The Arthurian Legends: An Illustrated Anthology. Ed. and Intro. Richard Barber. Rochester, NY: Boydell Press, 1979, 1987, 1991, 1992.
A chronological anthology of the Arthurian Legend, starting with the earliest Welsh sources, and continuing through selections from Geoffrey of Monmouth, Malory, various other Medieval sources, Tennyson, and T.H. White. Some commentary by the editor, plus many beautiful pictures showing the legend in art through the ages.
Ashe, Geoffrey. King Arthur's Avalon. Glasgow: Harper Collins, 1957; Fontana, 1973.
This was the first book for Ashe, a popular Arthurian scholar. In it, he examines the historical and mythical significance of Glastonbury, allegedly the site of Avalon, in Arthurian legend. He also affirms that Arthur and Guinevere could have indeed been buried there, as monks at the abbey declared in 1190. He discusses Glastonbury's place in the grail myth and as a holy place for both Celts and early British Christians.
------. The Quest for Arthur's Britain. New York: Praeger, 1968.
Ashe's popular historical and literary look at the origins of the Arthurian legend in myth, and its influence on English culture. How mush is truth and how much fiction? Was Arthur real, and, if so, what was he like? These are just two of the questions Ashe attempts to answer.
Ashton, Graham. The Realm of King Arthur. Newport, Isle of Wight, UK: J. Arthur Dixon, 1974.
Full of beautiful maps and pictures, this little book shows its reader the places where King Arthur probably lived and died: Tintagel, Cadbury (Camelot), and Glastonbury, and other places associated with Arthur's reign. The author gives a brief historical explanation of why these sites are considered significant.
Brown, Arthur C.L. The Origin of the Grail Legend. New York: Russel and Russel, 1943.
Brown traces the origins of Chretien de Troyes' Parzival, one of the first grail stories. He believes the legend is based on Celtic mythology, though the classical mythologies and Christianity are certainly important influences. The story was apparently brought to France through Wales and Brittany. Brown also believes that Celtic mythology is a source for fairy stories and courtly love.
Bullfinch, Thomas. The Age of Chivalry and Legend. Forward, Palmer Bovie. New York, Mentor, 1962.
Bullfinch retells the Arthurian legends from Malory and The Mabinogion. He throws in Robin Hood and Charlemagne for good measure.
Chretien de Troyes. Arthurian Romances. Trnsl. and Intro., William W. Kibler. "Eric and Enide" Trnsl. Carleton W. Carroll. London: Penguin, 1991.
Chretien is regarded as the greatest of the medieval romance writers. He introduced the ideas of chivalry and courtly love to the Arthurian legends in his tales of Lancelot, Yvain, and Percival, three of Arthur's knights. Mixing Welsh sources with his French upbringing, he was the first to introduce the Round Table, and to name Arthur's capitol "Camelot."
Coghlan, Robert. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Arthurian Legends. Rockport, MA: Element, 1991.
Beautifully illustrated with photos and art depicting the people and places of Arthurian myth, this book is a comprehensive encyclopedia of Arthurian information. Everything and everyone even remotely connected to Arthur, from Sir Aalardin to Zitus (a Spanish name for Arthur) is listed.
Geoffrey of Monmouth. The History of the Kings of Britain. Trnsl. and Intro., Lewis Thorpe. London: Penguin, 1966.
Geoffrey's infamous "history" has been controversial since it was composed in 1136. It spans 2000 years of history, from the founding of Britain to the coming of the Saxons and Arthur. He is the source for both King Lear and Old King Cole, as well as the mystical prophet Merlin.
Goodrich, Norma Lorre. Guinevere. New York: HarperCollins, 1991.
Goodrich explores the historical and mythological origins of Guinevere, Arthur's queen. She looks at her origins as a "flower bride goddess," speculates about her being a warrior queen, and discusses her abductions, the False Guinevere, and of course, her relationship with the two best warriors in Britain, Arthur and Lancelot. Note: Goodrich's work is often considered dubious in scholarly circles.
_____. King Arthur. New York: Harper & Row, 1986.
Goodrich goes on a search for historical Arthur who arose out of myth and history to become legend. Unlike Ashe, she believes Arthur's Kingdom was in the lowlands of Scotland rather than the south of England. She hunts down the sites of his birth, death, great battles, and the Holy Grail. Note: Goodrich's work is often considered dubious in scholarly circles.
The Mabinogion. Trnsl. and Intro., Jeffrey Gantz. London: Penguin, 1976.
An original translation of the great Welsh epics of Pwyll, Culhwch, Owein, Peredur, and others who eventually end up as part of the Arthurian legend. These stories are remnants of Celtic mythology.
Malory, Sir Thomas. Le Morte D'Arthur. Ed. Janet Cowen. Intro., John Lawlor. 2 vols. London: Penguin, 1969.
This is considered the definitive version of the Arthurian legend. Derived from unknown French and Welsh sources, Malory's masterpiece was one of the first books ever printed in English. He was the first to tie all the stories about Arthur and his knights into a single coherent whole, leading up to the tragic climax of Arthur's death.
Matthews, John. The Arthurian Tradition. Rockport, MA: Element, 1994.
With its beautiful pictures, this books takes its reader through the mythical and archetypal aspects of the Arthurian legends and their affect on our cultural psyche. The author especially looks at the origins of Arthur, Guinevere, Morgan, Merlin, and the Grail in Celtic myth.
Steinbeck, John. The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights. Ed. Chase Horton. New York: Farrar, 1976.
Steinbeck's only redeeming quality was that he was in love with King ARthur as much as I am. This is his unfinished tribute to Malory, a modern retelling using the Winchester manuscript. He cuts out a lot of Malory's extra detail and gets right down to the core of the story. It's a pity he never got past the beginning of Lancelot's story.
Tennyson, Lord Alfred. The Idylls of the King and a Selection of Poems. New York: Penguin, 1961.
Tennyson takes the Arthurian legend and turns it into a beautiful allegorical myth for Victorian England, though if he had sources for some of his "facts," or, in the grand tradition of Geoffrey of Monmouth, just made them up, I don't know.
White, T.H. The Once and Future King. New York: Ace Books, 1987; Putnam, 1965.
White takes the legend and myth of Arthur and gives it to the Twentieth Century is a sometimes hilarious, often touching way. Based loosely on Malory. This is one of my all-time favorite books!