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John Leland

John Leland (his gravestone was reported to have recorded another spelling of the name as Leyland) was an English scholar whose active life coincided almost exactly with the reign of Henry VIII. During a period of time spent in Paris studying on a "royal scholarship," which he recieved in 1526, Leland began to develop the interest in ancient documents, particularly, and in antiquarian studies, generally, which would be the basis for the greatest work of his life, the writing of his "Itinerary."

Leland received a posting as a "sub-librarian" in one of Henry's royal libraries in 1530. Three years later, in 1533, he wrote poems celebrating the coronation of Anne Boleyn, which were read at the coronation ceremony. Later in that year, perhaps as a gratuity for having written the poems, Leland received a royal commission "to make a search after England's Antiquities, and peruse the Libraries of all Cathedrals, Abbies, Priories, Colleges, etc. as also all places wherein Records, Writings and secrets of Antiquity were reposed."

This commission amounted to a guaranteed admission ticket to virtually every place in the realm where documents and historical treasures were kept. His "Itinerary" is a record of his travels, and Leland's notes are usually the earliest descriptions that we have of places in England at the end of the middle ages. One of his trips through England took him to South Cadbury in the county of Somerset, where he encountered a hill with a tradition associating it with Camelot, the legendary headquarters of King Arthur.

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