There are approximately 40,000 manuscripts in The National Library of Wales, and together they form the most important collection of Welsh manuscripts in the world.

  • The oldest dates from 113 A.D. (NLW MS 4738D)
  • The latest dates from the year 2004 (NLW MS 23933D)

What is a manuscript?

A manuscript is usually a volume written by hand, or a collection of documents brought together to form a volume. Manuscripts are kept separately from the Library’s archive collections, although the relationship between them is close.

The Library’s manuscripts are written on paper, vellum, papyri, leaves, slate and various other media. We also have examples of manuscripts in various languages, including Welsh, English, Latin, French and Cornish.

There are 2 main classes of manuscripts in the Library, namely:

  • General Manuscript Collections
  • Special Manuscript Collections: Peniarth, Cwrtmawr, Llanstephan

How to find them

By now all the Library’s new manuscript acquisitions are catalogued electronically, and more and more previous descriptions are being added to the database, and reviewed.

Access to those manuscripts which have been catalogued is available online by searching the Library’s Catalogue. It is possible to search for names, subjects and place-names, and free text searches can also be made.  Also, in the Reading Room, you may browse early descriptions published in a number of different paper catalogues.

Where can you read the manuscripts?

After you have secured your reader’s ticket, manuscripts are read in the Reading Room in the Library. There you may find special equipment, such as an ultra-violet lamp, to facilitate the work of studying the earliest material, along with convenient reference books that you may refer to whilst researching.

Access to some manuscripts is restricted because of their age and condition, and surrogate copies (digital or microfilm) are provided for readers.

Enquiries and Exhibitions

Enquiries regarding the Library’s manuscript collections should be directed to the Enquiries Service.

A selection of the Library’s manuscripts is shown in the Hengwrt Exhibition Room throughout the year.