Scope and Content

A volume of notes in the hand of Edward Williams ('Iolo Morganwg') bearing the inscription 'History of the British Bards. Common Place Book No. 111 by Edward Williams . . .' on the title-page. The contents include pp. 2-35 (each page headed 'Alphabet (Bards)'), brief notes on a mythological and pseudo-historical account of the origin of letters and the British bardic alphabet, comments on the paucity of evidence, other than mythological accounts, relating to the origin of alphabets, examples of alphabets designated 'Coelbren y Beirdd' or '[British] Bards Alphabet', 'Coelbren y Meneich' or '[British] Monks Alphabet', 'Egwyddor Gymraeg' or 'Modern or Common Welsh Alphabet', and 'Old Monumental British', 'Old Gallic', 'Runic', and 'Ancient Etruscan' alphabets, notes on the origin of, or connection between, these alphabets, notes on the use of the Welsh bardic alphabet for writing by inscribing on wooden surfaces, a description of a 'peithynen' i.e. a series of four- sided 'billets' of wood (ebill, plural ebillion) upon which literary or other material had been inscribed in the bardic alphabet and which had then been inserted in sequence in an upright, wooden frame in such a way as to allow each unit to revolve, a list of 'catachrestical words and phrases to prove that the ancient English or Saxons practised a method of inscribing letters upon wood', and further observations, etc., relating to the above topics (see also NLW MSS 13087E, 13093E, 13097B); pp. 36-43 (each page headed 'Poetry preceded Prose [authorities]'), extracts from the works of various English authors on the theme that poetry preceded prose in the literatures of various nations, and notes on the literature of North and South Wales, 12th-14th cent., referring to the South Wales poet Rhys Goch ap Rhys ap Rhiccart, the superiority of North Wales in the field of poetry and of South Wales in the production of prose, and the belief that the 'Silurian dialect' was the 'written literary dialect' of North Wales down to the mid-sixteenth century; p. 44 (headed 'Letters, when first known in Britain'), a brief comment on the antiquity of the Welsh language and on the knowledge of letters, etc., amongst the Britons; pp. 45-7 (blank, but each page bearing the same heading as p. 44); pp. 48-65 are blank; pp. 66-70 (each page headed 'Poetry preceded Prose [Authorities]'), extracts from the works of various authors on the theme denoted in the page headings; pp. 71-7 (blank, but each page bearing the same heading as pp. 66-70); and pp. 78-83 (each page headed 'Letters, when first known in Britain'), extracts being mainly extracts from Caesar: De Bello Gallico relating to the Druids. The remaining pages (pp. 84-254) are blank.

Access Information

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


Title based on contents.

Formerly Llanover MS C. 20.

Preferred citation: NLW MS 13107B [RESTRICTED ACCESS].

Other Finding Aids

The description is also available in the Handlist of Manuscripts in the National Library of Wales, Volume IV (Aberystwyth, 1971).

Alternative Form Available

Online version available on the Library's website https://www.llgc.org.uk/discover/digital-gallery/manuscripts/early-modern-period/history-of-the-british-bards/ (viewed June 2016).

Conditions Governing Use

Usual copyright laws apply.

Additional Information