Llyfyr Gwyn o Rhydderch
HLEE-fir GWIN oh R-HE-ðurX
ð=th in "leather"; X=ch in "loch"

The White Book of Rhydderch
Peniarth MSS 4, 5, and sections of what was 12.

Transcribed at Strata Florida, Wales ca. 1325, the White Book contains an earlier, incomplete copy of the tales now known as The Mabinogion, which were first translated using the Red Book of Hergest. The manuscript also contains a number of religious works, as well as a large number of the Welsh triads, which contain the skeltons of tales now lost to us.

Scribe A is unknown; he wrote a single column.

Scribe B has been identified as the Anchorite of Llanddewibrefi.

Scribe C, D, and E are very close in style, and are difficult to distinguish. Curiously enough, the hand at the end of "Culhwch" is that of Hywel Fychan, the main scribe of the Red Book of Hergest; he apparently was correcting a mistake in the manuscript. However, it is still believed that the Red Book does not directly derive from the White, but that they have a common ancestor.

The Mabinogion
The order of the tales in the White Book differ with that of the current standard order:

While "Breudwyt Rhonabwy" ("The Dream of Rhonabwy") is missing from the White Book, it is assumed that it was originally placed between "Lludd" and "Owein," and later inserted into its place in the Red Book, at least according to J. G. Evans, editor of the diplomatic edition.

Evans makes two interesting notes: first, that "Historia Peredur" is not given the title usually reserved for Romances like "Owein" or "Gereint," but is instead called a "historia," meaning it was taken as more true than these two. Whether this is true, I don't know. Either way, all three are related to the romances of Chretien de Troyes, but "Peredur" in particular is full of very primitive material, more in line with the "Four Branches."

Second, the text of "Gereint" is in the same hand as that of the Book of Taliesin. This scribe is also tied to several other manuscripts of that era.

The order of the contents seems to be this:

It has been conjectured that the identity of the Rhydderch of the title is Rhydderch ab Ieuan Llwyd (1325-1398/99) (Huw 249). Rhydderch was the descendent of the founder of Strata Florida, Lord Rhys of Deheubarth. According to Huw, it was another ancestor, Gruffudd ap Mareddudd, who had Madoc ap Selyf translate the Turpin Chronicle into Welsh.

His mother, Angharad, is mentioned in Einion Offeiriad's Grammar.

Rhydderch is known as a patron of bards, the most prominant one of 14th-century Cardiganshire. He was friends with Dafydd ap Gwilym, and is refered to by Iolo Goch, Llewelyn Goch ap Meurig Hen, and Dafydd y Coed. He was likely a young man when the book was commissioned.

Evans, J.G. The White book Mabinogion: Welsh tales & romances reproduced from the Peniarth manuscripts. Pwllheli: 1907.

Huw, Daniel. Medieval Welsh Manuscripts. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2000.

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Mary Jones © 2004