The first printed Welsh book: Yny lhyvyr hwnn (1546)

In the middle of the fifteenth century Johannes Gutenberg (1397?-1468) invented a mechanical means of producing type rather than having to manually create every letter. This meant that it became possible to produce books for the first time in significant numbers. The Gutenberg Bible, which was printed in Mainz, Germany in about 1454-5, was the first major book to be published in the west using moveable type.

Nearly a century passed before the invention was used to print a Welsh-language book when Yny lhyvyr hwnn... by John Price of Brecon was published in 1546. It was printed in London by Edward Whitchurch who would later be responsible for printing the first Book of Common Prayer in 1549 during the reign of Edward VI.

John Price (ca.1502-55) was an aristocrat and an important civil servant. He served as secretary of the Council of Wales and the Marches and he was also one of the officers responsible for administrating the dissolution of the monasteries in the area. He was also a scholar who embraced the latest ideas relating to religion and learning: reform and humanism. It is also known that he was a collector of manuscripts on various subjects, including the history and literature of our country.

The content of Yny lhyvyr hwnn reflects the author's interest, especially his desire, arising from his belief in the need for reform in religion, to ensure that ordinary people learnt the basic tenets of the Christian faith. Of course, the ordinary people would need to learn to read first, so the book also contains the alphabet, instructions on how to read Welsh and to count, together with a calendar, the Apostles Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and various other Christian texts.

Further reading

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