The Hendregadredd Manuscript

Reference: NLW MS 6680B

The discovery of this manuscript in 1910 revolutionised the study of mediaeval Welsh poetry. It had disappeared from view in the early nineteenth century, but came to light in a wardrobe at Hendregadredd, a mansion near Cricieth in Caernarfonshire. It was bought for the National Library by the Davies sisters of Gregynog at an auction in 1923, and is now NLW MS 6680B.

 

The Hendregadredd Manuscript is the earliest witness of the works of the Gogynfeirdd, the Welsh court poets who were active from the early twelfth century until the fourteenth century. The only other major source of their work is the Red Book of Hergest (Jesus College MS 111, now in the Bodleian Library, Oxford). The Hendregadredd Manuscript was probably copied at the Cistercian abbey of Strata Florida in Ceredigion. Work began on this collection of poetry sometime after 1282, first by one main scribe, perhaps the original architect of the volume. But nearly forty different hands were involved in two further strata of scribal activity, working well into the mid-fourteenth century. About 1330 a number of poems by contemporary poets were added, including, on f. 121r, a poem possibly in the autograph of Dafydd ap Gwilym, the most famous poet of the day. He had close associations with Strata Florida and tradition has it that he was buried there.

By the mid sixteenth century the manuscript was in Glamorgan, in the library of the notable collector Gruffydd Dwnn. It later passed through the hands of the northern poets Wiliam Llŷn and Rhys Cain, before coming into the famous library at Hengwrt, Meirionnydd, of the great scholar Robert Vaughan (c. 1592-1667). In 1617 it was copied by Dr John Davies of Mallwyd, whose transcript was used by the editors of the Myvyrian Archaeology of Wales (1801-7). Nonetheless, the Hendregadedd Manuscript was known to very few scholars until its rediscovery in the twentieth century.

For a detailed description and further references see Daniel Huws, Medieval Welsh Manuscripts (Cardiff & Aberystwyth, 2000), pp. 193-226.

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