In what edition of Le Morte d'Arthur, published before 1923, can I find the full, unabridged, uncensored version of Caxton's 1485 text?

Yes, I know, Heinrich Oskar Sommer's work is perfect, but it's too hard to read, for obvious reasons.

Probably F.J.Simmons edition? It has modernized spelling, and it says they used Upcott's* text and fixed it by comparing with Sommer's edition. But I'm not sure, because, as we all know, written words are not always true.

(I chose the year 1923 due to copyright reasons).

* Upcott's edition is much better known as Southey's edition, but in fact Southey just wrote the preface, and has nothing to do with the text itself. The text is based on Caxton's 1485 edition, but contains a lot of errors and some strange replacements.

  • If you want Caxton's text, does that mean you also want original spelling instead of modernised spelling?
    – Tsundoku
    Jan 14, 2018 at 20:04
  • 1
    No, it doesn't mean :-) Because it's too hard to read. For example, here is 1st vol. of Sommer's text, with original spelling: archive.org/details/lemortedarthuror00malouoft. And compare it with Simmons edition: digital.auraria.edu/AA00004985/00001/59j. I want Caxton's plot with more-or-less modern spelling. // As you probably know, Malory's text was published 7 times: by Caxton in 1485, Wynkyn de Worde in 1498 and 1529, Copland in 1557, East twice in 1585, Stansby in 1634, and each edition contained additional changes and errors. Only Caxton's text considered as "correct".
    – john c. j.
    Jan 14, 2018 at 20:17
  • @ChristopheStrobbe In my previous comment is was too little space to mention your name, so I leave this "technical" comment here.
    – john c. j.
    Jan 14, 2018 at 20:18

1 Answer 1


I would go for either of the following editions:

  • Le Morte d'Arthur. Ed. John Rhys (1906). (Everyman's Library 45 & 46.) London: Dent; London: J. M. Dent; New York: E. P. Dutton. You can find libraries that have it through WorldCat.
  • Le Morte Darthur: Sir Thomas Malory's Book of King Arthur and of his Noble Knights of the Round Table,. Ed. A. W. Pollard (1903). 2 vol. New York: Macmillan. This seems to be the edition that some websites provide for free:
  • In a version available on Full Text Archive, A. W. Pollard writes:

    the most anxious care has been taken to produce a text modernised as to its spelling, but in other respects in accurate accordance with Caxton's text, as represented by Dr Sommer's reprint.

  • Hm. As I know, the first item you mentioned is actually another edition of Simmons. Rhys just wrote the preface. And the second item you mentioned in actually edition by Edward Strachey, but without censorship (original Strachey's edition was intended for "boys and girls"). I know about all these editions (I've found a lot of more on Archive.org). But I need some proofs of accuracy of particular edition/redaction. For example, Sommer's work is well known for it's absolute accuracy. I haven't any proofs about Simmons edition or about corrected Strachey's edition.
    – john c. j.
    Jan 14, 2018 at 21:15
  • @johnc.j. What "proof" do you need? Is A. W. Pollard's word enough? (See the addition to my answer.)
    – Tsundoku
    Jan 14, 2018 at 22:34

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