Excerpts from a Review of Le Morte D'Arthur
As appeared in Journal of the Pendragon Society
This is an excellent book, and Anna-Marie Ferguson shows a true love of the legends with her imaginative and sympathetic depictions of the tales, blending clear renditions of Malory's own imagery with elements inspired by more ancient Celtic traditions. Here is a work in veritable harmony with the atmosphere of Malory's wonderful epic.
It is accessible, too. The print is clear and, for anyone not used to Malory, very easy to read: they typeface itself has been chosen specifically for this purpose (such attention to detail helps make this book a winner). John Matthews has been true to the original (as explained in his introduction), only editing where he felt essential to cover errors in earlier editions, and where it seemed necessary to maintain clarity in the body of the text. Michael Moorcock's foreword is full of admiration for Malory and sets the tone for the enjoyment of the whole work.
And so we come to Anna-Marie's illustrations; and they are a feast for the eye and the imagination. One advantage of Malory's work is that it is a magical playing field for the mind's eye and offers any artist endless scope for development; but that in itself poses its own problems, because sometimes a drawing can fall short of the imagination. It is just as easy to detract from a great work, by producing an unsympathetic illustration, as it is to enhance it with apt illumination. Anna-Marie has quite evidently been aware of this and has chosen her subjects well, taking elements of Malory's text into her work, whilst allowing herself the freedom to let her own imagination run free. The result is a beautiful and quite enchanting blend of a kind of pseudo-mediaeval world intermixed with pagan imagery.
There are 62 illustrations in all, half in colour and half in black and white line work. There is a freedom of expression to the black and white drawings, and a delicacy of touch to the colour illustrations, that balance each other well and blend subtly with the mysteries of the stories themselves.
To dip in at random and describe but a few:
I could go on: there are so many to choose from, and I'm sure that various people will have their different favourites. From the clever expressions of "Tristram and Isoud" (Illustration 29; colour) to the pageantry, grandeur and fantasy of "Elaine comes to Camelot" (Illustration 39; colour), these enchanting illustrations capture the whole range of emotions with Le Morte d'Arthur and bring an already epic work to rich and wonderful life.
Whether adding to your own library of Arthurian works, or introducing someone new to the legends of King Arthur, I would be very happy to highly recommend this book. It is a marvel and, in Anna-Marie's own words ("The Illustration of Malory" on page xxxvii), this is "a true labour of love".
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