Prophetia Merlini

John of Cornwall
  • Latin
  • Cornish texts
Latin poem (139 hexametric lines) on Merlin and his prophecies, written by John of Cornwall in the middle of the 12th century in response to Geoffrey of Monmouth’s account of the same subject. In the introduction, John dedicates his work to his patron Robert Warelwast (d. 1155), bishop of Exeter, and puts forward the claim that he is drawing on an independent Cornish source for his text. The text is accompanied by a prose commentary, notably including glosses in a variety of Brittonic, possibly Cornish, the origin and nature of which has been subject to some debate.
John of CornwallJohn of Cornwall
Entry reserved for but not yet available from the subject index.

See more
  • Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, MS Ott. lat. 1474
    f. 1r–4r
    Unique copy of the text, with marginal and interlinear glosses.
  • Latin
middle of the 12th century


Cornish texts


(time-frame ass. with King Arthur)
magician in Arthurian legend; primarily a creation of Geoffrey of Monmouth, who appears to have based his character on the prophet Myrddin as well as Ambrosius Aurelianus.
See more


Primary sources Text editions and/or modern translations – in whole or in part – along with publications containing additions and corrections, if known. Diplomatic editions, facsimiles and digital image reproductions of the manuscripts are not always listed here but may be found in entries for the relevant manuscripts. For historical purposes, early editions, transcriptions and translations are not excluded, even if their reliability does not meet modern standards.

[ed.] Curley, Michael J., “A new edition of John of Cornwall’s Prophetia Merlini”, Speculum 57 (1982): 217–249.
[tr.] Flobert, Pierre, “La Prophetia Merlini de Jean de Cornwall”, Études Celtiques 14:1 (1974, 1974–1975): 31–41.
Modern translation into French

Secondary sources (select)

Faletra, Michael A., “Merlin in Cornwall: the source and contexts of John of Cornwall’s Prophetia Merlini”, The Journal of English and Germanic Philology 111:3 (July, 2012): 304–338.
Padel, O. J., “Evidence for oral tales in medieval Cornwall”, Studia Celtica 40 (2006): 127–153.
Padel, O. J., “Geoffrey of Monmouth and the development of the Merlin legend”, Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies 51 (Summer, 2006): 37–65.
Flobert, Pierre, “La Prophetia Merlini de Jean de Cornwall”, Études Celtiques 14:1 (1974, 1974–1975): 31–41.
Fleuriot, Léon, “Les fragments du texte brittonique de la Prophetia Merlini”, Études Celtiques 14 (1974): 43–56.
Rathbone, Eleanor, “John of Cornwall: a brief biography”, Recherches de théologie ancienne et médiévale 17 (1950): 46–60.
Dennis Groenewegen