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The Wonders of Britain, in a Volume of Annals and Histories

The Wonders of Britain, in a Volume of Annals and Histories

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1105

Shelfmark: Harley MS 3859

Item number: f.195v

Length: 26

Width: 15

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

Although often attributed to a certain 'Nennius', the 'Historia Britonum' ('British History') is not the work of a single author but a compilation which grew by accretion--one series of legends after another added to the original core--and was repeatedly rewritten over several centuries. Modelled after Irish chronologies and containing much fabled material, it offered the only history of Wales in early medieval times. It was attributed to both Nennius and Gildas to give it intellectual authority. Geoffrey of Monmouth drew upon it for his 'History of the British Kings' because it preserved ancient stories and legends of the British. Also, it contains the earliest mention of the name Arthur in its stories of an early British king. This manuscript is the most complete copy. Additions to the core of fables and legends, 'The Cities of Britain' and 'The Wonders of Britain' tie the stories to geography, although few actual geographic features can be recognised in 'The Wonders.' The end of the 'Cities' appears on this page, beginning with Leicester and ending with Wall-by-Lichfield. 'The Wonders of Britain' follows with blurbs on marvels such as Loch Leven (first) where sixty islands, rivers and rocks are home to men and eagles. Also mentioned are the Baths of Badon in Hwicce, the 'Two Kings of the Severn', two waves in the Severn estuary which battle each other everlastingly, and the mouth of the Llyn Liwan.

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