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National Library of Wales
Peniarth manuscripts collection

Reference code(s): GB 0210 MSPENIARTH

Held at: National Library of Wales

Title: Peniarth Manuscripts Collection

Short Title: Peniarth manuscripts collection

Creation date(s): [12 cent.]-[1957]

Level of description: Fonds

Extent: 547 manuscripts (comprising some 604 volumes, 14 rolls and 1 bundle)

Name of creator(s):


Administrative/Biographical history:


Scope and content/abstract: A collection of manuscripts, [12 cent.]-1909, from the library of Peniarth, Merionethshire. The core of the historic collection is that of the library accumulated at Hengwrt, Merionethshire, by Robert Vaughan during the seventeenth century. The collection includes many of the most important Welsh language manuscripts, including the Black Book of Carmarthen (Peniarth MS 1), the Book of Taliesin (Peniarth MS 2), the White Book of Rhydderch (Peniarth MSS 4-5) and Brut y Tywysogion (the Chronicle of the Princes) (Peniarth MS 20), as well as important manuscripts in other languages such as the Hengwrt Chaucer (Peniarth MS 392), the Law of Hywel Dda (Peniarth MS 28), Beunans Meriasek (Peniarth MS 105) and Bede's De natura rerum (Peniarth MS 540B).


Language/scripts of material: Welsh, Latin, English, French, Cornish.

System of arrangement: Arranged according to reference numbers: Peniarth MSS 1-337, 339-451, 454, 458-460, 462, 464-483, 485-497, 499-508, 510-518, 520-529, 532-561.

Conditions governing access: Access to the original manuscripts by authorised permission only. Readers are directed to use surrogate copies.

Conditions governing reproduction: Usual copyright laws apply.

Finding aids: A detailed list of the contents of Peniarth MSS 1-327, 533-539 may be found in J. Gwenogvryn Evans, Report on Manuscripts in the Welsh Language, 2 vols (1898-1910), I, 297-1126.
The descriptions of Peniarth MSS 328-37, 339-425, 427-47, 449, 464-75, 477-82, 486, 494, 496-7, 500-08, 510-18, 520-29, 532 are also available in Handlist of Manuscripts in the National Library of Wales, 10 vols (1940-), I (1940-43), pp. 1-22.
The descriptions of Peniarth MSS 249, 440ii, 448, 450-1, 454, 459-60, 462, 476, 483, 485, 487-93, 495, 499, 540-61 are also available in NLW, Peniarth MSS: A Catalogue of Additional Manuscripts (1990).
For further information on the Latin manuscripts see NLW, Catalogue of Peniarth Manuscripts which are Wholly or Partly in Latin, compiled by Prof. Edward Bensley (typescript in NLW reading room only).


Accruals: Accruals are not expected.

Archival history: Much of the collection was acquired and collected by the seventeenth-century antiquary Robert Vaughan (1592?-1666) of Hengwrt, Merionethshire. The collection remained at Hengwrt until the death of Vaughan's great-great-great-great grandson, Sir Robert Williames Vaughan, 3rd baronet, in 1859. The books and manuscripts at Hengwrt then passed by bequest to William Watkin Edward Wynne (1801-1880) of Peniarth, near Tywyn, Merionethshire, adding to his already substantial collection. In May 1904 his son, W. R. M. Wynne, agreed to sell to Sir John Williams (1840-1926) the reversion of the Peniarth manuscripts after the death of the survivor of Wynne and his brother, with the intention that they should become part of the foundation collection of the proposed National Library of Wales. On W. R. M. Wynne's death in February 1909 the majority of the Peniarth collection, including the entire Hengwrt portion, was duly transferred to the newly established National Library. For further information see Handlist of Manuscripts in the National Library of Wales, 10 vols (1940-2003), I (1940-43), pp. iii-xxiii.

Immediate source of acquisition: Donated by Sir John Williams, Aberystwyth, [February] 1909 (Peniarth MSS 1-233, 235-48, 250-337, 339-425, 427-49, 440i, 441-7, 449, 464-75, 477-80, 486, 494, 496-7, 500-508, 510-18, 520-29, 532-41, 555); donated by the Misses Gwendoline and Margaret Davies, Gregynog, 1921 (Peniarth MSS 481-2); purchased from Colonel J. F. Williams-Wynne, Peniarth, 1980 (Peniarth MSS 249, 448, 450-1, 454, 459-60, 462, 476, 485, 487-93, 495, 499, 542-54, 556-61); purchased at auction (lots 179-180) at Sotheby's, London, 21 July 1980 (Peniarth MS 234i); purchased at auction (lot 2) at Sotheby's, London, 23-24 March 1981 (Peniarth MSS 440ii and 483).


Related material: For papers relating to the Peniarth estate see NLW, Peniarth Estate Records.


Note: Previous titles and classifications of manuscripts can be found in the individual file descriptions. Except when a well-known historic or recognised title exists the title is based on the contents of the manuscript. The collection was catalogued in the 1860s by W. W. E. Wynne, who retained earlier Hengwrt MS numbers, mainly the work of Aneurin Owen, and numbered the Peniarth MSS for the first time (these are now referred to as 'Ancient Peniarth' numbers). J. Gwenogvryn Evans radically re-numbered all the Hengwrt and Peniarth manuscripts in a single sequence whilst compiling his Report on Manuscripts in the Welsh Language (1898-1905). With the exception of Peniarth MSS 540-561, which were numbered at NLW, these remain the Peniarth numbers in use today. Unless otherwise noted suggested dates have been based on the information found in the previous catalogues (see file descriptions); the dates for manuscripts earlier than 1540 containing Welsh material have been taken from Daniel Huws, Medieval Welsh Manuscripts (Aberystwyth, 2000).
Peniarth MSS 338, 426, 452-3, 455-8, 461, 463, 484, 498, 509, 519, 530-1 were not included in the sale to Sir John Williams or in subsequent sales and presumably remain at Peniarth.
In November 1957 Colonel J. F. Williams-Wynne of Peniarth loaned Peniarth MSS 234, 426 and 458 to the Library in order to allow facsimiles to be made. The manuscripts listed in this description as Peniarth MSS 426 and 458 are those facsimiles; when Peniarth MS 234 was purchased at auction in 1980 its facsimile became Peniarth MS 234ii.
The collection was included on the UNESCO UK Memory of the World Register in July 2010.
Title based on contents.

Archivist's note: Compiled by Hywel Gwynn Williams and revised by Rhys Morgan Jones. The following sources were used in the compilation of this description: J. Gwenogvryn Evans, Report on Manuscripts in the Welsh Language, vol. I (London, 1898-1905); Daniel Huws, Medieval Welsh Manuscripts (Aberystwyth, 2000); Handlist of Manuscripts in the National Library of Wales, 10 vols (1940-), I (1940-43).

Rules or conventions: Description follows NLW guidelines based on ISAD(G) 2nd ed.; AACR2; and LCSH

Date(s) of descriptions: June 2006, July 2013

Manuscripts | Collections
Manuscripts | Wales
Manuscripts, English
Manuscripts, Latin (Medieval and modern)
Manuscripts, Medieval
Manuscripts, Welsh

Personal names

Corporate names
Hengwrt Estate (Llanelltyd, Wales)
Peniarth Estate (Wales)


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