"Backgrounds and Sources" includes selections on King Arthur from the Oxford Companion to English Literature; on the total eclipse from The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus by Washington Irving; and on the "king's touch," the ascetic saints, and the financing of the Mansion House by W. E. H. Lecky. Selections from Clemens's letters, notebooks, autobiography, and other writings and newspaper reports of his 1886 manuscript reading at Governor's Island show how the novel developed. A section of the Beard illustrations includes material by Beard, Clemens, and Henry Nash Smith. The English edition is discussed by Dennis Welland.
Early critical views are by Sylvester Baxter, William Dean Howells, Andrew Lang, Rudyard Kipling, Charles Whibley, Albert Bigelow Paine, John B. Hoben, and anonymous reviewers in the London Daily Telegraph and the Boston Literary World. The later critical essays are by Howard G. Baetzhold, James D. Williams, Kenneth S. Lynn, James M. Cox, Louis J. Budd, Henry Nash Smith, David Ketterer, and Everett Carter.
A Selected Bibliography is also included.