medieval Themed Films offers a quick list of Arthur-themed films.
ARTHURIANA / CAMELOT PROJECT BIBLIOGRAPHIES This ever-growing project by a number of scholars includes, as of 6/99, extensive bibliographies and annotations on the following topics: General Sources for the Study of the Arthurian Legends, Guidebooks to Arthurian Britain, the Historical Arthur, Medieval German Arthurian Works (Other than Those by Wolfram, Gottfried, Eilhart and Hartman), Camelot 3000 and Beyond: An Annotated Listing of Arthurian Comic Books Published in the United States c.1980-1998, Critical Studies of Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, A Handlist of Arthurian Science Fiction and Fantasy, 1980-1989, Post-Medieval Arthurian Literature in English (Other than Fiction), John Steinbeck's The Acts of King Arthur: Criticism and Reviews, Tristan And Isolt in Modern Literature in English, Arthurian Film, Arthurian Animation, Arthurian Music.
Buying Secondhand Books Online:
ABE Book Search -- A great place for finding used/out of print books.
Bibliofind search form -- another good place to try for both in and out of print books.
For power searches, try also:
www.bookarea.com and www.bookfinder.com
Both of theses sites search ABE and Bibliofind and more.
J.S. 3/98 and C.G. 12/99