The storye of the most noble and worthy Kynge Arthur
The story told in Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur is timeless; it has captured the imagination of audiences for generations. The man who saved the work from obscurity, printer William Caxton, said it best in his preface to the book (as appears in the present copy):
“And I according vnto my copye haue sette it in printe, To the entent that noble men maye see and reade the noble actes of chyuallry, the gentyll & vertuous deeds that some knyghtes vsed in those dayes, by the which they came to honour, and howe they that were vicious were punyshed and ofte put to shame and rebuke … For in thys present volume may bee seene noble chiuallry courtesye, humanytie, fryendlynesse, hardynesse, loue, fryndshippe, cowardyse, murder, hate, vertue, and synne. Doe after the good and leaue the yll, and it shall bring you vnto good fame and renome.”
Malory (ca. 1405–1471) is thought to have been Sir Thomas Malory, the knight of Newbold Revel and a retainer of the last Beauchamp earl of Warwick. He twice served in Parliament, but he was charged with a series of nefarious crimes in the 1450s, was imprisoned eight times, and according to records, made two daring escapes from gaol. It is believed that Malory then took part in Lancastrian insurrections against Edward IV. He likely died in prison, having spent the last years of his life in captivity. There Malory wrote a masterful, loosely connected story constructed from French and English sources of Arthurian tales in verse and prose. Caxton acquired a manuscript after a “noble gentleman instantly required me t’imprint th’history of the said noble king and conqueror king Arthur and his knights.” Almost miraculously, the manuscript that Caxton is believed to have used and edited was discovered in 1934.
Early editions of Le Morte d’Arthur are either unobtainable or very rare. After Caxton’s first publication in 1485, Wynkyn de Worde printed two editions (1498 and 1529). Only five copies total of these first three editions are known. William Copland reprinted the work in 1557, followed by Thomas East, who published both folio and quarto editions about 1578. The present copy is an example of East’s folio edition. The volume was rebound by master bookbinder Bernard Middleton, who included superb facsimiles to replace the missing title page, three interior leaves, and the final six leaves. Caxton’s preface and all twenty-three woodcut illustrations are present.
Chrzanowski 1582m *