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This report is taken from PN Review 239, Volume 44 Number 3, January - February 2018.

Letter from Wales Sam Adams
So precipitate was the cavalry charge of the eager to view Stephen Hawking’s PhD thesis that the website of Cambridge University crashed. What the majority of those who clicked in good time made of it is anyone’s guess. A fortnight earlier, the digitised version of another document, as epoch-making in its own way, was made available by the National Library of Wales: William Salesbury’s translation of the New Testament into Welsh. It was launched with a subdued fanfare to celebrate the four-hundred and fiftieth anniversary of its publication, on 7 October 1567. Notwithstanding the distance in time, those who can read Welsh have a better chance of understanding the text than most who struggled to cope with Hawking’s opus – once they have come to terms with the obscurity of the Black Letter font.

Salesbury was born in Llansannan, Denbighshire, sometime before 1520. Although it is only eight miles south of Abergele on the heavily anglicised north-east Wales coastal strip, his home village is still substantially Welsh-speaking. It is in a precious rural area on the banks of the river Aled, a tributary of the Elwy, which is far better known thanks to Gerard Manley Hopkins. The English origins of the Salesbury family name must have been long forgotten by the sixteenth century, for William, second son of Ffwg and Annes Salesbury, was securely Welsh in language and allegiance. Of his education we know nothing with certainty, except that he studied at Oxford and gained some knowledge of law at one of London’s Inns of ...

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