Seen here is a detail showing the name Merlin in a handwritten parchment fragment of a manuscript from the middle ages. Image CrediT: University of Bristol/PA.

Ancient Manuscript Offers New Insight on Legend of King Arthur and Merlin

A manuscript help in the archive of the Bristol Central Library offers unique insight on the story of Camelot, King Arthur, and the mighty wizard Merlin.


The Myth of King Arthur and the great magician Merlin have been revealed after experts have discovered seven pages belonging to a 700-year-old manuscript that tells the legend of Camelot.

The ancient pages have been unearthed in a series of 16th-century books in the archive of Bristol Central Library and are thought to tell the story of Camelot, King Arthur, and the mighty wizard Merlin.


Academics from Bristol and Durham universities have identified some crucial points in the manuscript but have yet to fully decipher the badly damaged text.

The piece, which mentions tales of the Arthurian legend, measures between 20 and 30 centimeters and dates back to the 13th century.

To fully understand and read the ancient text, scientists will use state-of-the-art infrared techniques.

(GregMontani / Pixabay)

The ancient prose is thought to originate from the old French sequence of texts referred to as the Vulgate Cycle, or Lancelot-Grail Cycle reports the Daily Mail.

The discovery of the handwritten parchment fragments was made inside the University of Bristol’s particular collections library, where scholars discovered the text inside a four-volume edition belonging to the work of French scholar and reformer Jean Gerson.


Merlin, the great magician, is one of the most famous characters in the Arthurian Legend. The standard depiction of Merlin’s character is thought to have first appeared in Geoffrey of Monmouth‘s Historia Regum Britanniae, written c. 1136.

The Vulgate Cycle is believed to have been used by English writer Sir Thomas Malory as the source for his work ‘Le Morte D’Arthur’, which was later taken as a source for many modern retellings of the Arthurian legend.

The team investigating the ancient manuscript is led by Dr. Leah Tether.

Speaking to Mail Online, Dr. Tether said that the English Version’s narrative is very different compared to other pieces.

“The narrative is different; the details are changed. It’s significant because the English version of that would have been based on a version that we haven’t already found,” she explained.

“We can’t put two and two together, but we saw that in general battle sequences, there’s more detail, they’re more extended, and the way in which a character dies is different.”

The story of Merlin and King Arthur also includes tales about a mythical land called Camelot, as well as tales of Sir Lancelot and the legendary sword of Excalibur.


Some scholars have argued that Camelot is a real place located somewhere in England.

Other authors have proposed Camelot was inspired by the southwest of the UK, around Bristol.

Merlin is famous for having ‘reconstructed’ the stones of Stonehenge by forms of Magic.

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Written by Ivan Petricevic

I've been writing passionately about ancient civilizations, history, alien life, and various other subjects for more than eight years. You may have seen me appear on Discovery Channel's What On Earth series, History Channel's Ancient Aliens, and Gaia's Ancient Civilizations among others.

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