Le Morte dArthur

Caxton's Preface

After that I had accomplysshed and fynysshed dyuers hystoryes as wel of contemplacyon as of other hystoryal and wordly actes of grete conquerours & prynces / And also certeyn bookes of ensaumples and doctryne / Many noble and dyuers gentylmen of thys royame of Englond camen and demaunded me many and oftymes / wherfore that I haue not do made & enprynte the noble hystorye of the Saynt Greal / and of the moost renomed crysten kyng / Fyrst and chyef of the thre best crysten and worthy / kyng Arthur / whyche ought moost to be remembred emonge vs Englysshe men tofore al other crysten kynges / For it is notoyrly knowen thorugh the vnyuersal world / that there been ix worthy & the best that euer were / That is to wete thre paynyms / thre Iewes and thre crysten men / As for the paynyms they were tofore the Incarnacyon of Cryst / whiche were named / the fyrst Hector of Troye / of whome thystorye is comen bothe in balade and in prose / The second Alysaunder the Grete / & the thyrd Iulyus Cezar Emperour of Rome of whome thystoryes ben wel kno and had / And as for the thre Iewes whyche also were tofore thyncarnacyon of our lord of whome the fyrst was Duc Iosue whyche brought the chyldren of Israhel in to the londe of byheste / The second Dauyd kyng of Iherusalem / & the thyrd Iudas Machabeus of these thre the byble reherceth al theyr noble hystoryes & actes / And sythe the sayd Incarnacyon haue ben thre noble crysten men stalled and admytted thorugh the vnyuersal world in to the nombre of the ix beste & worthy / of whome was fyrst the noble Arthur / whos noble actes I purpose to wryte in thys present book here folowyng / The second was Charlemayn or Charles the Grete / of whome thystorye is had in many places bothe in Frensshe and Englysshe / and the thyrd and last was Godefray of Boloyne / of whos actes & lyf I made a book vnto thexcellent prynce and kyng of noble memorye kyng Edward the fourth / the sayd noble Ientylmen instantly requyred me temprynte thystorye of the sayd noble kyng and conquerour kyng Arthur / and of his knyghtes wyth thy storye of the saynt greal / and of the deth and endyng of the sayd Arthur / Affermyng that I ought rather tenprynte his actes and noble feates / than of Godefroye of Boloyne / or ony the other eyght / consyderyng that he was a man borne wythin this royame and kyng and Emperour of the same / And that there ben in Frensshe dyuers and many noble volumes of his actes / and also of his knyghtes / To whome I answerd / that dyuers men holde oppynyon / that there was no suche Arthur / and that alle suche bookes as been maad of hym / ben fayned and fables / by cause that somme cronycles make of hym no mencyon ne remembre hym noo thynge ne of his knyghtes / wherto they answerd / and one if specyal sayd / that in hym that shold say or thynke / that there was neuer suche a kynge callyd Arthur / myght wel be aretted grete folye and blyndenesse / For he sayd that there were many euydences of the contrarye / Fyrst ye may see his sepulture in the monasterye of Glastyngburye / And also in polycronycon in the v book the syxte chappytre / and in the seuenth book the xxiij chappytre/ where his body was buryed and after founden and translated in to the sayd monasterye / ye shal se also in thystorye of bochas in his book de casu principum / parte of his noble actes / and also of his falle / Also Galfrydus in his brutysshe book recounteth his lyf / and in dyuers places of Englond / many remembraunces ben yet of hym and shall remayne perpetuelly / and also of his knyghtes / Fyrst in the abbey of Westmestre at saynt Edwardes shryne remayneth the prynte of his seal in reed Waxe closed in beryll/ In whych is wryton Patricius Arthurus / Britannie / Gallie / Germanie / Dacie / Imperator / Item in the castel of douer ye may see Gauwayns skulle / & Cradoks mantle . At Wynchester the rounde table / in other places Launcelottes swerde and many other thynges / Thenne al these thynges consydered there can no man resonably gaynsaye but there was a kyng of thys lande named Arthur / For in al places crysten and hethen he is reputed and taken for one of the ix worthy / And the fyrst of the thre Crysten men / And also he is more spoken of beyonde the see moo boookes made of his noble actes than there be in Englond as wel in Duche Ytalyen Spaynysshe and Grekysshe as in Frensshe / And yet of record remayne in wytnesse of hym in wales in the toune of Camelot the grete stones & meruayllous werkys of yron lyeng vnder the grounde & ryal vautes which dyuers now lyuyng hath seen / wherfor it is a meruayl why he is nomore renomed in his owne contreye / sauf onelye it accordeth to the worde of god / whyche sayth that no man is accept for a prophete in his owne contreye / Thene al these thynges forsayd aledged I coude not wel denye / but that there was suche a noble kyng named Arthur / and reputed one of the ix Worthy / & fyrst & chyef of the cristen men / & many noble volumes be made of hym & of his noble knyghtes in Frensshe which I haue seen & redde beyonde the see / which been not had in our maternal tongue / but in Walsshe ben many & also in Frensshe / & somme in Englysshe but no wher nygh alle / wherfore suche as haue late ben drawen oute bryefly in to englysshe / I haue after the symple connynge that god hath sente to me / vnder the fauour and correctyon of al noble lordes and gentylmen enprysed to enprynte a book of the noble hystoryes of the sayd kynge Arthur / and of certeyn of his knyghtes after a copye vnto me delyuerd / whyche copye Syr Thomas Malorye dyd take oute of certeyn bookes of Frensshe and reduced it in to Englysshe / And I accordyng to my copye haue doon sette it in enprynte / to the entente that noble men may see and lerne the noble actes of chyualrye / the Ientyl and vertuous dedes that somme knyghtes vsed in tho dayes / by whyche they came to honour / and how they that were vycious were punysshed and ofte put to shame and rebuke / humbly bysechyng al noble lordes and ladyes wyth al other estates of what estate or degree they been of / that shal see and rede in this sayd book and werke / that they take the good and honest actes in their remembraunce / and to folowe the same / Wherin they shalle fynde many Ioyous and playsaunt hystoryes / and noble & renomed actes of humanyte / gentylnesse and chyualryes / For herein may be seen noble chyualrye / curtosye / humanyte / frendlynesse / hardynesse / loue / frendshyp / cowardyse / murdre / hate / vertue / and synne / Doo after the good and leue the euyl / and it shal brynge you to good fame and renommee / And for to passe the tyme thys boook shal be plesaunte to rede in / but for to gyue fayth and byleue that al is trewe that is conteyned herin / ye be at your lyberte / but al is wryton for our doctryne / and for to beware that we falle not to vyce ne synne / but texersyse and folowe vertu / by whyche we may come and atteyne to good fame and renomme in thys lyf / and after thys shorte and transytorye lyf to come vnto euerlastyng blysse in heuen / the whyche he graunte vs that reygneth in heuen the blessyd Trynyte Amen /
Thenne to procede forth in thys sayd book / whyche I dyrecte vnto alle noble prynces / lordes and ladyes / gentylmen or gentylwymmen that desyre to rede or here redde of the noble and Ioyous hystorye of the grete conquerour and excellent kyng . Kyng Arthur / somtyme kyng of thys noble royalme / thenne callyd / Brytaygne / I Wyllyam Caxton symple persone present thys book folowyng / Whyche I haue enprysed tenprynte / And treateth of the noble actes / feates of armes of chyualrye / prowesse / hardynesse / humanyte loue / curtosye / and veray gentylnesse / wyth many wonderful hystoryes and adventures / And for to vnderstonde bryefly the contente of thys volume / I haue deuyded it in to xxj bookes / and euery book chapytred as here after shal by goddes grace folowe / The fyrst book shal treate how Vtherpendragon gate the noble conquerour kyng Arthur and conteyneth xxviij chappytres / The second book treateth of Balyn the noble knyght and conteyneth xix chapytres / The thyrd book treateth of the maryage of kyng Arthur to quene queneuer wyth other maters and conteyneth fyftene chappytres / The fourth book how Merlyn was assotted / and of warre maad to kyng Arthur / and conteyneth xxix chappytres / The fyfthe book treateth of the conqueste of Lucius themperour and conteyneth xij chappytres / The syxthe book treateth of Syr Launcelot and syr Lyonel and meruayllous adventures and conteyneth xviij chapytres / The seuenth book treateth of a noble knyght called syr Gareth and named by syr kaye Beaumayns and conteyneth xxxvj chapytres / The eyght book treateth of the byrthe of Syr Trystram the noble knyght and of hys actes / and conteyneth xlj chapytres / The ix book treateth of a knyght named by Syr Kaye le cote male taylle and also of Syr Trystram and conteyneth xliiij chapytres / The x book treateth of syr Trystram & other meruayllous adventures and conteyneth lxxxviij chappytres / The xj book treateth of syr Launcelot and syr Galahad and conteyneth xiiij chappytres / The xij book treateth of syr Launcelot and his madnesse and conteyneth xiiij chappytres / The xiij book treateth how Galahad came fyrst to kyng Arthurs courte and the quest how the Sangreall was begonne and conteyneth xx chapytres / The xiiij boook treateth of the queste of the Sangreal & conteyneth x chapytres / The xv book treateth of syr Launcelot & conteyneth vj chapytres / The xvj book treateth of Syr Bors & syr Lyonel his brother and conteyneth xvij chapytres / The xvij book treateth of the Sangreal and conteyneth xxiij chapytres / The xviij book treateth of Syr Launcelot and the quene and conteyneth xxv chapytres / The xix book treateth of quene Gueneuer and Launcelot and conteyneth xiij chapytres / The xx book treateth of the pyetous deth of Arthur and conteyneth xxij chapytres / The xxj book treateth of his last departyng / and how syr Launcelot came to reuenge his dethe and conteyneth xiij chapytres / The somme is xxj bookes whyche conteyne the soome of v hondred & vij chapytres / as more playnly 

Post Editorial Notes

  • note. 1 The table of contents does not contain an entry for chapter xvj, book one, though the chapter exists in the text.
  • note. 2 An entry for chapter xiij does not occur in the table of contents but the chapter exists in the text.
  • note. 3 As listed in the table of contents, chapters iii, iiij, and v go together, and there are no chapter breaks between them in the text.
  • note. 4 There is no chapter xxvj, either in the table of contents or in the text.
  • note. 5 As listed in the table of contents, chapters xviij and xix go together, and there is no chapter break between them in the text.
  • note. 6 As listed in the table of contents, chapters xxv and xxvj are joined in chapter xxvj, and there is no chapter break between them.
  • note. 7 Some of the chapter numberings have been corrected.
Webmaster Notes:
There have been some minor changes in the online version provided here. Most of the occurences of common names of individuals have been corrected for a leading capital letter and some names have been adjusted so that the same individual's name is the same throughout the manuscript, i.e. where the manuscript had either kynge Marke or Mark, substitution of kyng Mark. Many character names were found in several spellings, often due to the changing use of "I" and "y" and also "w" and "u". In most cases, I have used the "y" variation. Not all names and words have been corrected. This process was followed for other similar names except in some cases where "I" was the first letter of a name. Some of the issue with "I" and "Y" are also probably due to Malory's use of both French and British texts as sources. Other issues such as scribal and publishing errors are possible. A possibility that I would like to pursue or research at some point is whether the publisher used variations in some cases due to printing issues, such as spacing or availability of specific type set letters on a specific page. This would require more knowledge of the printing procedures used and a careful analysis of letter counts on each printed manuscript page.

   Some words have been changed by the previous editor or myself where either scanning produced an error not caught during layout or where the original manuscript had an obvious error, i.e. Arthur substituted for Nrthur.
   This online version may have minor changes inserted for readability. All attempts have been made to insure as accurate a reproduction as possible. Some of the modified names and multiple spellings found:

Used in Online      Found in Document
Mark                      Mark, Marke
Trystram               Trystram, Tristram
Isoude                    Isoude, ysoude
Bleoberys              Bleoberys, Bleoberis
Launcelot              Launcelot, Lancelot
Balyn                     Balyn, Balen
Gawayne                Gawayn, Gauwayn,  Gawayne, Gauwayne,
                                gauayne, gauayn
Gaherys                 Gaherys, Gaheris, Gaheryse
Palomydes            Palomydes, Palamydes, Palomides
Gweneuer             Gweneuer, Gueneuer
Brastias                 Bracias, Brastias
Melyas                   Melyas, Melias
Percyuale              Percyuale, Percyual
Pellynore               Pellynore, Pellenore, Pellinore
Marhaus                Marhaus, Marhaws
Turquyn                Turquyn, Turquyne
Lamorak                Lamorak, Lamerok, Lamarak, Lamerak
Gouernayle           Gouernayle, Gouernaille
Lot                          Lot, Lott, Lotte, Loth
Cornewayl             Cornewayl, Cornewail(l), Cornewaille,
                                Cornewaile
Terrabyl                Terrabyl, Terrabil, Tarabil
Tyntagyl                Tyntagyl, Tyntigail(l), Tyntygayl, Tyntigayll,                       
                                Tyntygayl, Tyntagil
syr                           syr, sir, syre (Syre retained in some places)
kyng                        kyng, kynge 
hyr                          hyr, hir
damoysel               damoysel, damoisel, damoysell