Thomas Malory and Winchester

This would have been an entry in our Wessex Worthies series, except that Thomas Malory probably didn't come from Wessex. Malory's identity is the subject of scholarly debate, but the consensus view is that he came from Newbold Revel in Warwickshire. Alternative candidates hail from Shropshire, Wales and Yorkshire.

He does, however, have a connection to Winchester, which is explicitly identified as Camelot in Malory's book Le Morte d'Arthur, the first major prose work printed in the English language. It was published by William Caxton in 1485 , the year in which the Tudor dynasty ascended the throne of England, and which was said to mark the end of the middle ages and the birth of the modern era when I was at school.

The Caxton book was though to be the earliest manuscript of Le Morte d'Arthur until 1934, when WF Oakeshott, headmaster of Winchester College, was cataloguing the school's library, and came across a previously unknown manuscript. The Winchester Manuscript, as it became known, differed significantly from Caxton's edition, which appears to be a revised version of the same text. In 2009, it formed the basis of a modern English paraphrase by Dorsey Armstrong.

Winchester remains proud of its Arthurian connections, and a 13th century replica dominates the Great Hall. But that's a subject for another post.

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