A Gutun Owain (fl. 1450-98) manuscript

Reference: NLW MS 3026C

This manuscript, which was created between 1488 and 1498, is part of the Mostyn family collection and is sometimes referred to by its old name, Mostyn 88. It is a parchment manuscript with a fine binding of white parchment. The manuscript in its present form includes gatherings of parchment bound with three leaves of paper to form four folds. By the standards of Welsh manuscripts of the period the parchment is of very fine quality and differently from most medieval Welsh manuscripts it includes colourful illustrations. It is therefore likely that it was created for a rich individual or monastery.

Contents

The contents are as follows:
Page 1-7: notes on astrological maters including tables.
Page 9: a volvella of the moon. A volvella is a moveable device for working out the position of the sun and moon in the zodiac.
Page 10: ecclesiastical tables for situating the moveable holy days of the Christian year.
Page 11: a chart showing the parts of the body to be bled for different diseases.
Page 12: a chart of the planets.
Page 13-24: a calendar of saint days.
Page 25: an ecclesiastical table similar to the table on page 10.
Page 26: 'The Zodiac Man' a diagram of a human body and astrological symbols with instructions explaining the importance of astrology from a medical perspective.
Page 26 : a series of numerological sayings relating to medicine.
Page 27: an astrological chart.
Page 28: a chart showing urine colours and their meaning.
Page 29-36: an essay on the colours of urine and their importance.
Page 37-62: the life of Saint Martin.
Page 63: genealogy and history from Adam and Eve to Asclobitotus (unfinished).

The first part of the manuscript contains an assortment of texts about astrology and medicine. This combination was common in manuscripts all over Europe by the fifteenth century. To people in the Middle Ages there was close link between the time of year, the moon's seasons and other astrological factors and health and medical treatment, as they would affect the body's humours. The belief that the human body contained four 'humours' (page 35) had continued since the time of the ancient Greeks. Different factors would affect the balance between the humours causing disease.

The Life of Martin

The second text in the manuscript is 'the life of Martin', St. Martin of Tours, France's patron saint at the time. The saint's cult came to Britain during the early Middle Ages and was strengthened by the Norman Conquest. It had influence in Wales and Llanfarthin church near Oswestry was dedicated to him.

Genealogy

The final part of the manuscript is an incomplete genealogical text. It begins by listing the biblical lineages. The second part follows the history of the descendents of Brutus and the final part lists the kings of Britain following Geoffrey of Monmouth's work.

Gutun Owain

The majority of the manuscript, pages 9-83, were written by Gutun Owain. He was born to a noble family in the lordship of Oswestry and was baptised Gruffudd ap Huw ab Owain. He was a student of Dafydd ab Edmwnd (fl. 1450-97) and it is said that both were present at the Carmarthen Eisteddfod of 1450. Although he is known mainly as a poet he was proficient in a number of fields. He was the most important genealogist of his time and was a member of the commission appointed by Henry VII to trace the genealogy of his grandfather Owain Tudur. He was also responsible for copying a number of the most important Welsh language texts of the Middle Ages, for example Brenhinedd y Saeson and Brut Tysilio in the Black Book of Basingwerk. He also had knowledge about the medical ideas of his time and about astrology. His knowledge is reflected in this manuscript.

Bibliography

  • Morfydd E. Owen, Prolegomena i Astudiaeth Lawn o Lsgr. NLW 3026C, Mostyn 88 a'i Harwyddocâd yn Iestyn Daniel, Marged Haycock, Dafydd Johnston a Jenny Rowland (ed.), Cyfoeth y Testun : Ysgrifau ar Lenyddiaeth Gymraeg yr Oesoedd Canol. Caerdydd : Gwasg Prifysgol Cymru, 2003.
  • Morfydd E. Owen, 'The medical books of medieval Wales and the physicians of Myddfai', The Carmarthenshire Antiquary 31 (1995).
  • Morfydd E. Owen, 'Meddygon Myddfai, a preliminary survey of some medical writings in Welsh'. Studia Celtica ix/x (1995), 210-33.
  • E. Bachellery, L'oeuvre poétique de Gutun Owain. Paris, 1951.
  • J. E. Caerwyn Williams, 'Gutun Owain' in A. O. H. Jarman, G. R. Hughes, D. Johnston, A guide to Welsh literature 1282-ca. 1550 volume II. Cardiff, 1997, 240-55.

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