Llyfr Talyessin
The Book of Taliesin

"The MS. called the Book of Taliesin is a small quarto MS. written on vellum, in one hand throughout, of the early part of the fourteenth century... It consists now of thirty-eight leaves on vellum... The outter page both at the the beginning and at the ending is wanting, and the MS. now begins in the middle of the poem known by the name of "Prif Gygarch Taliessin," and ends in the middle of a poem called "Darogan Katwaladyr." --from The Four Ancient Books of Wales, vol. ii. p 397.

The book purports to record the poems of the sixth century Welsh bard Taliesin, poet of the court of Urien of Rheged, and generally agreed to be a historical figure. However, most of the poems attributed to him in the book are believed to have been written from the ninth century onward.

The book itself was likely "written" at the scriptorium of Strata Florida, a Cictercian house. It is a small manuscript, missing its covers, and thus the beginning of the first poem; luckily, this poem is also contained in the Red Book of Hergest. It contains 56 mostly-complete poems, and a fifty-seventh poem, of which only remains the words: "Darogan Katwal"--thought to be "Darogan Katwaladr," The Prediction of Cadwalladr, and a few openning lines.

The manuscript was the work of a single scribe, probably living in Glamorgan; this same scribe is thought to have produced other manuscripts, and J. Gwenogvryn Evans believed he worked on parts of the White Book of Rhydderch and the Mostyn 117 manuscript. It's exact history is unknown; it passed through the hands of several collectors during the seventeenth century, until finally being bought by Robert Vaughan, who added it to his library in Hengwrt, and stayed there until it entered the hands of W.W.E. Wynne in Peniarth. It was then donated to the National Library of Wales.

My reproduction of Skene's translation, rearranged into the order of the manuscript, can be found here.


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Mary Jones 2003