A Rare Edition of the Mabinogion

Collections - Posted 26-06-2023

The Mabinogion are a collection of twelve Middle Welsh tales.  They were translated into English in the 19th century by Lady Charlotte Guest, daughter of the ninth Earl of Lindsey, who was born in Lincolnshire but became interested in the literature and traditions of Wales after marrying Sir Josiah John Guest, master of the Dowlais ironworks.



Eleven of the tales are taken from the Red Book of Hergest, one of the most important mediaeval Welsh manuscripts.  They consist of the four branches of the Mabinogi, namely Pwyll Pendefig Dyfed, Branwen ferch Llŷr, Manawydan fab Llŷr, and Math fab Mathonwy, as well as three Arthurian romances and four independent tales.  Charlotte Guest was helped in the translation by John Jones (Tegid) and Thomas Price (Carnhuanawc).  The Welsh texts were printed with the translations, and the volumes include facsimiles of parts of the original manuscripts.



The translation was published in seven parts between 1838 and 1849, to be bound in three volumes.  The Library has recently purchased a very rare copy of the seven original parts; only one other copy is known in an institutional library.  The set purchased is the author’s own copy, with her bookplate inside the covers, showing her coat of arms and her name after marrying for the second time, Lady Charlotte Schreiber.



These rare volumes are an important addition to the National Library’s extensive collection of Arthurian books.

Timothy Cutts,

Rare Books Librarian.

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