Conservation work on two unique Cornish language manuscripts, held at the Cornwall Record Office in Truro, will secure them for the future.

The work on the documents, by antiquarians William Scawen and William Borlase, has been paid for by a grant from The National Manuscripts Conservation Trust.

Scawen’s manuscript, ‘Antiquities Cornubritannic’ (1688), contains a version of the Cornish language poem ‘Passio Christi’, as well as an examination of the contemporary decline of the Cornish language.

Professor Mark Stoyle from Southampton University, who has studied the manuscript in detail, described it as “the one surviving manuscript to give sustained expression to the subversive counter-tradition of early modern Cornwall.” Professor Stoyle said “I am delighted that these historically important and fragile documents will now be preserved in the best possible condition.”

Borlase’s equally fascinating ‘Memorandums of the Cornish Tongue’ (c1750) is an early example of a Cornish grammar and vocabulary study which resembles a Cornish dictionary but also contains notes on place names and translations.

The texts have never been published and their rarity means that they are key sources for people studying Cornish language, literature and the lives of the authors.

The conservation work will be carried out by PZ Conservation Community Interest Company, which has has recently received a generous Heritage Lottery Fund grant as part of their Skills for the Future programme. This will fund five internships in book conservation skills. Lizzie Neville, director of PZ Conservation, says: “HLF funding to support bursaries for internships means we can help kick start for free, conservation projects for local heritage organisations with books and archives in their collections.”

The work will be completed during 2013 after which the manuscripts will be accessible to the public at the Cornwall Record Office.