Introduction to The Myvyrian Archaiology of Wales (extracts)
These books are venerable monuments of enlightened periods of literature amongst the Britons, while scenes of barbarity were acted over Europe, and darkened the light of our island: a literature whose origin was not borrowed, but matured at home, under that extraordinary system, the Bardic Institution; concerning which, under the name of Druidism, much has been written, much misunderstood, and of which the world yet knows but very little.
From a consciousness that time was rapidly diminishing the number of our most curious manuscripts, the conductors of the present undertaking were induced to take the necessary measures for preserving the contents of those remaining, by printing a few copies to supply the demand of the collectors of British History and Antiquities. Towards accomplishing such a design, they lately increased a collection, which they had been several years accumulating for themselves, by purchasing many manuscripts, and by procuring transcripts of others, and the editors made application also to gentlemen possessed of rich treasures of this kind, for the use of their writings. . .
These volumes will form a thesaurus of ancient British verse, through the space of about twelve hundred years; and they will display various characteristics, with respect of style and manner.
The first volume of Prose Archaiology is dedicated to history. It will embrace about the same extensive period as the first volume of poetry … Therein the reader may perceive, that the Welsh have some records of their origin, and of ancient events, the preservation of which must obtain to them fair cause of exultation, in the presence of the nations of Europe.
The succeeding volume of Prose contains monuments of various parts of learning and science: amongst other matters, maxims of social economy and morality; a splendid collection of proverbs; institutes of grammar and of poetry. These, as they become known, will shine unexpectedly and with brilliant lustre before the world.
'Introduction', The Myvyrian Archaiology of Wales (3 vols., London, 1801–7), tt. v–vi.)