The Mary Jones Bible: One of the hidden treasures of the Library

Collections - Posted 24-03-2016

It was wonderful to see Mary Jones’s Bible return to Bala recently to be shown to children at local primary schools and exhibited at the Mary Jones World visitor and education centre. The Bible is usually stored in the Bible Society’s archive in Cambridge University, and Mary Jones’s story has an important place in the history of the Society’s formation.

Have you heard Mary Jones’s story? And did you know that there is also a ‘Mary Jones Bible’ in the National Library of Wales’s collections? At first glance, there is nothing that would seem to link this old Bible with Mary Jones. The key evidence is to be found in a brief letter explaining its background …

Who was Mary Jones?

Mary Jones’s story has been told many times over the decades. She was a 15-year-old girl who, in 1800, walked about 25 miles barefoot from her home in Llanfihangel-y-Pennant, near Dolgellau, to Bala to purchase a copy of the Bible from the Reverend Thomas Charles.

It is said that Mary’s journey made such an impression on Thomas Charles that he proposed to the Religious Tract Society that a society be established to supply Bibles to Wales. Her story was an inspiration to the movement that led to the formation of the Bible Society in 1804.

More than one ‘Mary Jones Bible’?

How could this also be called ‘Mary Jones’s Bible’? It appears that there was more than one: the handwritten letter concerning this Bible supports the belief that Mary bought three copies of the Bible when she arrived at Bala, one for herself (the one that was recently exhibited in Bala) and another two for other members of the family.

The letter states that this is one of the three Bibles that Thomas Charles gave to Mary Jones, which she then gave to her niece Lydia Williams. The author of the letter, Lizzie Rowlands, also explains how the Bible came into her possession: that it was given to her by Lydia Williams as she lay on her deathbed, and that Lizzie Rowlands later gave it to Dr Lewis Edwards, Principal of the Calvinistic Methodist College in Bala.

I now wonder what happened to the third ‘Mary Jones Bible’ …

The National Library of Wales’s collections include over 6 million books, over 1.5 million maps, 950,000 photographs, 250,000 hours of film and television, 150,000 hours of radio and sound recordings, 50,000 pictures as well as the largest archival collection in Wales.

There are so many treasures to be found in these collection and so much more to discover here.


Dr Dafydd Tudur, Digital Access Section Manager


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