Book of Aneirin

Book of Aneirin – National Library of Wales – Cardiff MS 2.81 – National Library of Wales (Aberystwyth, United Kingdom)

United Kingdom — Late 13th century

The whole range of medieval life in Old and Middle Welsh poetry: from lullabies for children to the memory of the victims of a battle in which the author himself claims to have taken part

  1. The late-6th century Northern Brythonic poet, Aneirin, likely lived in modern Scotland

  2. His oral tradition was recorded in a now-lost 9th century original, which was copied ca. 1265

  3. It contains the only written account of Y Gododdin, a series of elegies to fallen Welsh warriors

Book of Aneirin

  1. Description
  2. Facsimile Editions (1)
Book of Aneirin

Created ca. 1265, the Book of Aneirin, known in Welsh as Llyfr Aneirin, is a manuscript containing poetry in Old and Middle Welsh attributed to the late-6th century Northern Brythonic poet Aneirin, who likely lived in what is now Scotland. The manuscript was copied from a now-lost 9th-century original and was probably produced in a Welsh monastery. The 38 pages of neatly written text have little adornment aside from the red and blue initials. Its contents range from a child’s lullaby to a poem commemorating warriors fallen in a battle that the author supposedly fought in. This manuscript is also an important source for linguists and cultural historians because it proves that the Welsh language was once spoken in the northern regions of the British Isles.

Book of Aneirin

The Book of Aneirin is a precious late-13th century transcription of a 9th century original, which is counted among the so-called Four Ancient Books of Wales as one of the most important documents in the history of the Welsh language. It is named after its supposed author, Anerin, who has been regarded as one of the greatest Welsh poets by both medieval sources and modern scholars. However, his true identity remains a topic of debate among researchers today. It is believed that the contents of the manuscript were part of an oral tradition that was first written down in the 9th century and includes what may be the earliest reference to King Arthur.

Ancient Welsh Poetry

Foremost among the literary works it contains is Y Gododdin, a poem consisting of a series of elegies to the warriors from the Brittonic kingdom of Gododdin and its allies who fell in fighting against the Angles of Deira and Bernicia at the disastrous Battle of Catraeth ca. 600. The poem is attributed to Anerin, who claims to have been the sole survivor of the battle, and only survives in the manuscript at hand. Other works include Peis Dinogat or “Dinogad’s Smock”, a lullaby dating to the second half of the 7th century. Its audience is an infant named Dinogad, who is wrapped in a smock of marten skins, and tells him of his dead father’s prowess as a hunter. The True Verses of Gorchan Adrefon and Gorchan Maeldderw by the poet Taliesin may also provide evidence that the Welsh language may have been spoken in the North of the British Isles.

A Tumultuous History

Although the origins of the manuscript remain unclear, it found itself in the possession of the poet Dafydd Nanmor (fl. 1450–90) during the 15th century before passing into the hands of the Welsh antiquarian Robert Powell Vaughan (1592–1667). Unfortunately, historically valuable manuscripts attract the attentions of bibliophiles and thieves alike, and this manuscript was stolen from the Hengwrt collection by unknown parties in the 1780’s before passing being acquired by the Reverend Thomas Price (1787–1848). Following Price’s death, it was acquired by another collector, Sir Thomas Phillipps, 1st Baronet (1792–1872). It was finally purchased in 1896 by the Cardiff Free Library, through which it passed to the National Library of Wales, where it was restored and rebound.


Alternative Titles
Buch von Aneirin
Llyfr Aneirin
Late 13th century

Available facsimile editions:
Book of Aneirin – National Library of Wales – Cardiff MS 2.81 – National Library of Wales (Aberystwyth, United Kingdom)
National Library of Wales – Aberystwyth, 1989
Facsimile Editions

#1 Llyfr Aneirin

National Library of Wales – Aberystwyth, 1989

Publisher: National Library of Wales – Aberystwyth, 1989
Commentary: 1 volume by Daniel Huws
Language: Welsh
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €
(under 1,000€)
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