Oxford, Balliol College, MS 260
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Davies, Ceri, John Prise. Historiae Britannicae defensio: A defence of the British history, Studies and Texts, 195, Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 2015. liv + 336 pp.  
Edition, with facing English translation, introduction and notes.
Sir John Prise (1501/2–1555), of Brecon, was an influential lawyer and administrator during the reigns of King Henry VIII, King Edward VI and Queen Mary I. In the 1530s he was brought under the aegis of Thomas Cromwell, to whose family he became connected by marriage, and was appointed visitor and commissioner for the dissolution of monasteries in England and Wales. The experience made him acutely aware of the wealth of manuscripts contained in these religious houses, and alone among the commissioners he set about saving material from their libraries.

In 1540 he was appointed secretary of the Council in the Marches of Wales and made his home in Hereford, in the dissolved Benedictine Priory of St Guthlac. This remained his base for the last fifteen years of his life, a time in which he combined public duty with a deep commitment to literary and scholarly pursuits. In 1546 he was responsible for the printing of Yny lhyvyr hwnn, the earliest printed book in the Welsh language. His greatest work, however, is his Latin book, Historiae Britannicae Defensio, an early draft of which was written by 1545. In it Prise addresses the criticisms directed against Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae and the tradition of the British History based on it, especially by the Italian historian Polydore Vergil in Anglica Historia (first edition 1534). Until nearly the end of his life Prise continued modifying and expanding his text. It is notable not only for its author’s knowledge of British antiquity, founded on years of study of manuscript and other sources including – most importantly for Prise – material in Welsh, but also for the range of its learning, its lucid Latinity and the forensic quality of its argumentation.

The present work puts John Prise's Historiae Britannicae Defensio into print for the first time since the edition whose publication in 1573 was seen to by the author's son, Richard Prise. The 1573 printing forms the copy-text, critically edited in the light of the one surviving manuscript (Oxford, Balliol College, MS 260) of a version which is very close to it. The facing English translation is the first published translation of the Defensio. The work is furnished with an extensive introduction and elucidatory notes.

Results for Oxford (225)

Two folios (foliated 124 and 127) that were originally part of Rawlinson B 512, where they were two of the leaves to have stood between what is now ff. 6 and 7. The fragments contain a part of the Tripartite Life of St. Patrick.

  • s. xv/xvi
Not yet published.

Oxford almanac for 1703, to which Edward Lhuyd has added an Irish grammar, a prosody in Irish and Latin and a few minor items, probably during his tour through Ireland.

  • 1703
  • Edward Lhuyd

Two leaves, now in Dublin, Trinity College, MS 1436, which formerly belonged to the Book of the White Earl (see Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Laud Misc. 610, ff. 59–72 + 123–146). It contains a part of the Dinnshenchas Érenn, covering ten places in Ireland.

  • 1453 x 1454

A paper manuscript containing copies of 33 saints’ Lives from the Codex Insulensis. It was written in 1627 by John Goolde, guardian of the Franciscan friary in Cashel, whose exemplar is thought to have been Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Rawlinson 505 (itself a copy from Rawl. 485). The copy was intended for John Colgan and his Franciscan associates.

  • 1627
  • John Goolde [friar and scribe]
Not yet published.

A purely hypothetical ‘very ancient book in the British language’ (quendam Brittanici sermonis librum uetustissimum) containing a history of the deeds of the kings of Britain, from Brutus to Cadwalladr, which Geoffrey of Monmouth alleges to have rendered into Latin when writing his Historia regum Britanniae, a work known for its audacious originality. Geoffrey mentions it in the preface to this work, where he claims to have received the book from Walter, archdeacon of Oxford. Whatever his source material may have been, or Walter’s role in supplying it, the claim that so much of this was written in the vernacular and contained in a single volume (implicitly, to which few would have access) is commonly regarded as a spurious appeal to authority.

13th-century English manuscript containing Latin Lives of St Martin (by Sulpicius Severus), St Nicholas of Myra (by John the Deacon), St Edmund of Canterbury and St Margaret, De inventione sanctae Crucis, and Lives St Agatha, St Brendan (Navigatio) and St Brigit (by Lawrence of Durham).

  • s. xiii2
  • Oxford, Balliol College, MS 229
  • Oxford, Balliol College, MS 260