Bristol

Middle Ages Merlin manuscript found in Bristol University library

Detail from one of the fragments showing the name Merlin Image copyright University of Bristol
Image caption The fragments from the Middle Ages were found by chance in 15th and 16th Century books

Fragments of a manuscript from the Middle Ages which tell the story of Merlin the magician from Arthurian legend have been found in a library.

Seven hand-written fragments were found by the University of Bristol's special collections librarian.

Specialists analysing the pieces said they contained "subtle but significant" differences from the traditional story.

"We are all very excited to discover more," said Dr Leah Tether, of the International Arthurian Society.

Image caption Merlin the magician is one of the most famous characters from Arthurian legend

The pieces of parchment were discovered by librarian Michael Richardson, who recognised a number of Arthurian names and contacted Dr Tether.

The newly-discovered text has longer, more detailed descriptions of various characters particularly during battles.

"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," said Dr Tether.

The books in which the fragments were found were all printed in Strasbourg between 1494 and 1502.

Image copyright University of Bristol
Image caption A team of experts is investigating further to discover if the pieces hold any secrets about the legends of Arthur, Merlin and the Holy Grail

A team of experts will try to find out how and when the books came to England in order to be able to trace the origin of the parchments.

Dr Tether said: "Time and research will reveal what further secrets about the legends of Arthur, Merlin and the Holy Grail these fragments might hold."

She added it was "all the more special" to find the fragments in the South West because of its locations made famous by the Arthurian legend.

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