"12(ff.1-12)+212(ff.13-24)+312(ff.25-36)+4²(ff.37-38)+5²(f.39+no.2cancelled)+6²(ff.40-41)+712(ff.42-53)+812(ff.54-65)+912(ff.66-77)+1012(ff.78-89)+1112(ff.90-101)+1212(ff.102-113)+1312(ff.114-125)+1412(ff.126-137)+1512(ff.138-146+threeblankfolia,unfoliated)+1612(ff.147-158)+1710(ff.159-168)+186(ff.169-173+no.6cancelled)+1912(ff.174-185)+2010(ff.186-195)+216(ff.196-198,nos4-6cancelled)+228(ff.199-200,no.3cancelled,f.201,no.5cancelled,ff.202-204)+238(ff.205-212)+248(ff.213-220)+258(ff.221-228)+268(ff.229-236)+278(ff.237-244)+288(ff.245-252)+2910(ff.253-262)+3010(ff.263-272)+3114(f.273,no.2cancelled,ff.274-285)+3212(ff.286-297)+3312(ff.298-309)+3412(ff.310-321)+3512(ff.322-333)+3612(ff.334-345)+3712(ff.346-357)+388(ff.358-365)" can not be assigned to a declared number type with value 1.


London, British Library, MS Harley 3859

  • Latin
  • s. xiex/xiiin
  • Non-Celtic manuscripts
  • vellum

Miscellany of late antique and early medieval Latin texts. It contains the earliest extant copy of the Historia Brittonum together with a text of the Annales Cambriae and a set of Welsh genealogies, which were both interpolated into the Historia after the section occasionally referred to as the ‘northern history’. A text of possible Irish interest is that of the Cosmographia of Aethicus Ister.

Collection: Harley manuscripts
Harley 3859
histories late antique literature Welsh Latin literature and learning
Provenance and related aspects
s. xiex/xiiin
c. 1100 x 1130
Hands, scribes
This overview follows that of Ben Guy in his monograph Medieval Welsh genealogy (2020).
Hands indexed:
Hand A (main scribe)

The main hand responsible for the greater part of the manuscript.

Hand A2 (ff. 147r–168v)

The hand responsible for copying Book 7 of the Saturnalia on ff. 147r–168v. It is quite similar to hand A, if smaller in script, and probably contemporary with it. The hand may be that of an assistant hand, or belong to the same scribe, who simply completed his work at a larger stage. The hand is attributed to a different scribe in the online catalogue of the British Library, while Guy (2020) seems to prefer the latter possibility.

Hand B (ff. 39-41) Hand responsible for the diagrams on ff. 39-41.
Hand C (ff. 169v-173r)

Hand responsible for Invectiva in Ciceronem on ff. 169v-173r.

Hand D (ff. 174-197)

Hand responsible for Historia Brittonum and other texts of Welsh interest on ff. ff. 174-197.

Specimens (IIIF):
International Image Interoperability Framework logo.png
Hand E (f. 198r) Additional hand.
Hand F (ff. 253-285)

Hand responsible for the Cosmoographia of Aethicus Ister on ff. 253-285.

Codicological information
112 (ff. 1-12) + 212 (ff. 13-24) + 312 (ff. 25-36) + 42 (ff. 37-38) + 52 (f. 39 + no. 2 cancelled) + 62 (ff. 40-41) + 712 (ff. 42-53) + 812 (ff. 54-65) + 912 (ff. 66-77) + 1012 (ff. 78-89) + 1112 (ff. 90-101) + 1212 (ff. 102-113) + 1312 (ff. 114-125) + 1412 (ff. 126-137) + 1512 (ff. 138-146 + three blank folia, unfoliated) + 1612 (ff. 147-158) + 1710 (ff. 159-168) + 186 (ff. 169-173 + no. 6 cancelled) + 1912 (ff. 174-185) + 2010 (ff. 186-195) + 216 (ff. 196-198, nos 4-6 cancelled) + 228 (ff. 199-200, no. 3 cancelled, f. 201, no. 5 cancelled, ff. 202-204) + 238 (ff. 205-212) + 248 (ff. 213-220) + 258 (ff. 221-228) + 268 (ff. 229-236) + 278 (ff. 237-244) + 288 (ff. 245-252) + 2910 (ff. 253-262) + 3010 (ff. 263-272) + 3114 (f. 273, no. 2 cancelled, ff. 274-285) + 3212 (ff. 286-297) + 3312 (ff. 298-309) + 3412 (ff. 310-321) + 3512 (ff. 322-333) + 3612 (ff. 334-345) + 3712 (ff. 346-357) + 388 (ff. 358-365) = 376 (total)
Collation formula taken from Ben Guy (2020).
Table of contents

Links to texts use a standardised title for the catalogue and so may or may not reflect what is in the manuscript itself, hence the square brackets. Their appearance comes in three basic varieties, which are signalled through colour coding and the use of icons, , and :

  1. - If a catalogue entry is both available and accessible, a direct link will be made. Such links are blue-ish green and marked by a bookmark icon.
  2. - When a catalogue entry does not exist yet, a desert brown link with a different icon will take you to a page on which relevant information is aggregated, such as relevant publications and other manuscript witnesses if available.
  3. - When a text has been ‘captured’, that is, a catalogue entry exists but is still awaiting publication, the same behaviour applies and a crossed eye icon is added.

The above method of differentiating between links has not been applied yet to texts or citations from texts which are included in the context of other texts, commonly verses.


While it is not a reality yet, CODECS seeks consistency in formatting references to locations of texts and other items of interest in manuscripts. Our preferences may be best explained with some examples:

  • f. 23ra.34: meaning folio 23 recto, first column, line 34
  • f. 96vb.m: meaning folio 96, verso, second column, middle of the page (s = top, m = middle, i = bottom)
    • Note that marg. = marginalia, while m = middle.
  • p. 67b.23: meaning page 67, second column, line 23
The list below has been collated from the table of contents, if available on this page,Progress in this area is being made piecemeal. Full and partial tables of contents are available for a small number of manuscripts. and incoming annotations for individual texts (again, if available).Whenever catalogue entries about texts are annotated with information about particular manuscript witnesses, these manuscripts can be queried for the texts that are linked to them.


Primary sources This section typically includes references to diplomatic editions, facsimiles and photographic reproductions, notably digital image archives, of at least a major portion of the manuscript. For editions of individual texts, see their separate entries.

[dig. img.] British Library: digitised manuscripts, Online: British Library. URL: <http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts>.
[ed.] Faral, Edmond, La légende arthurienne: études et documents, 3 vols, vol. 3: Documents, Paris: Champion, 1929.
4–62 Edition of the HB, AC and the genealogies

Secondary sources (select)

Guy, Ben, “[2] The earliest Welsh genealogical collections: the St Davids recension and the Gwynedd collection of genealogies”, in: Ben Guy, Medieval Welsh genealogy: an introduction and textual study, 42, Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell & Brewer, 2020. 51–100.  
Incl. The Harleian genealogies (p. 53) -- The St Davids recension in Llancarfan (p. 79).
Guy, Ben, “The origins of the compilation of Welsh historical texts in Harley 3859”, Studia Celtica 49 (2015): 21–56.
Guy, Ben, “A second witness to the Welsh material in Harley 3859”, Quaestio Insularis 15 (2014): 72–91.
DigiPal: Digital Resource and Database of Palaeography, Manuscript Studies and Diplomatic, Online: King's College, London, 2011–present. URL: <http://www.digipal.eu/>. 
[...] a resource developed at the Department of Digital Humanities at King's College London. Funded by the European Research Council (ERC) as part of the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) under grant agreement n° 263751, the project aims to bring new methods in Digital Humanities to the study of medieval handwriting in its diplomatic and manuscript context by combining digital catalogues, descriptions of handwriting, and images of documents and their constituent letter-forms.

The project aims to bring digital technology to bear on scholarly discussion in new and innovative ways. It combines digital photographs of medieval handwriting with detailed descriptions and characterisations of the writing, as well as the text in which it is found, and the content and structure of the manuscript or document as a whole. It incorporates different ways of exploring and manipulating the information, such as annotated images, along with well as more conventional text-based browse and search. It therefore allows scholars to apply new developments in palaeographical method which have been discussed in theory but which have proven difficult or impossible to implement in practice.
Hughes, Kathleen, Celtic Britain in the early Middle Ages: studies in Scottish and Welsh sources, ed. David N. Dumville, Studies in Celtic History, 2, Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1980.  
Papers revised or previously unpublished
Reeve, Michael D., “The transmission of Vegetius’s Epitoma rei militaris”, Ævum 74:1 (Gennaio-Aprile, 2000): 243–354.
Dumville, David N., Annales Cambriae, A.D. 682-954: texts A-C in parallel, Cambridge: Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, University of Cambridge, 2002. pp. v-xix + 1-24.
Gneuss, Helmut, Handlist of Anglo-Saxon manuscripts: a list of manuscripts and manuscript fragments written or owned in England up to 1100, Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 241, Tempe, Arizona: Arizona Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2001.
[id. 439.]
Reeve, Michael D., “Two manuscripts at the Escorial”, in: Actas del VIII Congreso Español de Estudios Clásicos, 3 vols, Madrid: Ediciones Clásicas, 1994. Vol. 2: 829–839.
Morris, John [ed. and tr.], Nennius. British history and the Welsh annals, History from the Sources: Arthurian Period Sources, 8, London: Phillimore, 1980.
C. A., Dennis Groenewegen
Page created
March 2014, last updated: August 2023