The Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion

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home > Transactions > Volume 22 - 2016 > Family, Feud, and Fertility at Manorbier Castle, Pembs., 1200–1400

Family, Feud, and Fertility at Manorbier Castle, Pembs., 1200–1400

This article explores the links between a significantly understudied early fourteenth- century manuscript miscellany housed in Trinity College Library in Cambridge (CTC MS O.2.5 (1109)), the family of Gerald of Wales (d. 1223) and the medieval castle of Manorbier in Pembrokeshire, where Gerald was born in 1146. It argues that the manuscript was produced by and for members of the de Barri family, and that the compilation, described as a ‘mathematical miscellany’ in James’s catalogue,1 in fact contains a rich selection of medical and other texts, with material added by a later hand, that provides new insights into the troubled history of the castle and its owners between 1200 and 1500.2 Specifically, the article places manuscript and the physical remains of the castle, with a hitherto unrecognised garden space, in dialogue with Gerald’s eulogy of Manorbier and the later history of his family. We suggest that CTC O.2.5 was owned by the family over generations, and may have helped it to address a deepening succession crisis that manifested itself in a bitter dispute over the castle and its estates. By bringing together history, palaeography and archaeology, we contend that Manorbier castle and CTC O.2.5 can be read together as linked elements in the family’s story in this period. Whilst what follows must ultimately remain speculative, the case study of CTC O.2.5 is suggestive of the ways in which codicological studies might move away from a focus on medieval libraries and collections of books to incorporate more frequently studies of single books and their putative environments.

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