Fragments of medieval manuscripts found in Great Britain containing stories about the wizard Merlin have been identified by specialists from the universities of Bristol and Durham as one of the earliest mentions of this character in the legends of King Arthur. This was reported in a press release from the University of Bristol.
British scientists also managed to find out how the handwritten fragments they studied ended up in Bristol, to compare the text with already known versions of the same legend, and, finally, using the latest multispectral imaging technologies, they were able to determine the type of ink used and read damaged sections of the text invisible to the naked eye. …
Seven pieces of parchment were accidentally discovered in early 2019 by Michael Richardson of the University of Bristol. They were pasted into the bindings of four book volumes published between 1494–1502 and held in the rare book collection of Bristol Central Library. Fragments dating from the early 13th century contain excerpts from anonymous Old French manuscripts known as the Vulgate cycle, or the Lancelot-Grail cycle.
“We were able to date the manuscript from which the fragments were taken using paleographic (handwriting) analysis. It was created in 1250-1275. And with the help of linguistic research, we were able to determine the place of its origin - it is the north or, perhaps, the northeast of France,”- said Professor Leah Teter, President of the British branch of the International Society of King Arthur. Interestingly, the Bristol fragments contain small but important differences from the previously known lists.
Portions of this cycle may have been used by Sir Thomas Malory (1415-1471) as the source for his Le Morte Darthur (first printed in 1485 by William Caxton), and this cycle in turn serves as the main source for most modern retellings of the legend of King Arthur.