Medieval £540k manuscript The Laws of Hywel Dda goes on display

One of the first medieval manuscripts to be written in Welsh has gone on display for the first time in more than two centuries.

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One of the first medieval manuscripts to be written in Welsh will go on display for the first time in more than 200 years.

The 14th Century pocket book, The Laws of Hywel Dda, was bought at auction by the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, for £541,250 earlier this month.

It is believed the book was taken to America by Welsh settlers in the 1700s.

The manuscript will be exhibited at the at the National Library's Hengwrt Room.

It was sold by the Massachusetts Historical Society of Boston.

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) provided a grant of £467,000 towards the document bought at Sothebys in London.

Tenth century Welsh ruler Hywel Dda (Hywel The Good) created the country's first uniform legal system.

Hywel Dda laws

  • Marriage was considered an agreement, not a holy sacrament.
  • Divorce was permitted by common consent.
  • There was no punishment for theft - if the sole purpose was to stay alive.
  • Illegitimate children received the same rights as legitimate sons and daughters.
  • You were allowed to pick up three things if you found them in the road - a horseshoe, a nail and a penny.

A sense of fairness ran through the laws, including how they dealt with the rights of women.

Unlike most other Welsh medieval manuscripts, the Boston Manuscript has handwritten additions which show it was used as a working law text.

It is much closer to the reality and practice of the law at the time, and the library believes it offers scope for important new research.

The manuscript will only be on show for a limited period, 23 July - 31 August, before being taken into the care of the Library's conservators to be rebound and digitised.

Dr Manon Williams, chair of the HLF committee for Wales, said: "This manuscript is one of Wales' true treasures and I'm delighted to see it back home and in the National Library of Wales, where experts can now study and interpret it ensuring it is better understood for the first time."

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