18 July 2021
Not to be ignored if history is your speciality.
The following books are an essential study if you want a better taker on the history of the British Isles and also of Europe; before the ‘Cult’ and its priesthood took control.
Llyfr Du Caerfyrddin
The Black Book of Carmarthen
Currently housed at the National Library in Wales, the Black Book of Carmarthen (Peniarth MS 1) is a manuscript dating to the middle of the thirteenth century. It is believed to have been the work of a single scribe at the Priory of St. John in Carmarthen.
Much of the material is either concerned with the figures of the Dark Ages–Myrddin, Arthur, Urien, and Taliesin all appear here–there are also a number of religious poems. Also, there are a few poems by Cynddelw, bard of Madog ap Maredudd (ca. 1160). Skene does not translate his poems, so I am currently in the process of tracking down usable translations of the Cynddelw poems.
The Book of Taliesin
The Book of Taliesin is a small manuscript, missing its covers, and thus the beginning of the first poem; luckily, this poem is also contained in the Red Book of Hergest. It contains 56 mostly complete poems, and a fifty-seventh poem, of which only remains the words: “Darogan Katwal”–thought to be “Darogan Katwaladr,” The Prediction of Cadwalladr.
The manuscript was the work of a single scribe, probably living in Glamorgan; this same scribe is thought to have produced other manuscripts, and J. Gwenogvryn Evans believed he worked on parts of the White Book of Rhydderch. It’s exact history is unknown; it passed through the hands of several collectors during the seventeenth century, until finally being bought by Robert Vaughan, who added it to his library in Hengwrt, and stayed there until it entered the hands of W.W.E. Wynne in Peniarth. It was then donated to the National Library of Wales.
The majority of the translations I am using here are from The Four Ancient Books of Wales, by W. F. Skene, 1858. Unfortunately, they are probably not the most accurate translations, but they are the only ones which, to my knowledge, are public domain. (Even at that I’m not sure, though the book is well out of print.) In constructing this digital manuscript, I have worked using not only Skene’s collection, but also the three volume “Book of Taliesin” diplomatic texts edited by J. Gwenogvryn Evans in the early part of the 20th century, and have heavily consulted the images of the manuscript, currently housed on the NLW website. If you look at the manuscript, it tends to alternate between using red or green initial letters. I have attempted to imitate this as closely as possible, including repeating the inconsistencies of the original scribe.
Llyfr Coch Hergest
The Red Book of Hergest
Written on vellum, 13 3/8″ x 8 1/4″, 362 folios. Bicolumnar, numbered 1–1442. Mostly written between 1375-1425, it is the work of on Hywel Fychan fab Hywel Goch of Fuellt, for his employer, Hopcyn ap Tomas ap Einion of Ynys Tawe. So called for the red leather binding, rebound again in moroccan leather added in 1851, and for the house of Hergest, Herfordshire, where it was compiled. Presented in 1701 to Jesus College, Oxford, by a Rev. T. Wilkins, of Llanbleithain, Glamorgan in Wales. It is best known as the source of the Mabinogion, as well as having much of its poetry reproduced in The Four Ancient Books of Wales. Images of the great text can be found here.
In 2007, the entirety of the prose texts from the manuscript were put online by the “Rhyddiaith Gymraeg 1350–1425” (Welsh Prose) project by the University of Wales. The hyperlinks below in the Cymraeg column will redirect to that site. The poetry, however, is hosted on the present site, with translations by Skene.
Llyfr Coch Hergest
The White Book of Rhydderch