Ancient book of Arthurian stories

Ultraviolet light reveals hidden text in ancient book of Arthurian stories

(Read the article on one page)

Scholars in Wales have discovered that parts of one of the most important books in Welsh history was erased and some of the texts on its animal-skin pages overwritten. The book is titled The Black Book of Camarthen and includes Arthurian stories, Christian prayers and poetry.

A page from the Black Book of Camarthen

A page from the Black Book of Camarthen (National Library of Wales photo)

In passages that were not erased, Merlin, Arthur, Cuchulainn, Uther Pendragon, the hero Gereint, the poet Taliesin, Cyridwen, Fairy King Gwyn ap Nudd and other figures of Dark Ages legend, myth and tall tale make appearances in the 750-year-old, 54-page book. It is the oldest known surviving book entirely in the Welsh language and has some of the earliest references to Myrddin (Merlin) and Arthur.

In Henry Gilbert’s King Arthur’s Knights: The Tales Retold for Boys and Girls, Arthur and Merlin appeal to the Lady of the Lake.

In Henry Gilbert’s King Arthur’s Knights: The Tales Retold for Boys and Girls, Arthur and Merlin appeal to the Lady of the Lake. ( Wikimedia Commons )

The verse portrays Arthur and Myrddin (Merlin) before they were king and wise counselor to kings, respectively. In one poem, Arthur is a supplicant to enter the court of a king. Myrddin is a wild man driven mad in battle and extolling the virtues of trees.


Professor Paul Russell and Myriah Williams of the Cambridge Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic told Past Horizons that a man who owned the book in the 16 th century, probably Jaspar Gryffyth, erased verse, doodles and marginalia that had been added to the manuscript over the centuries as it changed hands.

Using photo-editing software and ultraviolet light to examine the vellum pages, the scholars revealed poetry that is unknown in the Welsh canon. The poems are fragmentary, but they hope with further analysis they can read the text, which they think is the ending of a poem on a preceding page and a new poem at the bottom of the page.

Past Horizons quotes Williams as saying:

The margins of manuscripts often contain medieval and early modern reactions to the text, and these can cast light on what our ancestors thought about what they were reading. The Black Book was particularly heavily annotated before the end of the 16th century, and the recovery of erasure has much to tell us about what was already there and can change our understanding of it .


In text that was not erased, the Black Book contains the oldest known poem about Arthur. He seems to be the leader of a band of warriors seeking entrance to the court of a king. He tries to persuade a king to allow him to enter by extolling the virtues of his heroes:

Arthur distributed gifts,
The blood trickled down.
In the hail of Awarnach,
Fighting with a hag,
He cleft the head of Paiach.
In the fastnesses of Dissethach,
In Mynyd Eiddyn,
He contended with Cynvyn;
By the hundred there they fell,
There they fell by the hundred,
Before the accomplished Bedwyr.
On the strands of Trywruid,
Contending with Garwlwyd,
Brave was his disposition,
With sword and shield;
Vanity were the foremost men
Compared with Cai in the battle.
The sword in the battle
Was unerring in his hand.
They were stanch commanders
Of a legion for the benefit of the country- Bedwyr and Bridlaw;
Nine hundred would to them listen;
Six hundred gasping for breath
Would be the cost of attacking them.
Servants I have had,
Better it was when they were.

This is a translation of Old Welsh into modern English. The book can be read, except for a few chapters, at the Celtic Literature Collective . “Currently housed at the National Library in Wales, the Black Book of Carmarthen (Peniarth MS 1) is a manuscript dating to the middle of the thirteenth century. It is believed to have been the work of a single scribe at the Priory of St. John in Carmarthen,” says the Celtic Literature Collective introduction to the book.

The most treasured book in Welsh history

The most treasured book in Welsh history (National Library of Wales image)

In the prayer “ A Skillful Composition ,” the writer expresses how impossible it is to convey in language the power of God. An excerpt:

A skillful composition, the pattern being from God, 
A composition, the language, beautiful and pleasant, from Christ.
And should there be a language all complete around the sun,
On as many pivots as there are under the seat,
On as many winged ones as the Almighty made,
And should every one have thrice three hundred tongues,
They could not relate the power of the Trinity.


Alan Wilson and Baram Blackett may be interested in this as they have written some interesting books on King Arthur (there were two actually). Ancient British/Welsh history seems to have been re written by the Saxons to obscure many facts

All this stuff just fascinates me..i am very interested.. Thank you very much for sharing...

Does it say anything on how to summon Arturia?

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Human Origins

Silhouettes (Public Domain) in front of blood cells (Public Domain) and a gene.
Most people who have the Rh blood type are Rh-positive. There are also instances, however, where people are Rh-Negative. Health problems may occur for the unborn child of a mother with Rh-Negative blood when the baby is Rh-Positive.

Ancient Technology

The Lycurgus Cup.
A strange chalice made its way into the British Museum’s collection in the 1950s. It is a 1,600-year-old jade green Roman artifact called the Lycurgus Cup. The image on the chalice is an iconic scene with King Lycurgus of Thrace...

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article