White Book of Rhydderch

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The White Book of Rhydderch (Welsh: Llyfr Gwyn Rhydderch) is one of the most notable and celebrated surviving manuscripts in Welsh. Mostly written in southwest Wales in the middle of the 14th century (c. 1350) it is the earliest collection of Welsh prose texts, though it also contains some examples of early Welsh poetry. It is now part of the collection of the National Library of Wales, having been preserved in the library of the 17th century antiquary Robert Vaughan, who inherited it from the calligrapher John Jones and passed it to his descendants.

What was one manuscript was divided into two in the medieval period and has been bound as two separate volumes, known as Peniarth MS 4 and Peniarth MS 5. Peniarth MS 4 contains the most important material: medieval Welsh tales now collectively known as the Mabinogion. Peniarth MS 5 (the first part of the original manuscript) contains Christian religious texts in Welsh, mostly translated from Latin and French, including Lives of various saints and a tale of Charlemagne.

The White Book was copied in the mid 14th century, most probably for Rhydderch ab Ieuan Llwyd (c. 1325-1400) from Parcrhydderch in the parish of Llangeitho in Ceredigion. Rhydderch, who came from a family with a long tradition of literary patronage, held posts under the English Crown but was also an authority on native Welsh law. The hands of five scribes have been identified in the manuscripts, very likely working in Strata Florida Abbey, not far from Rhydderch's home, and certainly in South Wales based on the dialect used by the scribes. The remainder of the name refers to the book being bound in white.

Sources[edit]

  • 'White Book of Rhydderch'. In Meic Stephens (Ed.) (1998), The new companion to the literature of Wales. Cardiff : University of Wales Press. ISBN 0-7083-1383-3.
  • Parry, Thomas (1955), A history of Welsh literature. Translated by H. Idris Bell. Oxford : Clarendon Press.

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