Seven handwritten and previously lost fragments of manuscripts written about Merlin, King Arthur, and the Holy Grail have been discovered inside a library at the University of Bristol in the UK. These fragments were originally published in Strasbourg, France, and have been dated back to between 1494 and 1502.
The mysterious fragments were discovered hidden inside of a 16th century book, according to a statement that was made by Bristol special collections librarian Michael Richardson. As Live Science reports, Richardson first spied the manuscripts written about the adventures of Merlin and King Arthur when he was searching through the book for medieval historical documents to help his students with their studies.
The specific book that the lost fragments of the manuscripts were found in belonged to the French scholar Jean Gerson, and as soon as Richardson realized that a good number of Arthurian names were being invoked, he asked for help in translating the tantalizing text which had been left in the book for hundreds of years.
The team that are currently investigating the lost texts are very curious to learn how the medieval manuscripts ended up inside Gerson’s book and are also planning to translate the lost fragments from Old French into modern English, so that they can be published and read by all interested.
Leah Tether, the president of the British branch of the International Arthurian Society, stated, “These fragments of the story of Merlin are a wonderfully exciting find, which may have implications for the study not just of this text but also of other related and later texts that have shaped our modern understanding of the Arthurian legend.”
— Live Science (@LiveScience) February 1, 2019
The seven fragments discovered at the University of Bristol library form a group of 13th century texts that are known as the Lancelot-Grail Cycle or Vulgate Cycle, and it is believed that Sir Thomas Malory was most likely inspired by this cycle when he wrote his Le Morte d’Arthur, which first appeared before the public in 1485.
Interestingly, however, the fragments of the King Arthur and the Holy Grail manuscripts aren’t quite the same as the more traditional versions that have been written about Arthur and Merlin. And although the changes in them are quite small, they are still highly important.
As Tether added, “Time and research will reveal what further secrets about the legends of Arthur, Merlin and the Holy Grail these fragments might hold. There are many more differences, too, but because of the damage to the fragments, it will take time to decipher their contents properly, perhaps even requiring the use of infrared technology.”
Once the fragments of the Merlin and King Arthur and the Holy Grail documents found at the University of Bristol library have been fully translated and deciphered, the public will have a chance to read the documents for themselves.