The birth, life, and acts of King Arthur, of his noble Knights of the Round Table.

Special Collections Investigation (due Feb 7 by 9AM)

Part I (the subjective part), is the first half (500 words) of your Post. Write about your experience viewing the book, including:

As I trolled about the room, which was littered with books of all shapes, sizes, ages, and genres, I was immediately and inescapably drawn to one particular title: “The Birth, Life and Acts of King Arthur: Of His Noble Knights of the Round Table,” written by Sir Thomas Malory. This behemoth of a book first appeared to me like an age old encyclopedia, which I perceived to be hundreds of years old, although in good condition. It surprised me to learn that this book was only 110 years old, printed in 1909, because I had subconsciously associated its gothic appearance with its age. I heaved open the front cover and began to flip through the pages, reading what caught my eye, but devoting most of my attention to the illustrations that were littered throughout the book, every few pages.

The book, a large hardcover book of nearly 1,000 pages, was hefty yet delicate. The pages were very thick and tattered along the edges, resembling some type of older parchment. However delicate the pages seemed to be, there were little signs of stains or tears throughout the book. Although it looked old and worn, it was in very good condition for being over 100 years of age, and I was surprised to find that all the pages were still relatively adhered to the binding. Considering the age and the size of the book, I did not tamper too much with inspecting the binding or the spine, out of fear that I may damage the book.

My sensory perception of the book led me to believe that it was much older than a hundred years. From the wear of the cover and pages, to the smell of a book that’s been in a library for a prolonged period of time, it seemed like more of an ancient relic than a book that has only outlived a handful of generations. The pages were again, stiff and delicate, feeling like they might come unhinged from their binding at the slightest pull. I did not notice any particular sound about the book, aside from the quiet rustling of the thick pages as I flipped through it, no different than any book of that age would sound.

The sheer size and stature of the book is amazing to me, not only from a preservation standpoint, but from the fact that this is a piece of literature that people have read. As stated before, my first impression of the book, even before opening the cover and flipping through its pages, was that the book was an encyclopedia of some sort. It has a fairly large cover, which houses what looks to be hundreds, if not thousands of pages. Beyond that, I was taken aback by the intricate, yet simple layout of the pages, which contained what appeared to be depictions of tarot card-like scenes preceding each chapter. Every few pages, there would be a larger illustration, which tended to be more representative of the current storyline, rather than simply prefacing the introduction of a new setting or character in the coming chapters.

Part II (the objective part), is the second half. Research and answer the questions below. Everyone must answer the first question, but you do not have to answer all of these questions. Some questions may not be pertinent to your book — write about the items that are appropriate:

The book is worth collecting, simply because of its age, as it was printed in 1909, making it over 110 years old and a bona fide piece of history that has traversed its way to DH Hill library. The book is also referred to as “Morte d’Arthur,” which translates to “the death of Arthur” (Wight). The content of the book is rich in history, as it details exactly what its title suggests, a long winded, yet detailed saga of “The Birth, Life and Acts of King Arthur.” Written by Sir Thomas Malory, in the mid fifteenth century, and published in 1485 by William Caxton, this story almost outdates the invention of the printing press itself (Wight). Furthermore it sets a literary and cultural precedent as “most Arthurian tales popularly circulated in the English-speaking world are to some extent drawn from Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte d’Arthur” (McShane). From a pure aesthetic perspective, this book is filled from cover to cover with intricate prints, beautiful artwork, and typography that seems to fully capture the literary zeitgeist of the middle ages. Whether collected by Special Collections or by a bibliophile who appreciates good book design, this book would be hard to pass up if you had the chance to possess it, especially because of its age.

Without too much knowledge of bookkeeping, I would like to say that this book is valued and appreciated for its age, artwork, and it’s cultural impact. There are only two known existing copies of the original publication, from the printing of William Caxton in 1485 (McShane). The literature from Sir Thomas Malory is said to inspire most other works regarding King Arthur, tales of chivalry, and is referenced as a historic account of the characters ingrained in the history of the middle ages. The subject matter is appealing in itself, as it seems to be an extremely detailed representation of the life of King Arthur, who is one of the most notable and highly regarded figures in history. The storyline follows a tale that I’m sure most people are familiar with: the search for the holy grail (Wight).

Although the book is rich in historical content, and the original story was published in the late 1400s, this copy was printed in 1909. I would assume that this book was printed to look more like a replica of an old book, dating back closer to the middle ages, for artistic and literary value, rather than being printed in a more primitive fashion. The original printings and manuscripts would have been done within decades of the printing press being invented, making it one of the earliest books to be mass produced, if not copied by hand. However, this copy is not as historic, being printed in 1909 as there was a resurgence in the popularity of this type of literature. Although the print is not as old as one might think, the neat display of typography and the timeless illustrations transcend the bounds of historical dating. Furthermore, the cultural impact of this book adds to its value and special presentation. Beyond that, the age of the print is something to value and hold dear, as the book is now over a hundred years old, and in the shape to last hundreds more, possibly having impact on plenty more students in the following years.


McShane, Kara L. “Malory’s Morte D’Arthur: Exhibition Guide.” Malory’s Morte D’Arthur: Exhibition Guide | Robbins Library Digital Projects, 2010,

Wight, Colin. “Thomas Malory’s ‘Le Morte Darthur’.” THE BRITISH LIBRARY, The British Library, 13 June 2008,