File NLW Llyfr Aneirin (Cardiff MS 2.81) - Llyfr Aneirin

Identity area

Reference code

NLW Llyfr Aneirin (Cardiff MS 2.81)


Llyfr Aneirin


  • [13 cent., second ½] (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

[21 ff.] paginated i-iv, 1-38 : Parchment ; 160-170 x 127-129 mm. (irregular dimensions, based on measurements taken when the volume was in an unbound state), written space 120-125 x 95 mm.

Originally kept unbound in quires, all quires having ties of twisted parchment or leather. Quires 1-3 seem to have been stabbed together (and stitched perhaps between limp covers). Bound for Robert Vaughan in London no later than 1660, using sprinkled calf covers over pasteboard, tooled with double blind fillet (similar to Peniarth MSS 30, 35 and 109). The manuscript was rebound by Julian Thomas in quarter alum-tawed pigskin over plain bevelled oak boards, at NLW in 1986. Robert Vaughan's seventeenth-century covers were retained separately. Parchment tackets and fragments of thread removed from the manuscript in 1986 are retained in a compartmentalised polyester envelope inside the cover of the box which contains the manuscript.

Context area

Name of creator

Biographical history

Archival history

The inscriptions 'Guilim teu biau' (p. 14) and 'Guilim teu bieu y llyur hunn yma Amenn' (p. 20) testify to the possession of the manucript, [second half of the 15 cent.], by Gwilym Tew, a Glamorgan poet. His further attestation 'Nannmor biau hwnn yma' (p. 20) raises the possibility that the manuscript was owned and carried from North to South Wales, sometime during the second half of the 15 cent., by poet Dafydd Nanmor. Daniel Huws has identified three notes (on pp. 20 and 32) written by David Johns, vicar of Llanfair Dyffryn Clwyd, [c. 1587], testifying to the return of the manuscript to North Wales during the 16 cent.; for its transcription by scribes in North-East Wales between 1587 and the end of the 16 cent., see Daniel Huws, 'Canu Aneirin: the other manuscripts', in Brynley F. Roberts (ed.), Early Welsh Poetry: studies in the Book of Aneirin (Aberystwyth, 1988), pp. 43-56 [pp. 45-47]. By the mid-17 cent. the manuscript was in Robert Vaughan’s library at Hengwrt, Merioneth, and was bound in leather covers before its inclusion in William Maurice's catalogue of 1658. The manuscript was transcribed and paginated in 1728 by Moses Williams (1685–1742) (his transcript is NLW, Llanstephan MS 32), and its significance was proclaimed by Ieuan Fardd in a letter, dated 1758, to Lewis Morris, see Hugh Owen (ed.), Additional Letters of the Morrises of Anglesey (1735-1786) (London, 1947-9), i, 349. According to Sharon Turner, A Vindication of the Genuineness of the Ancient British Poems of Aneurin, Taliesin, Llywarch Hen, and Merdhin (London, 1803), 29: 'It continued in the Hengurt library from the days of Lhwyd to our time, but within the last 20 years has disappeared from it.' Having been stolen from Hengwrt, the manuscript re-appeared in the hands of a 'Mr Davies of Llanvawr near Bala' in 1785, where it was transcribed by Richard Davies; see Daniel Huws, ibid., pp. 52-53. By c. 1807, it was back in South Wales, in the possession of Theophilus Jones (1759–1812) of Brecon, 'given me by Mr Thomas Bacon who bought it from a person at Aberdâr' (p. ii), and Jones gave the manuscript to Thomas Price ('Carnhuanawc', 1787–1848) who wrote his name, 1813, on p. iii. It was one of the items purchased from Carnhuanawc's library in 1861 by Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792–1872) of Middle Hill (p. i), from the collection of whom it was purchased by Cardiff Free Library in 1896.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Cardiff Council Library Services; Cardiff; Deposit; May 2011; 006131187.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

A manuscript of the second half of the thirteenth century containing 'Y Gododdin', a series of awdlau lamenting warriors slain in battle at Catraeth, and believed to have been originally composed by Aneirin at the end of the sixth century (pp. 1-24). The awdlau are followed by four poems known as the gorchanau: Gorchan Tudfwlch (pp. 25-26), Gorchan Adebon (p. 26), Gorchan Cynfelyn (pp. 26-28) and Gorchan Maeldderw (pp. 28-38).
The manuscript was written by two scribes: scribe A (pp. 1.1-23.5, 25.1-30.11) and scribe B (pp. 23.6-24.21, 30.12-38.22). The hand of scribe B is also responsible for Peniarth MS 14, pp. 1-44 and Peniarth MS 17; see Ingo Mittendorf, 'Sprachliche und orthographische Besonderheiten eines mittelkymrischen Textes aus dem 13. Jahrhundert (Gwyrthyeu e Wynvydedic Veir)', in Akten des Zweiten Deutschen Keltologen-Symposiums, ed. S. Zimmer, R. Ködderitzsch and A. Wigger, Buchreihe der Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie, 17 (Tübingen, 1999), p. 129. Daniel Huws suggests the Cistercian abbey of Aberconwy as a likely location of the scriptorium; see Medieval Welsh Manuscripts (Cardiff and Aberystwyth, 2000), 75.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling

Item: 1.1. Action: Conserved, rebound and housed. Manuscript disbound: the leaves flattened, cleaned, and attached to new covers, and the whole retained in a new box. Date: 1986. Site of action: The National Library of Wales. Action agent: Julian Thomas. Status: Broken back, cockled leaves and fragile edges of leaves. Institution: WlAbNL.

Item: 1.2. Action: Condition reviewed. Date: 20110218. Site of action: Cardiff Central Library. Action agent: Julian Thomas. Status: Slight yellowing and grey soiling of the surface of the alum-tawed pigskin surrounding the central area of the spine caused by the volume being handled. Slight cockling of the calfskin endpapers has occurred at their foredges, and cockling to the foredge of f. 5. Small break on f. 7, running parallel to the foredge, resulting in a piece almost falling off. Institution: WlAbNL.

Item: 1.3. Action: Digitized. Date: 20110501. Institution: WlAbNL.


System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Access to the original manuscript by authorised permission only. Readers are directed to use surrogate copies.

Conditions governing reproduction

Usual copyright regulations apply. NLW can only provide copies of images from the manuscript for private study or non-commercial research. All requests for copies for commercial research, or publication in any form, must be directed to Cardiff Central Library, The Hayes, Cardiff CF10 1FL; e-mail:

Language of material

Script of material

Language and script notes


Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

Graham C.G. Thomas and Daniel Huws, Summary Catalogue of the Manuscripts of South Glamorgan Central Library, commonly referred to as the ‘Cardiff MSS’ (Aberystwyth, 1994), 84.

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Digital version available (April 2016)

Digital version available

J. Gwenogvryn Evans, Facsimile & Text of the Book of Aneirin (Pwllheli, 1908) [monochrome facsimile]

Daniel Huws (ed.), Llyfr Aneirin: a facsimile (Cardiff & Aberystwyth, 1989) [colour facsimile].

Two colour facsimile copies were created at NLW in August 2011 for Cardiff Council Library Services.

Related units of description

A series of monochrome photographs of details of Llyfr Aneirin were taken by NLW staff when the manuscript was disbound prior to rebinding at the Library in 1986 (now NLW Facs 679), together with one video film of the repair process (now kept at The National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales). The photographs record evidence of the earlier make-up of the manuscript, including tackets, remains of thread, stab holes and stubs. Related notes were compiled at the time by Daniel Huws, Keeper of Manuscripts, and his file contains a conservation report on the condition of the manuscript before disbinding (now NLW ex 2119).

Related descriptions

Publication note

Ifor Williams, Canu Aneirin gyda rhagymadrodd a nodiadau (Caerdydd, 1938).

Publication note

Gerald Morgan, 'The Book of Aneirin and Welsh manuscript prickings', The Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies, 20 (1962-4), 12-17.

Publication note

Kathryn A. Klar, Brendan O Hehir and Eve E. Sweetser, 'The components of Cardiff MS. Welsh 1, Llyfr Aneirin', The Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies, 32 (1985), 38-49.

Publication note

Daniel Huws (ed.), Llyfr Aneirin: a facsimile (Cardiff and Aberystwyth, 1989).

Notes area


Varying form of title: Book of Aneirin


Title apparently given by Edward Lhuyd, and used for the first time in the catalogue of Welsh manuscripts published in his Archaeologia Britannica (Oxford, 1707), 261; see Daniel Huws, Five Ancient Books of Wales (Cambridge, 1995), 2.


The former Hengwrt shelfmark '46' is written in black ink on the cover of Robert Vaughan's late seventeenth-century binding, and a hitherto unidentified 'a 20.568' in pencil inside the old front cover. Previously numbered Philipps MS 16614 (labelled at the foot of the spine of the old binding, and written on p. iv of the present manuscript), and [RMWL] Cardiff MS 1 (seemingly an unique catalogue number used by Gwenogvryn Evans, rather than a shelfmark).


Collation of pp. 1-38: 1 (4), 2 (4), 3 (4), 4 (4: 2 and 3 are singletons), 5 (8: wants 4-8). Catchwords on pp. 8 & 16. The arrangement of quires 1-4 into fours is described by Daniel Huws as being 'most unusual'.


Script: textura with irregular gothic biting. Initials mostly square or Lombardic capitals.


Ink: dark brown to black.


Decoration: three-line initial in red at the beginning of the Gorchan Tudfwlch (p. 25), two-line red initial in red at the beginning of the Gododdin (p. 1), two-line initials in red and blue-green at the beginning of the Gorchanau on p. 26, and two-line space for an initial at the beginning of Gorchan Maeldderw (p. 28, later filled with a two-line initial in black by Scribe B). One-line coloured initials, alternately red and blue-green, beginning each awdl (pp. 1-26), chain pattern space fillers in red and blue-green (pp. 1-23), small marginal guide letters for large coloured initials (pp. 1-23), and double pointing to locate run-on paragraph marks (pp. 4-21), all probably supplied by scribe A himself. Rubrication, one-line initials and paragraph marks for run-ons supplied in black ink by scribe B.


Rubrication: headings and explicits in red, and supplied by scribe A himself (pp. 1, 25, 26 & 28).


Incipit: 'Hwn yw e gododin. aneirin ae cant' (p. 1).


Secundo folio: cattau. a gwedy elwch.


Pricking on outer edges for ruling. Ruling in plummet (quires 1-4), and hardpoint (quire 5). Single vertical ruling defining writing space. All quires ruled for 22 lines of script to the page (except pp. 10, 17, 21 and 24).


Preferred citation: NLW Llyfr Aneirin (Cardiff MS 2.81).

Alternative identifier(s)

Virtua system control number


Access points

Place access points

Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier

Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru = The National Library of Wales

Rules and/or conventions used

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


Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion

December 2011.


  • English



Archivist's note

Description compiled by Maredudd ap Huw, based on the work of Daniel Huws;

Accession area