Cwrtmawr manuscripts

Cwrtmawr, Llangeitho, c. 1885; photograph by John Thomas

The Cwrtmawr Manuscripts are a collection of 1,549 volumes of medieval Welsh documents, mainly texts of Welsh literature, collected by John Humphreys Davies, who lived at Cwrtmawr near Llangeitho in Ceredigion and was principal of the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth from 1919-1926. The manuscripts are now kept in the National Library of Wales.


John Humphreys Davies was a bibliographer whose interest in Welsh literature and culture manifested in the collection of manuscripts that he acquired from many different sources over a period of many years.[1] In his Report on Manuscripts in the Welsh Language for the Historical Manuscripts Commission, J. Gwenogvryn Evans gave credit to Davies for rediscovering manuscripts that were considered to be lost and drawing attention to other, previously unknown manuscripts. Evans also stated that despite being too modern to fall within the scope of his Report, the collection of Welsh Ballads in Cwrtmawr manuscripts are "very valuable".[2] In 1925, Davies transferred the fifty manuscripts that Evans had catalogued (i.e. Cwrtmawr 1-50) to the National Library of Wales. He bequeathed the entire collection to the National Library when he died on 10 August 1926.[3]


A greater proportion of the Cwrtmawr manuscripts are from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries but there is, nonetheless, also a reasonable number of sixteenth and seventeenth century manuscripts. The collection is predominantly of Welsh literary interest and contains a variety of different material including: religious works such as sermons and hymns, volumes of annotated press cuttings, holograph letters, diaries and journals, account books, pedigrees, commonplace books, recipes, dictionaries, music, and notes on philology and bibliography.[3]

Incorporated groupsEdit

John Humphreys Davies acquired the Cwrtmawr manuscripts over a long period of time and from many sources. The largest group is the manuscripts that Davies acquired from John Jones (Myrddin Fardd) on various occasions. Other substantial groups are from the collections of: the Richards family, Revs. Peter Bailey Williams and St George Armstrong Williams, William John Roberts (Gwilym Cowlyd), and Rev. Daniel Silvan Evans.[3]

In addition to the major groups there are a number of important smaller groups. The collection contains a number of manuscripts relating to each of the following persons: manuscript transcriber Margaret Davies (c. 1700-85); Morris Davies (1796-1876), author, hymnologist, musician; William Davies (1805–59), Independent minister, schoolmaster; David Ellis; James Spinther James (1837-1914), Baptist Historian; Owen Jones, 'Manoethwy' (1838–66), schoolteacher, writer; Owen Jones (1833–99), Calvinistic Methodist minister, writer, bibliophile; Richard Robert Jones (Dic Aberdaron); Lewis Morris; Robert Prys Morris (1831?-90), local historian, antiquary; John Peter, ‘Ioan Pedr’ (1833–77), Independent minister, Welsh scholar; Hugh Pugh (1803–68), Independent minister, schoolmaster; and, Robert Williams (1810–81), cleric, Celtic scholar, antiquary.[3]

John Jones (Myrddin Fardd)Edit

About half of the manuscripts that J. Gwenogvryn Evans described in his Report on the Cwrtmawr Manuscripts were acquired from Myrddin Fardd. Other manuscripts and letters are connected to poets and literati of the late-eighteenth and nineteenth century including David Thomas (Dafydd Ddu Eryri), Owen Williams (Owain Gwyrfai), and Ebenezer Thomas (Eben Fardd). There are also many volume of letters that were either published, or received, by Myrddin Fardd and over 150 volumes that he compiled of Welsh literary and antiquarian interest.[3]

The Richards familyEdit

This group of manuscripts are related to the Welsh clerical family, headed by the Rev. Thomas Richards (1754-1837), and also including his five ordained sons and three daughters, who were involved in church and cultural movements. This group of some 100 volumes includes part of the Llansilin Manuscripts, which date from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. There is also a group of transcripts and memoranda that was formed by Mary Richards (1787-1877). Letters to members of the family are dispersed throughout the Cwrtmawr collection.[3]

The Revds WilliamsEdit

This group of manuscripts is connected to the descendants of the Rev. Peter Williams (1723–96), and are, primarily, those that were written or owned by the Rev. Peter Bailey Williams (1763-1836) and the Rev. St George Armstrong Williams (1804–86). Some of the manuscripts do, however, relate to the Rev. Peter Williams and to his son, the Rev. Eliezer Williams (1754-1820). There are manuscripts of literary and antiquarian interest in addition to those the personal and family documents.[3]

The manuscripts belonging to the Rev. Peter Bailey Williams were widely dispersed after he died and John Humphreys Davies acquired these manuscripts from a number of sources. The provenance of some of the manuscripts is uncertain but it is known that Davies acquired manuscripts from Miss L. Armstrong Williams and J. Glyn Davies, and some are thought to have come from Myrddin Fardd.[3]

Gwilym CowlydEdit

Ieuan Glan Geirionydd

The poet, printer, bookseller and bibliophile Gwilym Cowlyd (1828-1904), was the source of many of Davies' manuscripts and printed books, although there is ambiguity concerning the source of some manuscripts, particularly Cwrtmawr Mss 33 and 42, which even Davies himself noted that he might have acquired from Gwilym Cowlyd. This group includes those manuscripts that are personally connected to Gwilym Cowlyd and to his uncle the Rev. Evan Evans (Ieuan Glan Geirionydd), letters addressed to Gwilym Cowlyd and his compilations of annotated press cuttings. There are also a dozen manuscripts of David Evans, Llanrwst.[3]

Rev. Daniel Silvan EvansEdit

Rev. Daniel Silvan Evans

The library of the Rev. Daniel Silvan Evans (1818-1903), had been neglected for many years before Davies purchased it from Evans' son J. H. Silvan Evans. Most of these manuscripts relate to the literary and scholarly activities, and the lexicographical work in particular, of Daniel Silvan Evans, with the manuscripts of the Rev. Robert Roberts (Y Sgolor Mawr) being of especial lexicographical interest. There are also a number of volumes of letters addressed to Evans by scholars and literary men including John Rhys.[3]


  1. ^ "Cwrtmawr Manuscripts". National Library of Wales. 2003. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  2. ^ Evans, John Gwenogvryn (1902). Report on Manuscripts in the Welsh Language, Vol. II. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Owens, B.G.; McDonald, R.W. (1980). A catalogue of the Cwrtmawr manuscripts presented and bequeathed by John Humphreys Davies. Aberystwyth: National Library of Wales.

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