"The Romance of
King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table" (1917)
Illustrated by Arthur Rackham
The tone of the tale - and Rackham's accompanying imagery -
is set in the first sentence of Pollard's Preface:
The story of King Arthur and his Knights is one of the
greatest that men have ever made,
greater by far than that of Charlemagne, which had come into
fashion a little earlier, greater
perhaps even than the Tale of Troy, already some two thousand
years old, which for some
centuries it eclipsed.
Pollard's version of Malory's "Morte d'Arthur" includes tales
of: King Arthur; Sir Launcelot; Sir Gareth; Sir Tristram; Sir Launcelot and
Dame Elaine; Sir Galahad and the Quest of the Holy Grail; and
Launcelot, Guenever, and King Arthur.
Malory's own "Morte d'Arthur" was compiled from folk tales, with the addition of
some original material related to Sir Gareth. The original
version of the tales was first published by William Caxton in 1485 and the
Malory's compilation is regarded as the best-known work of
English-language Arthurian literature.
Some insight into Rackham's preparation of the illustrations
for this commission is provided by Hamilton (1990) in "Arthur Rackham:
A Life with Illustration":
In preparing for the commission, Rackham turned to his own
copy of Beardsley's "Morte D'Arthur"
and, following the pattern of the Beardsley version, drew
square and rectangular chapter heardings
to be set at irregular intervals up and down the page. As in
Beardsley, these have a stark black
and white appearance, though Rackham cannot resist the
occasional wryly humorous touch such
as a barking dog or a jester's head. The closest Rackham
comes to Beardsley, however, is in his
illustration of 'Sangreal', a flaming lidded chalice carried
by an attenuated golden-haired
white-robed maiden. This homage to Aubrey is based closely on
Beardsley's own angel in
'The Achieving of the Sangreal', the frontispiece to Volume
Two of "Morte D'Arthur".
Rackham's illustrations for "The Romance of King Arthur and
His Knights of the Round Table" - including colour, monotone
designs - are magnificent.