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National Library of Wales journal


Cyf. 20, rh. 3 Haf 1978

Sir John Wynn of Gwydir and John Speed : aspects of antiquarian activities /

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Gwydir.7 It is also possible that Christopher Saxton, who had been appointed to
map all the shires of Wales in 1576 and who was expected to obtain guidance and
assistance in travelling from the Welsh justices of the peace,8 may have come into
contact with Morus Wynn of Gwydir who was actively engaged in local govern-
ment at that time and who also functioned as custos rotulorum.9 When John
Wynn himself returned to Gwydir after having received his education at All Souls,
Oxford and Furnival's Inn, he doubtless had gathered together much information
about the antiquarian interests of his fellow-gentry and had acquainted himself
with their mode of writing.10 He had probably begun to write his chronicle
during the early years after he had inherited the Gwydir estate on his father's
death in 1580 and had added to it as convenience and opportunity allowed.11 His
visits to London and Caernarfon, which were more frequent in the early days
of his career than in his latter years, gave him the opportunity to collect what
manuscript material he regarded as relevant to uncover the details of his own
kindred, and his chronicle clearly reveals, frequently on his own admission, his
indebtedness to other antiquarians, copyists and scholars, both Welsh and English.
He was particularly indebted to Sir Thomas Wiliems, his kinsman from Trefriw
near Gwydir, who supplied him with his own copies of Welsh manuscripts,12
and he paid tribute to Richard Broughton, whom he regarded (in spite of his
reputed unreliability) as 'the chiefe antiquarye of England a man to whome his
country is most behouldinge preferringe nothinge more than the honor thereof
w'ch he most carefully raketh out of the ashes of oblivion in searchinge coatinge
and copyinge to his great chardge all the auncient rccordes he can come by'.13
He also praised the Denbighshire-born bard Sion Tudur 'one of our welshe
harraulds', on whom he probably relied for much of his genealogical material.14
Such references show above all else that Wynn was fully acquainted with
current trends in Welsh and English historical scholarship and that he was fully
prepared to adopt the accepted methods of approach to studies of the past.15
He intended to purchase William Camden's Britannia in 1607 together with a
copy of Sir Walter Raleigh's Chronicles,16 and in 1610 the London publisher,
Thomas Salisbury, sent him a copy of the latest edition of Camden's monumental
work.17 It is not surprising, therefore, that Sir John should have taken a keen
interest in all printed literature relating to British antiquities and it is probable,
in spite of the meagreness of the evidence, that he had purchased a copy of John
Speed's The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britain in its first edition in 1611.18 In
his massive compilation it was only natural that Speed should have relied heavily
on the material supplied to him by his fellow antiquarians and by local gentry of
repute, and amongst the Wynn papers there are two very interesting letters
written to Sir John, presumably by John Jones of Gellilyfdy and his brother
Thomas Jones, in 1621 and 1622 respectively letters which relate to the proposed
third edition of Speed's work. These letters seem to throw a clearer light on
Wynn's reputation as a squire-antiquarian and on his possible contribution to
Speed's new edition.
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