The Black Book of Carmarthen


The Black Book of Carmarthen (so called because of the color of its binding and its connection with the Priory of Saint John the Evangelist and Teulyddog, Carmarthen) is thought by modern scholars to be the work of a single scribe writing at different times before and about the year 1250. This makes it one of the earliest surviving manuscripts written solely in the Welsh language. Apart from a small group of triads relating to the horses of legendary Welsh heroes, the Black Book is essentially a poetry manuscript. It contains poems with religious subjects, such as the “Dialogue between the Body and the Soul,” and odes of praise and mourning, such as the “Elegy to Madog ap Maredudd [died 1160].” The author of this elegy is not named in the Black Book, but according to another manuscript, the poem was written by the court poet, Cynddelw Brydydd Mawr (flourished 1155-1200). The most remarkable poems in the manuscript are those about heroes of Dark Age Britain, and especially those connected with the legend of Myrddin. The Black Book of Carmarthen is designated Peniarth MS 1 by the National Library of Wales. The Peniarth Manscript collection was established by Robert Vaughan (circa 1592-1667), who acquired many significant Welsh-language manuscripts for his library in Hengwrt, Meirioneth. The collection was transferred to the Peniarth Library, Meirioneth, in 1859, and from there to the new national library in 1909.

Last updated: September 22, 2014