Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Glastonbury, Arthur and Somerset

By Lynn of Bailey Hill Bookshop.

Based in Somerset, the home of Arthurian legend, I had to read the new Phil Rickman Bones of Avalon. It rather compliments the stock we either hold or try to acquire in our Somerset section. The book is a good mixture of fact and fiction. The plot deals with a journey to Glastonbury by John Dee and Robert Dudley on work for Queen Elizabeth and concerning a popish plot by the French to overthrow her. For research Rickman has relied on the authority of David Starkey, Keith Thomas and Frances Yates amongst others. One book of particular interest he has drawn on is Glastonbury Abbey The Holy House at the Head of the Moors Adventurous by James Carley. This fascinating book gives a detailed history of the association of Arthurian Legend and Glastonbury. Supplementing this knowledge are works on the area by Geoffrey Ashe well known for his publications on Arthurian Legend, Robert Dunning the Somerset County Historian, and Philip Rahtz and his archaeological work on Glastonbury. Of course all this is still very topical with Peter Ackroyd's new publication on King Arthur and the Holy Grail, The Death of King Arthur: The Immortal Legend.

Sadly many of the associations with the legend have become tarnished with a New Age aura and the more serious aspect of their importance is overlooked. Despite the overlay of crystal shops, music festivals etc. Glastonbury still has a sense of place that can still be said to exert a mystical appeal.

Closer to Castle Cary is the site of Cadbury Castle, excavated in the 1960’s by Leslie Alcock and described in his book Why This Camelot. This was published by Thames and Hudson and I currently haven’t got a copy in stock but am always happy to buy one in good condition. John Steinbeck lived near Cadbury Castle, in Redlynch outside of Bruton, and it was here he wrote his book King Arthur and the Noble Knights.

In the wider area of Somerset books one is always on the lookout for anything from the Somerset Folk Series, a really charming series published in the twenties by the Somerset Folk Society and it includes titles such as the Holy Wells of Somerset, Somerset Drama, Somerset Dialect. All the books are well researched and well presented. Hard to come by and I will buy them. Early copies of A Glastonbury Romance and other Cowper Powys titles would be appreciated. I am also on the lookout for a Clarendon Press monograph on Wells that was published in the early 1990’s. I have never managed to find one on the internet.

If you visit us in Somerset you can still walk the Leland Trail, the same trail John Leland* took to Glastonbury to document the wealth of Glastonbury Abbey, you can walk around Cadbury Castle or you can go to Glastonbury and climb the Tor where you will be treated to wonderful skys and the landscape of rynes that surround Glastonbury.

Bailey Hill Bookshop was featured recently in the top 50 best bookshops in the Independent and featured in the Guardian - My Perfect Day - by Amy Jenkins.

You can view Bailey Hill Bookshop's books on Somerset here.

*there is a new publication from the Bodleian library of John Leland's On Famous Men edited and translated by James Carley. It has just been published ISBN 978185243679 and costs £120.

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