National Library of Wales brings the medieval Laws of Hywel Dda back home

Culture24 Reporter | 13 July 2012
a detail of a medieval manuscript
The Boston Manuscript of the Laws of Hywel Dda© National Library Wales
National Library of Wales (NLW) has secured one of the nation’s most important documents this week after successfully bidding for The Boston Manuscript of the Laws of Hywel Dda.

The pocket sized book, written in medieval Welsh, dates to the 14th century and is one of a few surviving texts setting out the native Welsh laws which were codified in the 10th century in South West Wales.

The library made the purchase for £541,250, with help from the Heritage Lottery Fund, after owners the Massachusetts Historical Society put it up for auction at Sotheby’s in London. It is thought Welsh immigrants donated the manuscript in the ealy 19th century.

With its handwritten additions and colourful decorations, the small parchment volume is believed to have once been the property of an itinerant judge in South West Wales during the 14th century. Curators hope it will offer new insights into the development of Welsh identity.

Librarian Andrew Green, Librarian praised the manuscript's potential to add “an important part to the picture we have of this period and this subject”. He said people of all ages would be able to view the book via facsimile and online digital copies.

The manuscript will be available for public viewing for a limited period (July 23 – August 10) before being taken into the care of the Library’s conservators to be rebound and digitised.

The latter process should be complete by the end of 2012, when the manuscript will be kept at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth alongside other manuscripts of its time.
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