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Hywel Dda of Boston goes online

Following the successful purchase of the Boston Manuscript of the Laws of King Hywel Dda at Sotheby’s last year, The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth has now published the contents of the volume online.

Few people had seen this fourteenth-century manuscript of native Welsh law when it was in the possession of the Massachusetts Historical Society in the USA. Its condition had deteriorated greatly since the 18th century, and when the American authorities decided to place it on the market, there was a risk that it would be sold to a private collector, or for breaking-up by souvenir hunters.

With the assistance of the Heritage Lottery Fund, together with the Friends of the National Libraries and the Welsh Government, the National Library of Wales successfully held off competition at auction, and bought the rare manuscript for £541,250 in July 2012. Now, a year later, and following a laborious and careful process of disbinding and repair, the Library has published images of all the pages online, so that the public can see its contents.

Jennifer Stewart, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Wales said:
'This manuscript is one of Wales' true treasures and I'm delighted to see it back home safely in the National Library of Wales. Having been lucky enough to see the manuscript for myself, I am so pleased that that it has been digitised so that more people can see for themselves why this medieval document is so special and unique.’

Manuscript Librarian, Dr Maredudd ap Huw, added:
‘During months of intensive study, the manuscript has slowly revealed its secrets, and clearly shows signs of having been added to and adapted during the medieval period, as it was used by law practitioners. There are now greater opportunities than ever before for students to explore its contents and history.’

Having invested in its conservation and repair, Aled Gruffydd Jones, The National Library of Wales’s Chief Executive and Librarian stated that:
‘The long-term preservation of the manuscript has now been secured, and we are delighted that visitors to our website will be able to see this once-forgotten Welsh treasure.’

The digital images are accompanied by an introduction to the manuscript, and a detailed description of the volume is also available on the Library’s online catalogue. During this summer, the Library will also be producing facsimile copies for use in outreach and education work.

The Boston Manuscript, in its new guise, will be making its first public appearance, newly repaired and rebound, in the National Library’s exhibition of early Welsh manuscripts – 4Books: Welsh Icons United – on 12 October.

Further Information

Elin-Hâf, Press Office 01970 632 534

Useful Links

Boston Manuscript of the Laws of King Hywel Dda