THE BLACK BOOK OF CHIRK AND THE ORTHOGRAPHIA GALLICA ANGLICANA THE CHRONOLOGY OF THE BLACK BOOK OF CHIRK ON THE BASIS OF ITS OLD FRENCH GRAPHICAL PHENOMENA THE Black Book of Chirk, the earliest form extant of the Welsh language version of the Welsh Laws is beyond a doubt whatsoever a reproduction. The Welsh Laws in their pristine form go back far beyond the reputedly oldest exemplar of continuous Welsh prose. The syntax of the manuscript has been termed above reproach but its orthography, quite unlike anything transmitted to us by any contem- poraneous script, has been a perplexity to generations of Welsh scholars and many have racked their brains attempting to ascertain its raison d'itre. Timothy Lewis, the compiler of the codex vocabulary, A Glossary of Mediaeval Welsh Law, was at a loss to conceive an hypothesis to account for its disconcerting spelling. (Manchester University Press, 1913). To Dr. Gwenogvryn Evans, who published a facsimile of the work, its orthography was 'a notable exception to all rules' (The White Book Mabinogion, XII, note). Sir John Morris-Jones described its graphies as 'peculiar' ('Taliesin', The Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion, XXVIII, 46). All three scholars, I need hardly say, regarded the manuscript from the standpoint of the Welsh language and from that angle, we must confess, it is unique in the catalogue of Welsh Mediaeval manuscripts that are still extant. The glaring variety of its symbols were presumed in the Ancient Laws and Institutes of Wales by Aneurin Owen to have been the handiwork of a monk who was not so skilful in Welsh as in other languages, but Timothy Lewis' verdict that it has 'a faultless syntax' appears to put the foreigner out of court and to conjure up problems which make it hard to propound a theory for its seemingly random orthography. Nevertheless, it would be desirable to arrive at some decision respecting the nationality of the scribe whose unusual orthography has been the subject of so much speculation. The possession on his part of a faultless Welsh syntax is not necessarily incompatible with his being a foreigner. I know several foreigners who could pass muster as native Welshmen. If this is possible nowadays, it was certainly within the bounds of possibility in the relatively calm time of the transcription of the Chirk codex. A perfect Welsh syntax is, therefore, attainable by any outsider who is sufficiently gifted linguistically and industrious enough to pay the price for it. We might conclude then that our scribe could well
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