Symud i'r prif gynnwys

LEGES HOWELDA AT CANTERBURY FVENIARTH MS 28 in the National Library of Wales has long been accepted as our earliest text, in Welsh or Latin, of the laws of Hywel Dda. It provides Redaction A in Dr. Emanuel's definitive edition of the Latin texts.1 This note is to record something new about the history of the manuscript; by way of coda, it offers a new opinion on its date. The National Library of Wales belongs to a distinguished company of libraries concerning whose medieval bindings there is much to regret. Of the hundred odd medieval Peniarth manuscripts only three (none of them Welsh) survive in an original binding. Pen. 28 when Gwenogvryn Evans saw it was in 'old oak covers'.2 In 1940 it was re-bound. By better fortune than has sometimes been the case, something of the old binding was kept. What appear to have been the upper cover (of thin, smooth whittawed skin) and two pastedowns are now laid down on modern parchment leaves at the end of the book, numbered ff. 29-3 13; the boards, which would have told us more, have gone. The pastedown on f. 30V preserves one previously un-noticed and somewhat unexpected piece of evidence: the pressmark of St. Augustine's Abbey, Canterbury. Pen. 28 has no St. Augustine's ex libris inscription, but in this respect it is far far from being alone among St. Augustine's books. The pressmark, comprising distinctio and gradus (book-case and shelf) numbers, is written in dark brown ink, no longer very conspicuous, in the top right hand corner of the pastedown (originally inside the upper cover): D' xvi G' iii. Preceding the pressmark, written in the same ink, partly illegible, even under ultra-violet light,4 comes 'W .holte', and immediately above it, in yellower ink, 'Leges Howclda Wallici', all in fourteenth-century hands, see plate 5b. The pressmark may be compared with the three St. Augustine's specimens reproduced in New Palaeographical Society, Series I, pi. 17. By an improbable coincidence one of the three reproduced, that on f. 4 of B.L. Harl. MS 3644, is not only in a similar hand and ink to that of Pen. 28 but shares with it the same distinctio and gradus numbers. The St. Augustine's library catalogue of c. 1491-7, printed by M. R. James,5 lists over 1800 books but was never completed.6 Notably, for our purpose, it lists no Common Law books. And many books known to have been at St. Augustine's are not included.7 To these Pen. 28 must be added. St. Augustine's besides being a well if incompletely catalogued library was a well classified one. Because of its incompleteness the catalogue does not tell us what was kept in distinctio xvi. James's inference that it held Canon Law has to be rejected in the light of Ker's fuller list of surviving St. Augustine's books and their pressmarks.8 Two manuscripts besides Pen. 28 have the pressmark D' xvi G' iii, Harl. 3644 and York Minster xvi. D. 6. Both are Common Law books, a Briton and a Bracton, and they are the only surviving Common Law books from St. Augustine's to bear pressmarks. So, English Common Law was at D' xvi G' iii, and that, reasonably enough, was where someone saw best to shelve Leges Howelda Wallici.