Cambriae Typus

Humphrey Llwyd the man who put Wales on the map.

By The National Library of Wales

Humphrey Lhuyd (1591) by Masters of the Countess of WarwickThe National Library of Wales

Humphrey Llwyd (1527-1568)

Humphrey Llwyd, an antiquary and mapmaker born in Denbigh, is thought of by many as the Inventor of Britain, having been credited with inventing the term British Empire, but he was also the man who put Wales on the map by producing the first published map of Wales.

As a leading member of the Renaissance period in Wales, Llwyd’s achievements are numerous and he played a major part in creating the concept of Wales as a nation.  Llwyd played an important role in ensuring the Welsh language and Welsh traditions could survive.

Letter to Abraham Ortelius (NLW MS 13187E) (1568) by Humphrey Llwyd (1527-1568)The National Library of Wales

Llwyd died at his home in Denbighshire in 1568. On his deathbed he sent several copies of his map of Wales and writings to his companion Abraham Ortelius in the Netherlands ensuring that his contribution to Welsh history and culture was recognised and celebrated.

f.104 v. Brut y Brenhinedd (History of the Kings) (circa 1500)The National Library of Wales

Historian of Wales

Llwyd was deeply interested in the Welsh past. His history of Wales, written in English but known by the Latin title Cronica Walliae ('The Chronicle of Wales'), was finished in 1559.

It focused on the Welsh kings and princes from Cadwaladr the Blessed in the late seventh century to Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, the last independent Welsh ruler.

The Historie of Cambria, now called Wales (1584) by David Powel (1552?-1598)The National Library of Wales

Although Llwyd relied heavily on medieval sources in Latin and Welsh, he broke new ground by adapting these to create a continuous history of medieval Wales.

His work remained influential long after his lifetime thanks to its publication, in a revised and expanded form, by David Powel as The Historie of Cambria, now called Wales, in 1584.

f.10r Brut y Brenhinedd (History of the Kings) (1485/1515)The National Library of Wales

Llwyd and the Legends of Wales

According to the medieval historian Geoffrey of Monmouth, Britain had been founded by a Trojan exile named Brutus, who gave his name to the island. This historical legend became a cornerstone of Welsh understandings of the past.

Llwyd was one of several Welsh Renaissance scholars who defended the story of Brutus. For Llwyd, this was a matter of particular importance, as he believed that the Welsh were the 'genuine Britons' who had the unique honour of being directly descended from the Trojans.

An enquiry into the truth of the tradition concerning the Discovery of America, by Prince Madog ab Owen Gwynedd (1791) by John Williams (1727-1798)The National Library of Wales

Llwyd also claimed another distinction for the Welsh: the discovery of America. In his history of medieval Wales, Llwyd told how Prince Madog had sailed to Florida in the 12th century to escape feuding among his brothers after the death of their father Owain Gwynedd.

Madog had therefore reached America long before Columbus, giving the Britons of Elizabeth I's day a better claim to North America than the Spanish.

Humphrey Lhuyd (1591) by Masters of the Countess of WarwickThe National Library of Wales

Humphrey Llwyd, Cartographer

The sixteenth century was a time of great innovation in maps. Humphrey Llwyd contributed to this in creating two new maps of Wales. Llwyd's maps were first printed five years after his death, in 1573, by Abraham Ortelius in an atlas known by its Latin title, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, literally "Theatre of the World". In this atlas, one of Llwyd's two maps covers only Wales, while the second shows both Wales and England.

Cambriae Typus (1573) by Humphrey Llwyd (1527-1568)The National Library of Wales

Llwyd's maps offer two rather different versions of Wales. On one map, known by the title Cambriae Typus ('ideal image of Wales'). Llwyd emphasises the country's ancient roots, and the place-names on the map are given in Welsh, English and Latin.

Angliae Regni Florentissimi Nova Descriptio (Map of England and Wales) (1573) by Humphrey Llwyd (1527-1568)The National Library of Wales

On Llwyd's second map, labelled Angliae regni florentissimi nova descriptio ('new map of the flourishing kingdom of England'), no boundary separates the two countries, as if the two have become one.

Black Book of Carmarthen (f. 4 r.) (1225/1275)The National Library of Wales

The Languages of Wales

With the Laws in Wales Acts of 1535 and 1542, English became a requirement for appointment to any public office in Wales. Many of the Welsh nobility began to prefer English to Welsh, and left Wales to seek advancement in England.

Welsh humanist scholars such as Humphrey Llwyd saw this as a  danger to cultural life of Wales. They tried in various ways to promote the use of Welsh, hoping it would become one of the languages of Renaissance Europe.

'Yny lhyvyr hwnn' (‘In this book’) (1546) by Sir John Price (1502?-1555)The National Library of Wales

While their efforts were not completely succesful, they raised awareness of Wales and the Welsh across Europe, and helped ensure the survival of the language at home.

Hump. Lloyd (Humphrey Llwyd) (1790)The National Library of Wales

The Translation of the Bible into Welsh

One of the aims of the Protestant Reformation was that people should be able to read the Bible in their own language. In 1563, an Act for the Translation of the Scriptures and the Book of Common Prayer into Welsh came before Parliament.

It is said that Humphrey Llwyd steered it through the House of Commons.

William Salesbury's New Testament (1567) by Willam Salesbury (1520?-1600?)The National Library of Wales

This Act led to the publication in 1567 of William Salesbury's translation of both the Book of Common Prayer and the New Testament.

The Welsh Bible (1588) by William Morgan (1545-1604)The National Library of Wales

This was followed by William Morgan's complete translation of the Bible in 1588, a work which was revised in 1620 by Bishop Richard Parry with the help of Dr John Davies of Mallwyd.

Bishop W. Morgan (1907) by Thomas Prytherch, (1864-1926)The National Library of Wales

These translations drew on the traditional language of the poets in ways that were both innovative and creative; they set a standard and provided a pattern for Welsh prose writing which sustained religious and literary life in Wales for centuries to come.

Dosparth Byrr (The first published Welsh Grammar) (1567) by Gruffydd Robert (ca.1522- ca. 1610)The National Library of Wales

Wales, Europe, and the World of International Learning

In the 16th century scholars from Wales travelled widely in Europe, exchanging ideas with their continental counterparts. Gruffydd Robert, who lived in Milan, produced a grammar of Welsh. Siôn Dafydd Rhys of Anglesey published a book describing how Italian was spoken in Tuscany.

Abraham Ortelius (1584)The National Library of Wales

Humphrey Llwyd also travelled to Italy and in northern Europe, where he met Dutch map-maker Abraham Ortelius. In 1568, shortly before his death, Llwyd sent Ortelius 2 maps, which were printed in 1573, and an unfinished Latin book describing the history and geography of Britain.

Thanks to Ortelius, the book was printed in Cologne in 1572. A year later it was translated into English as the Breviary of Britain, and went on to influence many English scholars and poets.

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