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Presidential Address: The Historical Study of the Welsh Lawbooks

  • Goronwy Edwards

In 1840 and 1841 the Record Commissioners issued two publications whose exactly corresponding titles indicated that they were designed to be parallel compilations. The one, published in 1840 and edited by Benjamin Thorpe, was entitled Ancient Laws and Institutes of England. The other, published in 1841 and edited by Aneurin Owen, was entitled Ancient Laws and Institutes of Wales. At that time, Owen's work was probably a more considerable achievement of scholarship than Thorpe's, but in due course, with the further development of historical and other relevant studies, many improvements became possible in both collections, and new editions of each therefore became more and more obviously necessary.

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page 141 note 1 For Liebermann's comments on Thorpe's edition see Die Gesetze der Angelsachsen, i (Halle, 1903), pp. li-lii.

page 141 note 2 Wade-Evans, A. W.Welsh Medieval Law, being a Text of the Laws of Hywel the Good, namely the British Museum Harleian MS. 4353 of the 13th century … (Oxford, 1909).

page 142 note 1 Sir Pollock, F. and Maitland, F. W. The History of English Law, 2nd edn. (Cambridge, 1898), ii, p. 458.

page 143 note 1 The Text of the Book of Lion Dây, ed. Evans, J. G. (Oxford, 1893), pp. 241, 248. The documents are in a hand that has been variously assigned to the second or third quarter of the twelfth century; see Jones, E. D.National Library of Wales Journal, 4, pp. 151–54.

page 143 note 2 Wade-Evans, op. cit., p. 36;Lfyfr Iorwerth ed. Wiliam, A. R. (Cardiff, 1960), p. 22;Llyfr Blegywryd ed. Williams, S. J. and Powell, J. E.(Cardiff, 1942), p. 29;Owen, op. cit., i, pp. 76, 404, 686.

page 144 note 1 E.g. Llyfr, lorwerth, pp. 9195 (on the legal worth of houses and furniture), pp. 99103 (on damage to crops);Owen, , op. cit., i, pp. 292310, 322–34.

page 145 note 1 E.g. Owen, , op. cit., ii, pp. 126–72.

page 145 note 2 E.g. ibid., ii, pp. 468–74 (15th cent.).

page 145 note 3 For straight questions and answers see ibid., ii, pp. 36–38, 258–66. For a deliberately erroneous answer see ibid., ii, p. 266.

page 145 note 4 Wade-Evans, op. cit., p. 137;Owen, , op. cit., ii, p. 780.

page 145 note 5 Ibid., ii, pp. 18–20. Iorwerth ap Madog was a Welsh lawyer who flourished probably about the first half of the thirteenth century.

page 146 note 1 The italics are mine.

page 147 note 1 Maitland, Collected Papers (Cambridge, 1911), 3, p. 449.

page 148 note 1 Giry, A.Manuel de diplomatique (Paris, 1894), pp. 318 ff.

page 149 note 1 Llyfr, Belgywryd p. 1;Owen, op. cit., i, p. 338.

page 149 note 2 John, i, 12–13: ‘… to them gave he the right to become children of God … which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God’.

page 149 note 3 Owen's, translation transposes the Dei gratia without comment (i, p. 339).Lloyd, J. E.History of Wales (London, 1911), i, p. 337, says that Hywel ‘is termed in the Codes, “by the grace of God ruler of all Wales” ’.

page 149 note 4 Wade-Evans, op. cit., p. 1;Owen, , op. cit., i, p. 620. The text of all the extant prologues of this class is imperfect. The opening sentence—‘Hywel Dda fab Cadell brenin Cymru a wnaeth trwy rad Duw a dirwest a gweddi’— is grammatically incomplete, because the object of the verb wnaeth has evidently dropped out.

page 150 note 1 Llyfr, Iorwerth p. 1;Owen, op. cit., i, p. 2.

page 150 note 2 The prologue of two manuscripts of this group (Peniarth MSS. 258 and 259A) reads ‘by God's grace king of all Wales’, but both these exemplars come from the second half of the fifteenth century, and are therefore late, whereas nine other manuscripts spread over the whole fourteenth and fifteenth century agree in the incongruous reading ‘by God's grace son of Cadell’. Possibly the scribes of Peniarth MSS. 258 and 259A may have transposed the Dei gratia because it seemed an obvious emendation, just as Aneurin Owen did in his translation.

page 150 note 3 I speak of the octavo edition in two volumes: the work was also issued in one folio volume.

page 151 note 1 Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. Code.

page 152 note 1 Owen, op. cit., i, pp. 2627.

page 152 note 2 Ibid., ii, pp. 126–72.

page 152 note 3 Ibid., i, p. xx.

page 154 note 1 Owen, op. cit., i, p. 33, where he prints the preface.

page 154 note 2 Vol. 19, pp. 23–28: ‘Llyfr, Blegywryd a Llawysgrif Rawlinson 821’ ['The Book of Blegywryd and Rawlinson MS. 821']. Dr Emanuel lists some of the numerous indications that the Welsh text of Llyfr Blegywryd, which is the best-known representative of Owen's ‘Dimetian’ class, is a translation into Welsh from a Latin version now represented by Rawlinson MS. C. 821. The implications of this discovery may prove to be far-reaching.

page 154 note 3 (i) Wade-Evans, Welsh Medieval Law (1909), a ‘Gwentian’ text; (ii) Llyfr Blegywryd ed. Williams, S. J. and Powell, J. E. (1942), a ‘Dimetian’ text; (iii) Llyfr Iorwerth ed. Wiliam, A. R. (1960), a ‘Venedotian’ text.

page 154 note 4 (i) The Laws of Howel Dda, ed. Lewis, T. (London, 1912), a ‘Dimetian’ text of the second half of the fifteenth century, with considerable lacunae; (ii) ‘The Laws of Hywel Dda … Peniarth MS. 29’, ed. Lewis, T. in Zeitschriftfur Celtische Philologie, xx, 1933), a ‘Venedotian’ text of the first half of the thirteenth century, with extensive lacunae; (iii) Cyfreithiau Hywel Dda, ed. Richards, M. (Cardiff, 1957), mainly a ‘Dimetian’ text of about 1400.

page 154 note 5 This was Mr Wade-Evans's, edition. A translation of Llyfr Blegywryd was, however, published by Mr M. Richards in 1954, under the title The Laws of Hywel Dda (The Book of Blegywryd).

page 155 note 1 Maitland, Collected Papers, i, p. 202.

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