Since 1869, there have been four significant ‘accidental’ discoveries that have illuminated the Middle Cornish literary heritage. These findings have not only provided us with valuable insights into the Cornish language’s rich history but also ignited hope for more hidden treasures waiting to be unearthed. In this blog post, we’ll delve into these discoveries and the potential for future revelations in the realm of Cornish manuscripts.

Beunans Meriasek: A Complete Play

The first of these discoveries occurred with the unearthing of the entire play of Beunans Meriasek. Beunans Meriasek, also known as the Life of Saint Meriasek, is a medieval Cornish-language play that tells the story of the life and miracles of this Cornish saint. This invaluable find not only added to our understanding of Middle Cornish literature but also demonstrated the resilience of the language through the ages.

The Charter Fragment by Jenner

Another noteworthy discovery was the Charter Fragment, brought to light by an individual named Jenner. Although only a fragment, this document offered a glimpse into the legal and administrative aspects of Cornish society during its Middle Cornish period. The discovery emphasized the potential for hidden gems waiting to be found, even in the most unexpected places.

Bishop Bonner’s Book of Homilies

In 1949, an even more surprising discovery was made: a translation of Bishop Bonner’s book of Homilies, dating back to approximately 1560. This find highlighted the depth of Cornish literary culture during the 16th century and its connection to broader English religious and literary traditions. It also revealed that manuscripts might have been quietly waiting, overlooked in various libraries and collections.

Bewnans Ke: A Recent Revelation

Adding to this list of discoveries is the recently found manuscript, “Bewnans Ke.” This manuscript, which has emerged as a significant contribution to the Middle Cornish literary canon, provides insights into the life and deeds of a previously lesser-known Cornish figure. Its discovery has sparked fresh interest in the language and culture of Cornwall.

Hope for More Discoveries

The occurrence of these discoveries, despite the scarcity of Middle Cornish literature, instills hope that more treasures may yet be uncovered. It is entirely possible that other Cornish manuscripts are hidden away in various museums and libraries, either misclassified, as was the case with Beunans Meriasek, or simply overlooked, as with Bishop Bonner’s Homilies and “Bewnans Ke.”

A Rich Literary Tradition

References to various lost pieces of Cornish literature are scattered throughout historical records, as we will explore in subsequent chapters. These references provide further evidence that there is more to be discovered in the world of Cornish manuscripts. The establishment of the Institute of Cornish Studies has further bolstered this hope, as it serves as a beacon for researchers and enthusiasts alike, encouraging them to delve into the depths of history and language to unearth hidden gems.

In conclusion, the accidental discoveries of Middle Cornish literature have offered us a tantalizing glimpse into a rich and vibrant literary tradition that has survived the test of time. These finds inspire us to continue the quest for lost Cornish manuscripts, as they hold the potential to unveil even more treasures and provide a deeper understanding of Cornish culture and heritage. With the support of institutions like the Institute of Cornish Studies, the future looks promising for those who seek to rediscover and celebrate the Cornish language and its literary legacy.