Ancient Welsh language manuscript tops Sotheby's at $840,000

Sotheby's sold an incredibly rare manuscript, which is written in the ancient Welsh language, as top lot in its Western Manuscripts and Miniatures sale in London today (July 10).

The Laws of Hywel Dda medieval welsh manuscript
Howel's laws offer suprisingly progressive views

Entitled The Laws of Hywel Dda, the manuscript details the rules laid out by King Howel the Good (circa 880-950) during his reign over medieval Wales. Over the course of 99 vellum leaves, Howel establishes his surprisingly liberal laws, which focus on compensation for victims of crime rather than the traditional brutal punishment for the perpetrators, and offers reimbursement to women should their husband's commit adultery.

However, the real value of the manuscript lies in its insight into the medieval Welsh language. There are currently only 80 known manuscripts written in the language, with the majority unavailable to private collectors, having been acquired by the British Library and the National Library of Wales.

In fact, Welsh manuscripts such as this one are so rare that the last occurrence of a similar item at auction was in 1923. The auction marked the first time The Laws of Hywel Dda had seen home soil for 150 years, having been taken to America by Welsh settlers in the 1700s. Against a pre-sale valuation of £500,000-700,000, the remarkable document made £541,250 ($839,857).

Paul Fraser Collectibles has a superb selection of ancient British manuscripts currently on offer. Our Henry VIII document is one that changed the face of history forever.


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