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Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion.
EARLY WELSH BIBLIOGRAPHY.*
By J. H. DAVIES, M.A.
Or recent years considerable progress has been made in the study of Welsh Bibliography owing to the publication of the Cambrian Bibliography in 1869, and to the formation of great public libraries, such as those at Cardiff and Swansea. A large number of articles dealing with the subject have appeared at intervals in periodicals concerning themselves with Welsh or Celtic literature, and chief among these are the contributions of the Rev. Chancellor Silvan Evans and the late Rev. John Peter, of Bala. Nevertheless, a great deal remains to be done, and every year brings to light new and important facts which have hitherto escaped the notice of even the most ardent students of our literature. It is desirable, therefore, that these data should be preserved in such a manner as to be available for everybody who takes an interest in the subject, and when one considers the practical difficulties which stand in the way of the publication of a new edition of
Read before the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion at 20, Hanover Square, on Wednesday, January 19, 1898. Chairman, Sir John Williams, Bart.
Rowlands's Bibliography, it seems wiser to publish whatever is known, incomplete though it may be, in the pages of one of our numerous periodicals.
These remarks will explain the somewhat sketchy nature of the paper which follows-as the writer has often been obliged to throw up a promising line of research owing to lack of time or opportunity, and has contented himself mainly with making additions to or emendations of the labours of previous workers in the field. He has also restricted himself to early Welsh books, and has not entered into the much larger field of eighteenth century literature.
The first and most interesting question to be settled by the student of Welsh Books is: Which was the first book printed in the Welsh language, and who was the author of it?
A glance at Rowlands's Bibliography will inform the reader that the first Welsh book was a Primer published in 1546, and supposed to have been translated either by Sir John Price, of Brecon, or by William Salesbury. But it is evident that neither Rowlands nor any of his correspondents had seen the book, so that little or no information regarding it can be gleaned from the Bibliography. Rowlands derived his information from the catalogue of Welsh books published by the Rev. Moses Williams in 1717, and in connection with this he made a curious blunder. Moses Williams arranged his catalogue in alphabetical order, and placed books of a common nature under the same heading. In this manner he placed the Primer as the first book under the heading "Bible", indicating that its contents. were mainly scriptural. Rowlands, however, took the word Bible to be part of the title page of the Primer, and elaborately explains that it was printed at the top of the title page in large type so as
to attract the attention of ignorant people. Subsequent writers have gone so far as to state that the Primer was in fact the first edition of the Welsh Bible, whereas it does not contain, with the exception of the Ten Commandments, any portion of Holy Writ.
Yn y Lhyvyr | hwnn y traethir | Gwydor kymraeg | Kalandyry gredo, ney bynkeu yr | ffyd gatholig | y pader, ney wedi yr Arglwyd | y deng air dedyf | Saith Rinwed yr Egglwys | y kampey arveradwy | ar gwydieu gochlad | wy ae keingieu | M.D. XLVI.
It consists of sixteen leaves with a page of errata, and was printed by Edward Whitchurch, in London. Its main object was to teach the people to read the Welsh language correctly, and to instruct them in the principles of the Christian Church.
The first reference to the book is found in the Epistle to the Welsh People, 1567, written by Bishop Richard Davies, of St. David's. "To such an extent was the Welsh language neglected," says Bishop Davies, "that the printing press brought no Welsh books to the country until, of recent years, William Salesbury printed the Gospels and Epistles used in Church,' and Sir John Prys, the Paternoster, the Creed and the Ten Commandments."
Bishop Humphreys, in his Additions to Wood, also mentions the book, and describes it as an Almanac, probably because it contained the calendar, together with other matter usually found in Almanacs.
As before stated, Moses Williams, in his Cofrestr, gives the title page of the book, and Ames also in his Typographical Antiquities, 1749, gives the title page and a description of it. At that time a copy of the book was in the possession of Mr. William Jones, F.R.S., better known
Published in 1551.