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Western Medieval Manuscripts : Cambridge Juvencus

Western Medieval Manuscripts

<p style='text-align: justify;'>Cambridge University Library Ms Ff.4.42, informally known as the <i>Cambridge Juvencus</i> Manuscript, principally contains a ninth-century copy of the fourth-century poet Juvencus’s <i>Euangeliorum libri IV</i>, a retelling of the Gospel narrative in Virgilian hexameters. In addition to this text, the outermost pages of the book contain extracts from other Latin works, as well as pieces of Latin and Old Welsh poetry, all contributed by later ninth- and tenth-century Insular scribes. Interlinear glosses in Latin, Old Welsh and Old Irish are found throughout, as are assorted pieces of marginalia, including a second important survival of Old Welsh verse.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Although the exact provenance of the manuscript is unknown, it has been determined on palaeographical and codicological grounds that it was produced somewhere in Wales, making it an exceptional survival. Extraordinarily, we also know by whom most of the manuscript was copied: a scribe by the name of Núadu. In what is an exceedingly rare colophon for a manuscript of Welsh provenance, Núadu signs his work: "Araut dinuadu", "A prayer for Núadu". Although the colophon was written in Old Welsh, its structure follows an Irish formula. Because the name Núadu is also Irish, this may be taken as evidence for an Irish scribe working in Wales during the tenth century.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>In total, there were thirteen early medieval scribes who added to the Cambridge Juvencus Manuscript after Núadu had completed his work. The contributions of these scribes are important for understanding the history of the book, including by providing further indication of Irish and Welsh links, as well as tentative evidence for a more specific localisation of the place of its production. On fol. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(72);return false;'>36r</a>, for example, there is a cryptogram which is of an Irish type but when solved reveals the Welsh name Cymelliauc as part of its message. Cymelliauc, the cryptogram tells us, was a priest, and it is possible that he was also the creator of this particular puzzle. Only one Cymelliauc is known from the period during which the manuscript was being copied and glossed, a bishop who worked around the lower Usk and the lower Wye valleys and who the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records as having been ransomed for £40 after his capture by Vikings in 914. It has been suggested that these two Cymelliaucs may have been one and the same, and given the apparent rarity of the name this is certainly a possibility. If so, this would present tentative evidence for localising the production of the Cambridge Juvencus Manuscript to south-east Wales. A location near the border between Wales and England may be supported by an error in a gloss made by Scribe G on fol. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(42);return false;'>20r</a>, where the third letter p in the Old Welsh "papep bi" must have been a <i>þ</i> representing <i>th</i> in the exemplar from which the scribe was copying. The Anglo-Saxon letter form <i>þ</i> suggests that this exemplar would have been produced somewhere near or in England. Another scribe, Scribe C, was responsible for adding both of the pieces of Welsh verse included in the manuscript, as well as some Latin hexameters located on fol. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(109);return false;'>55v</a>. One of these hexameters includes several instances of the Irish name Féthgna, which may suggest an interest in Irish material on the part of this scribe. Compellingly, Scribe C makes some errors in the Old Welsh verses that may indicate that he was in fact an Irish speaker.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The Old Welsh verses, commonly referred to as the "Juvencus Nine" and the "Juvencus Three" are located on fols. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(4);return false;'>1r</a> and <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(53);return false;'>25v–26v</a>, respectively. Of all aspects of the Cambridge Juvencus Manuscript, these and the glosses have arguably received the most academic attention, and understandably so. While the glosses may provide valuable insight into the process of Latin learning in Medieval Wales, the Old Welsh verses, composed in the englyn metre, are the oldest examples of Welsh poetry according to manuscript date that remain to us and are representative of both religious and ‘saga’ verse. Indeed, they are of such significance that, when faced with them in the early eighteenth century, a scholar and antiquary named Edward Lhuyd (1660-1709) could not contain his excitement and took a knife to folios <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(52);return false;'>25</a> and <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(54);return false;'>26</a>, removing the upper margins which contained the "Juvencus 3". Upon Lhuyd’s death, the precious slips of vellum were found and eventually returned to the University Library, where they were restored to their rightful positions in the manuscript.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Myriah Williams <br />Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic<br /> University of Cambridge.</p>

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