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14th-century King Arthur manuscript sold for £2.4m

Tuesday 07 December 2010 18:35 GMT

An illuminated 14th century manuscript containing what is believed to be the oldest surviving account of the legends of King Arthur sold today for more than £2 million.

The Rochefoucauld Grail, a colourful illustrated account of the knights of the round table, Merlin and the Holy Grail, was sold by auction house Sotheby's in London.

It had been estimated to sell for between £1.5 million and £2 million but eventually went for £2.39 million.

More than 200 cows would have been needed to produce the vellum sheets for the three hefty volumes of the manuscript, which contains 107 finely painted illustrations.

It was written in Flanders or Artois some time between 1315 and 1323 and probably produced for Guy VII, Baron de Rochefoucauld, head of one of the leading aristocratic families of medieval France.

The manuscript went on to be acquired by 19th century collector Sir Thomas Phillipps and had changed hands twice before this sale.

The stories of Arthur, the lady in the lake and Lancelot were popular in their day and were translated widely around Europe, and became something of a guidebook for chivalry.

Sotheby's specialist Timothy Bolton said: "This is one of the principal manuscripts of the first significant medieval work of secular literature.

"It is a grand book, in a monumental format, with 107 miniatures, each a dazzling jewel of early gothic illumination.

"The scenes often have a riotous energy, and often stretch beyond the boundaries of the picture frames, with lofty towers poking through the borders at the top, and figures tumbling out of the miniatures on to the blank page as they fall or scramble to escape their enemies."

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