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Le Morte Darthur (Norton Critical Editions) Paperback – October 3, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0393974645 ISBN-10: 0393974642 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Series: Norton Critical Editions
  • Paperback: 1024 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (October 3, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393974642
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393974645
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 5.6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #103,271 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Stephen H. A. Shepherd is Associate Professor of English at Loyola Marymount University. His honors include fellowships to the Huntington Library and the Bibliographical Society of America. He is the editor of the Middle-English Pseudo-Turpin Chronicle and of the Norton Critical Edition of Middle English Romances and coeditor of the Norton Critical Edition of Piers Plowman.

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91 of 92 people found the following review helpful By Jim Allan on October 9, 2004
Format: Paperback
The Norton Critical Edition of Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte Darthur edited by Stephen H. A. Shepherd partly replaces Eugène Vinaver's The Works of Sir Thomas Malory and is in many ways a better effort.

This edition stands somewhere between a scholarly, critical edition and a popular edition. It is based mainly on the Winchester manucript with emendations and additions from Caxton's 14th century printed version. Abbreviations are expanded, major (but not minor) corrections of the text are noted, the obsolete characters thorn and yogh are replaced by modern letters, use of u and v, i and j follow modern usage. and word division, punctuation, and capitalization also edited to follow modern conventions, including use of quotation marks.

But otherwise spelling is not modernized, large capitals in the manuscript are indicated in the printed text by lombardic capitals of approximately the same relative size, paragraphing is mostly followed exactly (with even the // paragraph break marks being rendered by indentation followed by the symbol ¶) and further paragraphing without ¶ where other punctuation or capitalization anomalies indicate sectioning. Vinaver's edition became, eventually, notorious for ignoring the divisions given within the manuscript itself, an especially unfortunate defect since Vinaver's theories about Malory's composition supposedly depended on paying especially close attention to such matters.

In the mansucript, rubricating (that is, red lettering) was employed in scribing almost all personal names as well as on some other names and in marginal notes and is here represented by a black-letter font.
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A reviewer can propose, but only Amazon disposes.

Way back in 2004, I was unable to review the then-new Norton Critical Edition of "Le Morte Darthur" (Winchester MS version -- see below) because I had already posted a review of the Penguin English Library/Penguin Classics edition (Caxton's text).

In the end, I wound up discussing Shepherd's treatment in a review of the Oxford Standard Authors edition, edited by Eugene Vinaver under the idiosyncratic title of "Malory: Complete Works."

Now that the NCE (Norton Critical Edition) has its own page, I've decided to slightly modify that combined review, and post it where I originally wanted it to go.

This is mainly a review of two old-spelling complete editions of the work commonly known as "Le Morte D'Arthur" (Anglo-Norman French for "The Death of [King] Arthur}), both available in paperback. The language they are in can be called either very late Middle English, or very early Modern English; other, easier-to-read, editions will also be mentioned below.

For those who are already familiar with the "Morte" from modernized-spelling popular editions, and the existence of two sources for a "definitive" text, and are looking for a more scholarly, but affordable, edition, here is the short view of the situation:

The sole choice used to be Eugene Vinaver's "Malory: Complete Works," in the Oxford Standard Authors series (from Oxford University Press; the title will be explained shortly). Available since 1971, it is in (rather small) plain type, with no special features on the page except some marginal notations, and the occasional footnote.

S.H.A.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Simon Esposito on November 2, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The other reviews are spot-on. A presentation of Malory that strongly evokes the experience of reading the original manuscript, but at the same time gives plenty of help for the modern reader. Introduction, explanatory notes and glossary are finely judged. Note that this edition is in original spelling and is unabridged: a lower degree of difficulty can be found in Helen Cooper's abridged, modern-spelling edition (Le Morte Darthur: The Winchester Manuscript (Oxford World's Classics)).

The editor, Stephen Shepherd, expresses some hesitation (p. xii) over the decision to break the text up into modern paragraphs, and not simply to reproduce the manuscript's placement of paragraph symbols in unbroken text. It's not a big issue, but I for one would have found this method attractive, the bold paragraph symbols (as I imagine) breaking up the text adequately and giving an even more distinctive, manuscript-like feel to it.

The only thing that slightly detracts from the book for me is the typesetting of the verso pages (the left-hand pages of each opening), which goes against traditional practice. Since the text is prose, set justified left and right, the marginal annotations of the left-hand pages could easily have been placed in the outer margin, in a mirror image of the right-hand pages. As it is there is a stark, mostly empty space along the inner edge of the left page, while the text comes to within a few millimetres of the outer edge, disturbing to the eye and leaving no thumb-room. Poetry has to be set this way, of course, with its ragged right edge - and in any case the narrower columns of text are easier to keep clear of the page's edge. But if this is Norton house style for prose, I can't see why it's necessary.
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