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Ghostly Faces Discovered in The Black Book of Carmarthen

The Black Book of Carmarthen, believed to be the oldest medieval manuscript to be discovered, dating back from the year 1250, has revealed mysterious ghostly faces and a message within it. The book was written solely in Welsh, and includes many of Welsh legends. It contains passages allegedly referring to Arthur and Merlin. Now, researchers have found that it was still hiding secrets from us.

Black Book

The Black Book of Carmarthen written in Welsh

Researchers Myriah Williams and Professor Paul Russell from Cambridge’s Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic (ASNC), theorised that the book was owned by a man named Jaspar Gryffyth. According to them, Jaspar had deleted a number of verses, doodles and marginalia that were added to the manuscript throughout the years. Therefore, they determined to find out about what has been erased.

”It’s easy to think we know all we can know about a manuscript like the Black Book but to see these ghosts from the past brought back to life in front of our eyes has been incredibly exciting,” said Myriah Williams.

Ultraviolet light and photo editing software were used to reveal some of what had been erased of poetry. The following image illustrates the recovered writings once deleted, and the ghostly faces:-

images of Black Book
Modern technology uncovered the faces (bottom left).

Now, the texts can be found in pieces. The researchers believe that the poems would continue from one page to the next with a new poem starting at the foot of a page.

”The drawings and verse that we’re in the process of recovering demonstrate the value of giving these books another look,’ Williams said.

”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.”

They are of the opinion that research pertaining to the book must be continued.

”What we have discovered may only be the tip of the iceberg in terms of what can be discovered as imaging techniques are enhanced,’ said Russell.

”The manuscript is extremely valuable and incredibly important – yet there may still be so much we don’t know about it.”

The two professors were to give a lecture on their findings at The National Library of Wales this week.


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