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 or transfer
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: Sir John Williams; Aberystwyth; Donation; [February] 1909.
Peniarth MSS 249, 448, 450-1, 454, 459-60, 462, 476, 485, 487-93, 495, 499, 542-54, 556-61: Colonel J. F. Williams-Wynne; Peniarth; Purchase; 1980.
Peniarth MSS 481-2: Misses Gwendoline and Margaret Davies; Gregynog; Donation; 1921.
Peniarth MS 234i: Sotheby's; London; Purchased at auction, lots 179-180; 21 July 1980.
Peniarth MSS 440ii and 483: Sotheby's; London; Purchased at auction, lot 2 (MS 483); 23-24 March 1981.
Content and structure area
Scope and content
A collection of manuscripts, [12 cent.]-1909, from the library of Peniarth, Merionethshire, the core of the historic collection being 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).
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling
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.
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 catalogue as Peniarth MSS 426 and 458 are those facsimiles, rather than the originals; when Peniarth MS 234 was purchased at auction in 1980 its facsimile became Peniarth MS 234ii.
Title based on contents.
The collection was included on the UNESCO UK Memory of the World Register in July 2010.
Virtua system control number