William Jordan, a Cornish dramatist, lived in Helston, Cornwall, during the early 17th century. He is believed to be the author of the mystery or sacred drama titled ‘Gwreans an Bys, the Creation of the World.’ This notable work provides a fascinating glimpse into the literary heritage of Cornwall during this period.

The Manuscripts

  • The oldest surviving manuscript of ‘Gwreans an Bys’ is held in the Bodleian Library (N. 219) in a small folio format. A later copy of this manuscript also exists.

  • Another copy of the play can be found in the British Museum (Harl. 1867). John Keigwin created a translation of the play that accompanies this manuscript.

  • A fourth manuscript was known to be in the possession of John Camden Hotten.

  • The Marquis of Bute owns a fifth copy, which might be the same as the fourth.

  • A sixth manuscript was once owned by W.C. Borlase.

Editions and Publications

  • In 1827, Davies Gilbert inaccurately edited ‘The Creation of the World’ along with John Keigwin’s translation.

  • In 1863, Mr. Whitley Stokes published an edition of the play in the ‘Transactions’ of the Philological Society. This edition included a new transcript of the Bodleian MS. N. 219, an original translation, and extensive notes.

Authorship Confirmation

William Jordan’s name appears at the end of the Bodleian manuscript, strongly suggesting that he was the author of ‘Gwreans an Bys.’ While the drama is partially inspired by the Middle-Cornish drama ‘Origo Mundi,’ Jordan’s work also contains original elements.

Interestingly, there is a modern Breton play on the same subject, which can be found in the ‘Revue Celtique.’

William Jordan’s contribution to Cornish literature through ‘Gwreans an Bys’ remains a significant testament to the cultural and literary heritage of Cornwall during the 17th century.