London: Rafe Newberie and Henrie Denham, 1584.
Quarto: 19.4 x 14.2 cm. (16), 22, (2), 401, (1), (12). pp. Collation: ¶8, A8, B4 (B4 blank and present), C-Y8, Aa-Ee8, Ff-Gg4 (Gg4 blank absent)
FIRST PRINTED EDITION of the English translation of Caradoc’s “Brut y Tywysogyon” (Chronicle of Princes). The Welsh original is no longer extant.
Bound in contemporary English calf with central blind-stamped lozenge flanked by the initials “W.B.”, rebacked retaining original spine, deftly re-sewn at the time of rebacking by the British Museum, later endpapers. An excellent copy with occasional marginal staining; first few leaves with small, discreet marginal repairs to first and final two leaves, with no loss. The paper is crisp, the impression of the type and illustrations rich and sharp.
Provenance: contemporary manuscript list on front pastedown, with 21 entries possibly relating to estates in Cheshire – Sir William Brereton, 1st Baronet (1604–1661; inscription on title, binding) – ‘Anne Holland Booke’ (inscription on title) – ‘R[oger] K[enyon] 1699’ (c.1627-1698; inscription on pastedown) – George Kenyon of Peel Hall, Lancashire (1666–1728; armorial bookplate) – exhibited at An Exhibition of Printing, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge 1940 (slip loosely inserted).
First edition of this rare and important history of Wales, “the consummation of medieval Welsh historiography based on the annales kept by ecclesiastics and religious since the eighth century.”(ODNB) The work concerns Welsh royalty from the 7th to 13th centuries and the "Princes of Wales of the blood royall of England" from Edward I to Elizabeth I. The text is illustrated throughout with woodcut portraits.
Caradoc of Llancarfan, a 12th-century Welsh ecclesiastic and historian, "was a friend of Geoffrey of Monmouth, who at the conclusion of his famous 'British History' -one of the earliest and most important sources for the legends of King Arthur- says: 'The princes who afterwards ruled in Wales I committed to Caradog of Llancarvan, for he was my contemporary. And to him I gave the materials to write that book'... Caradoc's chief work ["Brut y Tywysogion"] was a sort of continuation of Geoffrey's fictions from the beginning of really historical times down to his own day. In its original form Caradog's chronicle is not now extant" (DNB).
The translation into English is the work of the Welshman Humphrey Llwyd (1527-1568) of Denbigh but it remained in manuscript until a third Welshman, the historian David Powell (1552-1598) "was requested by Sir Henry Sidney, lord president of Wales, to prepare for the press an English translation... The work appeared, under the title 'The History of Cambria,' in 1584, with a curiously admonitory dedication to Sir Philip Sidney, the president's son; though Llwyd's translation was the basis, Powell's corrections and additions, founded as they were on independent research, made the 'Historie' practically a new work... and later historians of Wales have to a large extent drawn their material from it" (DNB XVI: 238).
“Llwyd's work opens with a description of Wales by Sir John Price: this work and the rest of the Cronica are amplified by Llwyd from manuscript and printed sources (among them Matthew Paris and Nicholas Trevet) together with oral traditions and Llwyd's own glosses.”(R. Brinley Jones, ODNB)
Arthur and Guinevere's Tomb:
The book also contains two very early references to King Arthur, including a description of the discovery of the bones of King Arthur and his queen: "the bones were of marvelous bignes, and in the scull were ten wounds, of which one was great, and seemed to be his deaths wound: the Queenes haire was to the light faire and yellowe, but as soone as it was touched it fell to ashes..." (p. 238) There is also a passage, in the life of Cadwalader, regarding Merlin: "There were two Merlines, the one named also Ambrose (for he had two names) begotten of a spirit, and found in the towne of Caermarthen, which tooke the name of him [Caervyrdhin] (and is therefore so called), who prophesied under King Vortigern. The other borne in Albaine or Scotland, surnamed Calidonius of the forrest Calidon, wherein he prophesied, and was called also Sylvestris, or of the wood, for that he, beholding some monstrous shape in the aire being in the battell fell mad, and flieng to the wood, lived there the rest of his life. This Merline was in the time of King Arthure, and prophesied fuller and plainer than the other."(p. 5)
The Discovery of America.., in the 12th Century:
This was the first work to attribute the original discovery of America to a Welshman, Madoc (Madog, ab Owain Gwynedd), in the 12th century. In 1170, Madoc "prepared certaine ships with men and munition, and sought adventures by sea, sailing west, and leaving the coast of Ireland so far north, that he came to a land unknowen, where he saw manie strange things. This land must needs be some part of that countrie of which the Spaniardes affirme themselves to be the first finders sith Hanno's time, for by reason and order of Cosmographie, this land, to the which Madoc came, must needs be some part of Nova Hispania or Florida. Whereupon it is manifest, that that countrie was long before by Brytaines discovered, afore either Columbus or Americus Vesputius lead anie Spaniardes hither."(p. 228).
ESTC S121940; STC 4606; Sabin, Bibliotheca Americana 40914; Luborsky & Ingram. Engl. illustrated books, 1536-1603, 4606