References to sources in the CVpedia are mostly embedded in the text, though in some cases references have also been appended to individual notices. The sources described here mostly relate to Britain's ancient history and were consulted particularly in compiling the Monarchs section of the CVpedia.
An exception is Robertson's Book of Firsts: Who Did What For the First Time (2011). The British author of this outstanding work, published in the US, Patrick Robertson, is the planet's most assiduous squirrel - of the preferred red variety - on his chosen subject, as he has been gathering information on invention and innovation for over 50 years. Robertson provides a prefatory note which points out that
'First as used in the text refers to the first in the modern world. It does not preclude the possibility of earlier examples in classical antiquity, usually in a different form.' (Patrick Robertson, Robertson's Book of Firsts: Who Did What For the First Time, 2011)
This work is referenced as 'Source: Robertson'. There are even more British firsts in Robertson's earlier compendium, The New Shell Book of Firsts, 1995. In the Introduction to this book, which is referenced in the CVpedia as 'Source: Robertson/Shell', the author writes
'As far as attribution is concerned, the question I have attempted to answer is 'Who did it first in practical terms?', not 'Who expounded the principle that enabled it to be done?' - since, generally, the person to accomplish something for the first time in practical form, particularly in the field of invention, has drawn on the ideas of earlier workers in the same field. Or to put it another way, not 'Who had the idea?' but 'Who made the idea work?' ' (Patrick Robinson, The New Shell Book of Firsts, 1995)
Patrick Robertson's tenacious scholarship over more that half a century is hereby acknowledged with the utmost admiration and gratitude. He is the epitome of an Influential Islander. Robertson's meticulous and fascinating works have appeared some three centuries after the world's first book of firsts, that printed in Britain for J Harris in 1699 [Source: Robertson/Shell].
Another invaluable sourcebook is Adrian Sykes's Made in Britain (2011), a brilliant and richly rewarding engagement with the island's history via the biographies of the British men and women 'who shaped the modern world'. There are gems on every page. Adrian Sykes is saluted by The National CV Group.
References for 'Monarchs': the anchor sources used for the Monarchs section of the CVpedia are the purportedly seventh-century Tysilio Chronicle [see More 18] and Holinshed’s Chronicles, from Tudor times; these works are separated by nine hundred years, yet stand in good agreement with each other; more is said on both works below and also cited, from the later Stuart period, is Enderbie, which like Holinshed, is a vast respository of information; ultimately the CVpedia rests on the ‘British Chronicles’, the stories of the Ancient Britons, which stories convey some of the oldest traditions of the islanders, relating to the 'Matter of Britain', the history of the British Isles from pre-Roman times to King Arthur; The National CV Group respects the historians of yore and takes the view that the ancient histories are to be interrogated for enlightenment, not jettisoned wholesale by dint of a perceived fabulous element therein; the latter approach yields a void; a case can even be made for an early Trojan influx into Britain; after all, Julius Caesar in his excursions to Britain in 55 & 54 BC encountered a people called the Trinovantes, a name meaning ‘New Trojans’ [see Brutus]; the British Chronicles are known through Latin translations of ancient manuscripts made by the early British monks Gildas Albanius (sixth century), Nennius (who compiled a chronicle 'in the 858th year of our Lord's incarnation' from 'a heap of all I have found') and Bishop Geoffrey of Monmouth (c1100 – c1155); Gildas describes his approach thus:
II. The History, In: The Works of Gildas and Nennius, translated by J A Giles, 1841, pp8 & 9; the dates usually given for Gildas, c500-570, are in error; they are more likely 472-526; see Arthur)
'I will only endeavour to relate the evils which Britain suffered in the times of the Roman emperors, and also those which she caused to distant states; but so far as lies in my power, I shall not follow the writings and records of my country, which (if there ever were any of them) have been consumed in the fires of the enemy, or have accompanied my exiled countrymen into distant lands, but be guided by the relations of foreign writers, which, being broken and interrupted in many places, are therefore by no means clear.' (The Works of Gildas,
Meanwhile Nennius had this to say, still a call to arms a dozen centuries later:
'I, Nennius, disciple of St Elbodus, have endeavoured to write some extracts which the dulness of the British nation had cast away, because teachers had no knowledge, nor gave any information in their books about this island of Britain.' (Nennius's History of the Britons, II. The Apology of Nennius, In: The Works of Gildas and Nennius, translated by J A Giles, 1841, p4)
For his part, Geoffrey reports thus:
One scholar offers this appraisal:
‘While oftentimes pondering things in my own mind, I happened to turn to the history of the kings of Britain, and wondered that, in the mention Gildas and Bede made of them in their excellent tractates, I found nothing of those kings who lived before the Incarnation of Christ, nor even of Arthur and many others with him who succeeded after the Incarnation, though their deeds were worthy of eternal praise, and, as they had been written, were proclaimed by many peoples with delight and from memory.’ (Geoffrey of Monmouth, History of the Kings of Britain, 1136; Acton Griscom’s translation of 1927, citation below)
'Of the existing versions of the Chronicles those of Nennius and Geoffrey of Monmouth are obviously the most authentic and fullest, and they are in general agreement. Nennius tells us that his text was a compilation by himself from the ancient British texts and the annals of the Romans and other authorities whom he specifies; whereas Geoffrey states expressly that his was a translation into Latin of “an ancient book in the British tongue.” '(L A Waddell, p150; see below)
Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britannaiae (History of the Kings of Britain), which has come in for a lot of criticism, was published in April 1136; this date was established by Acton Griscom, whose The Historia Regum Britanniae of Geoffrey of Monmouth of 1927 is a tour de force of scholarship, in which the author ‘turned the tables on his [Geoffrey’s] critics and shattered them.’ (William Comyns Beaumont, The Riddle of Prehistoric Britain, 1946); Geoffrey's Historia inspired later stories of King Arthur and his knights, ushering in the Age of Chivalry; Geoffrey of Monmouth had a contemporary and fellow historian of Britain in the person of his apparent near neighbour Geoffrey Gaimar, a famous poet; scholars deeming Geoffrey of Monmouth a fibber about his 'ancient book' (‘quendam britannici sermonis librum vestustissimum’) have to contend with Gaimar’s awkward assertion that he too used the identical source, c1150, even obtained from the same person, in a translation that Gaimar said had been commissioned by Robert of Gloucester, one of Geoffrey’s patrons [see More 28]; this revelation can provoke vexation:
he too used the identical source, c1150, even obtained from the same person, in a translation that Gaimar said had been commissioned by Robert of Gloucester, one of Geoffrey’s patrons [see More 28]; this revelation can provoke vexation:
'…Geoffrey Gaimar’s outrageous claim to have used the very same ancient book as Geoffrey himself claimed to have used.' (O J Padel, 1995, Arthuriana, 5.3, pp103-14)
A third contemporary historian, and yet another near neighbour and fellow cleric, was Henry of Huntingdon (c1085-1155); he learnt of Geoffrey of Monmouth's work in 1139 and wrote of it without misgivings in his Epistle to Warin the Briton:
'I send excerpts from this book to you, my dear friend, in as short a form as the brevity of this letter will allow.... if you should desire even more on this subject, ask to see the great book by Geoffrey Arthur [i.e. Geoffrey of Monmouth] at [the Norman monastery of] Bec, wherein you will find these matters discussed diligently and at great length.' (In: Geoffrey of Monmouth, The History of the Kings of Britain, translated & edited by Michael A Faletra, 2008, Appendix D1, p287)
'That Henry accepted the Historia as valid is witnessed by the use of some, at least, of the “new” material in the later editions of his own work.' (Acton Griscom, The Historia Regum Britanniae of Geoffrey of Monmouth, 1927)
Yet another historian, Alfred of Beverley, writing soon after 1143, incorporated the same material in his own work ‘referring specifically and repeatedly to a British source’ [Source: Acton Griscom];Geoffrey’s history was likely based in fact on a forerunner of what is now known as the Tysilio Chronicle or Brut Tysilio, which was purportedly started by a prince of the royal house of Powys turned monk called Tysilio, later celebrated as St Tysilio, who died c640 and whose manuscript Geoffrey obtained in 1135 or a little earlier [More 4]; the Tysilio Chronicle is otherwise known as Brut y Brittaniait, a title rendered by its modern translator as The Chronicle of the Early Britons [More 18]; it was added to by others after the original compiler’s death and will have been modernised for language and content when copied, which factors can confound analyses of attribution, provenance and dating; the Tysilio Chronicle was nonetheless rated by renowned archaeologist and historian Flinders Petrie (1853-1942; see below) as 'the fullest account we have of early British history'; he described Geoffrey’s account as deriving from Tysilio and dismisses the converse notion of Tysilio being derived from Geoffrey as insupportable:
'Thus the test of inclusion and omission confirms the first impression, and the express statement, that Geoffrey is a flowery expansion, rather than Tysilio being an abbreviation. In this view [Thomas] Stephens agrees, in his Literature of the Kymry, 1876.' (W M Flinders Petrie, Neglected British History, 1917; More 19)
The whole style of the Welsh precludes translation and abbreviation of Geoffrey’s Latin, at least in the greater portion of the book. (Acton Griscom, The Historia Regum Britanniae of Geoffrey of Monmouth, 1927, referring to the Jesus LXI version of the Tysilio Chronicle; see below)
Flinders Petrie used geographical information in the document to show that part of the Tysilio Chronicle had been written before the time of the Roman Emperor Claudius, who ruled in the mid years of the first century AD and invaded Britain;Geoffrey composed his work while living in Oxford, probably (and neatly) at St George's chapel, long since demolished; he claimed to have obtained his ancient source-book from Walter, archdeacon of the city; meanwhile the colophon (tailpiece inscription) of the Tysilio Chronicle reads thus:
'I, Walter of Oxford, translated this book from Welsh into Latin, and in my old age have translated it again from Latin into Welsh.' (Tysilio Chronicle)
This securely links Walter to the Tysilio Chronicle and seems to indicate that this work is the result of a double translation, viz. of the ancient book from Old Welsh into Latin and from Latin into then-modern [i.e. medieval] Welsh; Walter’s colophon is not found in Geoffrey’s Historia; Geoffrey’s description of his ancient book fits the Tysilio Chronicle:
'This book, attractively composed to form a consecutive and orderly narrative, set out all the deeds of these men, from Brutus, the first King of the Britons, down to Cadwallader, the son of Cadwallo.' (Geoffrey of Monmouth, History of the Kings of Britain, 1136; Lewis Thorpe’s translation of 1966)
With Walter as well as Geoffrey claiming to have translated the book, it is not surprising that medieval scribes and later scholars have struggled to understand the number of translations that were made and from and into which languages; compounding the problem, Geoffrey issued four editions of his work over a dozen years and likely sponsored a translation into Welsh as well [Source: Acton Griscom]; copies of Geoffrey’s earliest editions survive, displaying an allegiance to Welsh names – itself supporting an original Welsh source – that is lost in later editions [Source: Acton Griscom]; a Welsh provenance for Geoffrey’s source would be significant given that the meticulousness of Welsh genealogical and historical record-keeping famously surpasses that of other nations;Geoffrey claimed that his book had been brought from ‘outside the country’ (ex Britannia); its provenance will most likely have been Brittany, where Tysilio lived after leaving his native Wales and where he is supposed to have compiled his chronicle
'I incline to accept the Breton origin of Walter’s Book, geographically speaking, rather than the Welsh. Spellings of names show Continental influence.' (Acton Griscom, The Historia Regum Britanniae of Geoffrey of Monmouth, 1927)
There is plenty of evidence for the Breton phase of Tysilio's life and Geoffrey himself very probably had Breton blood in his veins, but whether or not Tysilio initiated the book acquired by Walter and Geoffrey is incidental; a 1903 translation of Geoffrey’s final chapter by Sebastian Evans actually specifies Brittany, Tysilio's ultimate refuge:
Howbeit, their Kings who from that time have succeeded in Wales I hand over in the matter of writing unto Karadoc of Lancarvan, my contemporary, as do I those of the Saxons unto William of Malmesbury and Henry of Huntingdon, whom I bid be silent as to the Kings of the Britons, seeing that they have not that book in the British speech which Walter, Archdeacon of Oxford, did convey hither out of Brittany, to which being truly issued in honour of the aforesaid princes, I have on this wise been at the pains of translating into the Latin speech.'
These are not the words of an untrustworthy person; Geoffrey wrote under the aegis of the archdeacon of Oxford and within a monkish (Augustinian) chapter, which latter is unlikely to have supported and resourced an endeavour the aim of which was to provide a fake history; he enjoyed the highest patronage and dedicated one edition of his book to the King no less; he achieved ecclesiastical preferment, rising in 1151 to become the 3rd Bishop of St Asaph (Lhanelwy in Wales) [Source: Enderbie, p270]; he was free of contemporary criticism, with the first dissenting voice, that of William of Newburgh, heard only decades after Geoffrey's death c1155 (in London); writing around 1190, Canon William of Newburgh vilified his fellow cleric’s Arthur and Merlin material as ‘mendacious fictions’, even claiming, bizarrely, that the ‘fabler’ Geoffrey ap (i.e. son of) Arthur was so surnamed for King Arthur himself; Geoffrey certainly provided more than a straight translation of his ancient book, pulling in material from other British and Roman sources and not failing to dramatise his material; so his was a highly augmented free translation, a literary composition, while Walter's own translation was presumably a more straightforward affair; a manuscript copy of the Tysilio Chronicle is held at the Bodleian Library, Oxford, as Jesus College MS LXI; it dates from the late 1400s, but is based on ancient sources, judging by abundant internal evidence, reviewed across the 574 endnotes of a translation into English from its medieval Welsh in 2002 by Wm R Cooper [More 18]; it appears to be a translation from Latin, consonant with Walter's colophon [Source: Acton Griscom]
'...MS. Jesus LXI, which is on vellum, is time-worn and torn at its outer edges... Evidence, both internal and external, points unmistakably to this being, also, a copy of something preceding it...this so called Tysilio version as it stands cannot be Geoffrey’s source...[it] shows every evidence, as we have said, of being itself a compilation, reduplicating statements, and containing a curious mixture of archaic with relatively modern forms... The scribe or original compiler of Jesus LXI, therefore, almost certainly had before him two MSS... This earlier, independent version, tracing its lineage back to Walter, might properly be called “Walter’s Book”...however overlaid.' (Acton Griscom, The Historia Regum Britanniae of Geoffrey of Monmouth, 1927; this work includes a translation of Jesus LXI into English by R E Jones)
To use biological phraseology, Jesus LXI shows ‘verbal descent with modification’ and possibly even the picking up of genetic material from Geoffrey’s Historia, but the core ‘genome’ of the fabled ‘ancient book’ is still detectable, via Walter's own translation, embedded in the text, as multiply removed from the original as Jesus LXI might be; there is no attribution in Jesus LXI to Tysilio, note, but at least in line with this document ultimately deriving from St Tysilio the putatively earlier Gildas is cited [More 18, page 22], but not the putatively later Nennius or Bede; in contrast, all three are cited in Geoffrey; as the Tysilio Chronicle is referenced at many points in the CVpedia, a debt of gratitude is here acknowledged to Wm R Cooper for his scholarship; more is said on the Tysilio Chronicle below; Wm R Cooper's conclusion is this:
'In other words, it would appear from Geoffrey’s additions that Jesus College MS LXI is a lot closer to the contents of the original source book than is Geoffrey’s Latin version.' (Tysilio Chronicle, More 18, Endnote 574, page 99; translation of 2002)
An essay on Geoffrey's source is to be found elsewhere on this website [see More 27]; Flinders Petrie's assessment of the scholarly situation is as follows:
An essay on Geoffrey's source is to be found elsewhere on this website [see More 27];
Flinders Petrie's assessment of the scholarly situation is as follows:
'...the Breton Brut from which Tysilio originates... The Professor [Lewis Jones, in a 1911 publication] deals with Geoffrey at length, stating that ‘his use of the Brutus legend constitutes the claim of his History to rank as the first...of a long series of Bruts’; yet the whole Brut legend comes from Tysilio, and the still earlier Brut in Breton of A.D. 940. He states that the British history said to be in Armorica [Brittany] ‘has never yet been discovered’; yet it is known there at least as far back as 940. He adds: ‘No document either in Welsh or in Breton had yet been found even remotely resembling that which Walter the archdeacon is said to have brought over from Brittany’; yet the whole document is published, with Walter’s colophon complete. Such an ignoring of public documents seems impossible...
The questions of real authorship, of original dates of compositions, and of successive MSS. are quite outside my scope here... In any case the name of Tysilio has merely been given to a chronicle by guesswork, but it is a useful label.
Had Geoffrey not so dressed up the chronicle of Tysilio as literature, it would have stood a better chance of a hearing as history; and when once Geoffrey became discredited by his method, he impaired reliance on his source.' (W M Flinders Petrie, Neglected British History, 1917; More 19)
The days of apparently obtuse scholarship, self-exiled from prime source material, are not over:
'But the outstanding, and unanswerable, question is, did such a book [i.e. Geoffrey’s ‘ancient book’] ever exist? There is no trace of it either physically or as a source used by others. It could be, as many have suggested, that Geoffrey simple made up the entire history, embroidered around the tales and speculations contained in texts such as Gildas and Nennius (sources which he did have to hand) a complete fabrication of his own. That said, there will always be the sneaking possibility that an old Breton text really did sit on Geoffrey’s desk as he wrote – we shall never know for sure.' (Barry Cunliffe, Britain Begins, 2013)
'There are, of course, large chunks of early British history, including the Brut legend, that seem to have emerged unrefined from Geoffrey's brain.' (Felicity Heal, 'What can King Lucius do for you? The Reformation and the Early British Church', English Historical Review, 120 (487), 593-614, 2005; see Brutus, Lucius)
Summarising, on the balance of probabilities Geoffrey's 'ancient book' (i) existed and (ii) was what is now known as the Tysilio Chronicle in an antecedent form; on these propositions the leading textual scholar of the day has been prepared to “put his head on the block”, with a generous personal communication to The National CV Group in May 2013; in this he agreed that Geoffrey “probably had a document (one or more) of traditional history that he used”, while disagreeing amiably that it was the Brut Tysilio; this statesmanlike positioning undermines the case that Geoffrey was a fantasist and permits the discussion to move on to the more substantive question - Is there any truth in the old stories, by whomsoever they are related and from whatever source they came?; it is believed by The National CV Group that there is indeed much truth to be found in the Matter of Britain and that a positive judgement in this regard is facilitated by the unprecedented availability of information in this digital age;Geoffrey & Tysilio both have Brennus of Britain sacking a nascent Rome, for example, some four centuries BC; likewise the Roman historian Livy has a Brennus doing the same thing at the same time [see Belinus & Brennus, More 20]; the manuscripts of all three historians can be discovered and read online by any interested party; other stories can be interrogated in like manner, as they are indeed on this website
While Geoffrey of Monmouth is now mostly dismissed as a fabulist, a medieval chronicler in northern France accused him of the opposite error, leaving material out in regard to Arthur; this was Jean de Wavrin (1394-1474), implying that De Wavrin had access to the same source work; if so then his rendering is less ‘flowery’, to quote again Flinders Petrie’s verdict on Geoffrey translation – and De Wavrin is clear that Geoffrey’s work was a translation; De Wavrin was an observer at the Battle of Agincourt (1415), in which his brother and father fought and died on the side of the French; later De Wavrin himself fought on the side of the English; he went on to write a history of Britain in French, Recueil des croniques et anchiennes istories de la Grant Bretaigne; a copy of this work entered the Royal Library of England and the manuscript illustration below depicts De Wavrin presenting his book to Edward IV of England, his contemporary
'...eleven years of persistent work have convinced me that Geoffrey’s Historia provides a fruitful field for historical, as well as literary, research, if approached with due caution... Geoffrey has been taxed with “inventing” a host of names – in fact, whole dynasties of pre-Roman, British kings – which with far greater probability stand for actual, once-living men, whose names and notable achievements survived in written records, and who will someday be rescued from the world of make-believe...the all but forgotten ancient history of the British Isles.' (Acton Griscom, The Historia Regum Britanniae of Geoffrey of Monmouth, 1927)
De Wavrin recounts the background to Geoffrey’s reluctant decision to bring into his historical work the Prophecies of Merlin, at the request of one of his patrons, the Bishop of Lincoln, which inclusion was to do so much to impair Geoffrey's later credibility; De Wavrin's work contains information not to be found elsewhere, for example in regard to the migration to Britain of a Syrian princess [see Albyne] and the Jesus prophecy by Thezelinus in the time of Cymbeline [see Christianity]; Tysilio, Geoffrey & De Wavrin tend to be in series with one another in regard to content and can be read to advantage one after the other; for example, Tysilio mentions the Bishop of Rome contemporary with King Arthur without naming him [see More 18, p53]; Geoffry (9:11) calls him ‘Pope Sulpicius’; De Wavrin manages (p367) an apparent bullseye, with ‘Pope Simplicius’, who existed and reigned 468-83 [see Arthur]; De Wavrin's apparently privileged access to information is perhaps explained by the name ‘Waleran’ in his text; of relevance here is that one patron of Geoffrey of Monmouth in the 1130s was Waleran de Beaumont; he was the first Earl of Worcester and, more avidly [Source: Acton Griscom], Count of Meulan in northern France; the following quotation is from De Wavrin's Table of Contents, wherein he refers to himself in the third person; the nephew ‘Waleran’ cited, of the 1400s, was presumably a descendant of Geoffrey’s Waleran - as of course would have been De Wavrin himself
'The author addresses his nephew Waleran, lord of Wavrin, Lillers, Malannoy, and Saint-Venant, by whose inducement he undertakes a history of the lives and deeds of the ancient kings of Britain, inasmuch as no clerks of that kingdom had come forward to write such a work.' (A Collection of the Chronicles and Ancient Histories of Great Britain, now called England by ‘John de Wavrin, Lord of Forestel’, translated by William Hardy and published in 1864 as part of the Rolls Series)
The works have also been consulted of The Venerable Bede (c672-735); in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, completed in AD 731, Bede tells us that of the four nations inhabiting the island in his time - the English, British, Scottish & Picts - the indigenous people were the Britons, ‘who, according to tradition, crossed into Britain from Armorica [i.e. Brittany]; Bede is of limited use for the earliest period, however, for the following reason:
‘The history of our English nation has been written by the venerable Beda, a priest and monk, who, the more readily to gain the object in view, commenced his narrative at a very remote period, though he only glanced, with cautious brevity, at the more prominent actions of the Britons, who are known to have been the aborigines of our island.’ (William of Newburgh’s Preface, The History of William of Newburgh, c1190, translated from the Latin by Joseph Stevenson, 1856)
The same can be said of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, though valuable information on the post-Roman period is contained therein; reference has been made to the the Welsh Triads, a body of ancient folklore written down in poetic triplets in medieval times; the source used for the Welsh Triads, unless otherwise stated, is The Ancient Laws of Cambria, translated from the Welsh by William Probert, 1823; a repository of ancient manuscripts in Welsh is represented by The Myvyrian Archaiology of Wales, published by the Welsh Manuscript Society in 1820; these were collected in one volume in the first decade of the 1800s by Owen Jones, Edward Williams & William Owen Pughe; note though that the Brut Tysilio in this work is not the one identified but a later copy of Jesus LXI [Source: Acton Griscom]; further important documents were published as The Iolo Manuscripts by the Welsh Manuscript Society in 1848; a key genealogy for understanding the Western British royal lineage is that available from the pen of 'Anonymous', date unknown, The Genealogy of Iestyn, the Son of Gwrgan, Prince of Glamorgan [see Genealogies]; Iestyn ap Gwrgan (c1045-93) was the last king of Morgannwg in South Wales, modern-day Glamorgan & Monmouthshire; The Bruts of England were medieval histories based on the British Chronicles and other traditions; they first appeared in the thirteenth century, in Anglo-Norman French, before being translated into English; they are named for the nation's founding hero [see Brutus]; a collation based on a selection of MSS was published by the Early English Text Society in 1906; it was edited by Friedrich de Brie, with the title The Brut or The Chronicles of England; this work is referenced on this website as The Brut; the Reverend RW Morgan's St. Paul in Britain, of 1861, which the author alternatively titled The Origin of British as Opposed to Papal Christianity, is a masterwork on 1st century Britain and Rome, from which multiple More Articles have been abstracted in tribute to that Victorian author's scholarship [see More 9, 11, 13-15; with More 16 from another of RW Morgan's works]; 'Source: Holinshed' in the CVpedia is a reference to the Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland (1577, 1587) of Raphael Holinshed (1524/5-80) and his collaborators (there were at least eight authors across two editions); this provides a detailed history from the earliest times of the three realms – Wales being covered with England – with each history prefaced by a separate geographical description, which scholars refer to as a ‘chorographic’ (literally ‘place writing’) account; short chorographic prefaces are provided by Tysilio, Nennius, Bede and so on, but what is confusing for modern readers is that the chorographic descriptions in Holinshed are very long and contain considerable historical matter; the modern reader might be advised to start with the histories proper; Holinshed was plundered merrily by Shakespeare for his history plays [see William Shakespeare], yet the literary merit of the source work should not be overlooked [see Holinshed's Chronicles]; the first edition of Holinshed appeared in two volumes in 1577, published in London, the second, in three volumes, in 1587 (edited by Abraham Fleming, Holinshed having died in the meantime); the latter work was reprinted in 1807, also in London, for J Johnson and others, with censored material added back in, making this a ‘third edition’, in six volumes and running to about 3.5 million words; a facsimile version of this edition was reprinted by AMS Press Inc, New York, in 1965; the AMS reprint and, latterly, an original copy of the 1807 third edition have been used in compiling The National CVpedia of Britain; mostly authored by Holinshed himself, the early material (pre-1066) in this opus amounts to Britain's Old Testament; Britain Begins (2013) by Barry Cunliffe is the same period seen through the eyes of a present-day archaeologist, an account enriched by science and depleted of characters and their exploits; the frontispiece of the third edition of the Tudor history bears the revised title of Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland; this is a fitting tribute to a scholar who is insufficiently appreciated as one of Britain's greatest historians; a one-volume abridgement of this mighty work of Tudor scholarship is available (Holinshed: Chronicles, Folio Society, 2012), as is a collection of critical essays on what is described therein as 'this exceptionally important and unfairly neglected work' (The Oxford Handbook of Holinshed's Chronicles, 2013, page xxxvii); here is how Holinshed relates the genesis of his audacious work in a dedicatory epistle to Sir William Cecil, reproduced in the third volume of the 1808 edition:
'Whereas therefore, that worthie Citizen Reginald Wolfe late Printer to the Queenes Maiestie [i.e. Elizabeth I], a man knowne and beholden to your Honour, meant in his life time to publish an universall Cosmographie of the whole world, and therefore certaine particular histories of euery knowne nation, amongst other whom he purposed to vse for performance of his intent in that behalfe, he procured me to take in hand the collection of those histories, and hauing proceeded so far in the same, as little wanted to the accomplishment of that long promised worke, it pleased God to call him to his mercie [i.e. Wolfe died], after fiue and twentie yeares trauell spent therein; so that by his vntimelie deceasse, no hope remained to see that performed, which he had so long trauelled about. Nerthelesse those whom he put in trust to dispose his things after his departure hence, wifhing to the benefit of others, that some fruit might follow of that whereabouts he had imployed so long time, willed me to continue mine indeuour for the furtherance in the same… yet when the volume grew so great as they that were to defrai the charges for the impression, were not willing to go through the whole, they resolued first to publish the histories of England, Scotland, and Ireland, with their description…' (Raphael Holinshed, Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland, 1577)
In a preface to the reader in the same volume, Holinshed describes how he dealt with differences of opinion among his sources:
'…I haue in things doubtfull rather chosen to shew the diuersite of their writings, than by over-ruling them, and vsing a peremtorie censure, to frame them to agree to my liking: leauing it neuerthelesse to each mans judgement, to controll them as he seeth cause.' (Raphael Holinshed, Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland, 1577)
Holinshed might have been describing the present website when he wrote of historians
‘...comparing antiquities togither, and aptlie collecting the truth as néere as they can.’
[Source: Holinshed, Vol 1, p510]
Another comprehensive history of Britain is Percy Enderbie’s Cambria Triumphans or Brittain in its Perfect Lustre, 1661 (reprinted 1810); this appeared a year after the restoration of the monarchy, in the person of Charles II Stuart, after the ending of the Cromwellian republic; Enderbie’s book is dedicated to the new monarch in fact and therefore has something of the status of an official history; Enderbie (c1606-70) tells us in a preface that he enjoyed access to ‘a good library of Sir Edward Morgans of Lantarnam’, Lantarnam being near Caerleon in Wales and Sir Edward being Enderbie's brother-in-law; Enderbie cites in his history Holinshed, from three generations before, but adds new information of his own, citing fresh sources; he rewards careful rereading as previous topics erupt again in unexpected places
'…I owe so much love and reverence to truth, as I would rather expose her in the meanest and worst habit that time hath left her, then by disguising her, to abuse the world and make her seem a Counterfeit.' (Percy Enderbie,
CambriaTriumphans or Brittain in its Perfect Lustre, 1661)
The glory of chroniclers is that they just put down what they have got, and all of it, leaving later scholars to make of it what they will; Enderbie's is the greatest one volume history of Britain there has ever been; one volume it certainly is, but Enderbie’s work comprises two ‘Tomes’, each of four ‘Books’; page numbering is not quite consecutive, awkwardly; on his page 195 the author declares ‘The End of the First Part, or Tome’; he then starts the matter of ‘Tomus Secundus’ on page 177; to denote the overlapping pages numbered 177-195 in the CVpedia, references to this material will be prefixed by ‘ii’, as in ‘Enderbie, ii, pp177-95’, in conformity with Enderbie's index; William Flinders Petrie (1853-1942) was a pioneering Egyptologist and the father of modern archaeology [see William Flinders Petrie]; he spoke before the British Academy in 1917 of ‘Neglected British History’ [More 19]; the published version of his talk is the single most important paper in British historiography; Petrie cites the Tysilio Chronicle as giving for example an illuminating account of Julius Caesar’s invasions of 55 and 54 BC which was independent of Caesar’s own memoir; subsequent scholarship has shown the independent value of the Tysilio Chronicle in many other respects too [see More 4]; Flinders Petrie concluded that
'The present requirement for British History, so much neglected, is a scholar…who will deal as an historian, and not as a mythologist, with the [ancient sources]…. From these a consecutive narrative should be framed, from which suitable outlines might some day penetrate the general school books.' (W M Flinders Petrie, ‘Neglected British History’, 1917; More 19)
‘However complicated the problems are, Professor Petrie seems amply justified in his reproach that ancient British History has been neglected; and an examination of the Welsh manuscripts to which he refers seems to bear out, not to contravene, his thesis...
I cannot escape the conviction that when scholars return to these primary sources, early British history will be found by them to have survived in legendary or story form, and that it can be recovered by diligent search and investigation. King Arthur and his wars, pre-Roman British kings, the movements and civilizations of ancient peoples and races, lie just the further side of these old stories and the dusty manuscripts that recount them. As the inheritors of that rich and fascinating past, it is for us to interpret these traditions, to decipher the inscriptions of those distant forefathers, and to realize that the Isle of Britain’s place amongst the world of men reaches far behind Caesar’s day, into a splendid, if still obscure, antiquity.’ (Acton Griscom, The Historia Regum Britanniae of Geoffrey of Monmouth, 1927)The disappearance of the old stories from British consciousness is the subject of discussion elsewhere [see Romans in Britain]; Elizabeth O Gordon’s Prehistoric London, 1914, is a valuable source of information from a writer steeped in the ancient British histories, as is Celt, Druid and Culdee (1938; third edition, used here, published in 1947), by Isabel Hill Elder; also intriguing is L A Waddell’s The Phoenician Origin of the Britons, Scots and Anglo-Saxons, 1924, which is freighted with scholarship [see Laurence Austine Waddell]
'L A Waddell’s important contributions in The Phoenician Origin of the Britons, Scots and Anglo-Saxons ... the general thesis, with a mass of material, has not yet been sifted and digested, but it has the greatest historic value.' (Acton Griscom, The Historia Regum Britanniae of Geoffrey of Monmouth, 1927)
In an appendix Waddell provides a useful list of the ancient kings of Britain [see More 21]; Waddell wrote his book in the early 1920s, saying
'The arbitrary rejection of these traditional Ancient British Chronicles as a source of pre-Roman British History by modern writers since about a century ago is based upon a kind of objection and mere dogmatic assertion which, if applied to early Greek and Roman History and to the Old Testament tradition, would equally entail their total rejection also.' (L A Waddell, The Phoenician Origin of the Britons, Scots and Anglo-Saxons, 1924)
‘If Nennius had a native source, and Geoffrey claims to have had one also, and they both supply traditional stories and names not in Roman histories – each supplementing and adding to the other, why jump to the conclusion that they are both merely inventing, and that Britain is the only country known to us with an ancient civilization that did not have its traditional history?’ (Acton Griscom, The Historia Regum Britanniae of Geoffrey of Monmouth, 1927)
Accessible retellings of early British history are available in the form of Wm R Cooper’s After the Flood, 1995, and Mike Gascoigne’s Forgotten History of the Western People, 2002; welcome are modern authors who articulate audacious hypotheses and question accepted chronologies, as they send us scurrying back, in these days of internet access, to their sources, where these can be identified, to judge for ourselves; among these stimulating writers are Alan Wilson & Baram Blackett, guest authors of two articles on this website [More 2 & 3; see also Alan Wilson] and David Hughes, author of the impertinently titled The British Chronicles (2007); the former redate the Trojan War, traditionally dated at around 1200 BC, to 650 BC, while Hughes wrenchingly time-shifts the great lawmaker Dunvallo Molmutius from the 400s BC to the 400s AD, in his own imaginative synthesis; note that speculative theories from would-be rearrangers of history are identified as such on this website and no changes have been made to the chronology available from the ancient histories; note also that CVpedia notices are tightly referenced and rich in verbatim quotes; the intention is to let the sources speak for themselves and for you, the reader, to judge for yourself; Wilson & Blackett comb early manuscripts, such as Cathedral & Abbey Charters, the Lives of Saints (e.g. Harleian MSS 4181 & the British Museum Vespasian A XIV) and The Book of Llandaff (reprinted 1840), describing land charters relating to early kings in Glamorgan & Gwent; Wilson & Blackett claim that there are myriad Early Welsh, Irish-Scot and even Pict accounts surviving in their original languages and languishing mostly unregarded in British libraries – which, if true, is a stirring trumpet call to scholars, if every there was one; the translated version of the Tysilio Chronicle, Jesus College MS LXI, lacks its original opening [see More 18, Endnote 19, page 72]; 57 other manuscript copies of Welsh Chronicles have been listed as existing in British libraries (Wm R Cooper, After the Flood, 1995, Appendix 4); it is surely worth scholars checking these manuscripts, at least the eight in the 'Tysilio group', of which Jesus LXI is the oldest [Source: Acton Griscom], to see if any boasts the original starting material that was evidently unavailable even to Geoffrey of Monmouth in the compilation of his own work; prior to his withdrawal to Brittany, Prince Tysilio took refuge on Church Island in the Menai Strait on the shores of Anglesey, where there is a church dedicated to him to this day; he is also recalled in a celebrated local placename:
This, and the interest in Tysilio's missing preface, invites the question, "How far back did Tysilio go go go?"
The National CV Project is not an exercise in propaganda. It is evidence-based history. Yet there has to be admitted a current limitation. Consider the claim that Britain has the richest maritime history of any nation. Although this claim is certainly correct [see Islanders afloat], o nly the British aspect of the maritime claim is itemised in detail here on this website.
The National CV Project is not an exercise in propaganda. It is evidence-based history. Yet there has to be admitted a current limitation. Consider the claim that Britain has the richest maritime history of any nation. Although this claim is certainly correct [see Islanders afloat], o
nly the British aspect of the maritime claim is itemised in detail here on this website.
So while it can be asserted that the analysis has attempted to be scrupulous on all claims, the presentation of the evidence is island-orientated. Other nations are invited to provide National CVs and National CVpedias of their own.
So while it can be asserted that the analysis has attempted to be scrupulous on all claims, the presentation of the evidence is island-orientated. Other nations are invited to provide National CVs and National CVpedias of their own.
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