Revealing the Objects: Expatriate Literature

Collections / Digitisation - Posted 20-07-2018

As of October 2018 the Library will share a number of additional items from its collections on Europeana, a European digital cultural platform. We are currently working with 12 other partner institutions on a project entitled ‘The Rise of Literacy’ which aims to explore the history of reading and writing in Europe. In this weekly blog series – ‘Revealing the Objects, some of the Library’s contributions will be disclosed on a thematic basis.

Here’s a selection of volumes by expatriate writers that will be digitized as part of the project.


Ellis Pugh – Annerch i’r Cymry iw galw oddiwrth y llawer o bethau at yr un peth angenrheidiol er mwyn cadwedigaeth eu heneidiau (1721)

Ellis Pugh was a Quaker emigrant and became a member of the Friends Church from the age of eighteen. In 1686 he, along with his family and many other Welshmen, began the lengthy voyage to Pennsylvania. Pugh settled as a farmer and minister in America during the summer of 1686. He left, in manuscript form, a work entitled ‘Annerch ir Cymru’ (‘An Address to the Welsh, to call them away from the many things to the one essential thing to ensure the salvation of their souls’). This particular copy was published in Philadelphia in 1721 and is accepted as the first Welsh book to be published in North America. As in Wales, printing became the most effective way of transmitting religious values and beliefs.

Owain Myfyr, William Owen Pughe, Iolo Morganwg – The Myvyrian archaiology of Wales: collected out of ancient manuscripts (1801-7)

This monumental publication consisted of early Welsh poetry and Brutiau, or Chronicles. It was published in three volumes, two in 1801, and the other in 1807. To many scholars, these publications symbolise the end of the Welsh language manuscript era. Owain Myfyr and William Owen Pughe were mostly responsible for bringing these volumes into print; they were also assisted by Iolo Morganwg in the process of compiling their contents. It must be noted that Myfyr’s fellow-contributors were eager to name the publication after him as he made extraordinary financial contributions to the enterprise, an estimated four to five thousand pounds. Iolo travelled the length and breadth of Wales in search of materials which Pughe structured and prepared for press. Unfortunately, the venture was not entirely a success and they face difficulties with the transcription process. In addition, the inclusion of Iolo Morganwg’s infamous forgeries did not do the publication any justice in terms of later circulation and sales.

Iolo Morganwg – Cyfrinach Beirdd Ynys Prydain (1829)

Edward Williams (more widely known by his pen-name, Iolo Morganwg) was a poet, writer and antiquarian. He had strong connections with the London-Welsh societies of the late eighteenth century, and was particularly affected by the cultural and antiquarian developments of that period. In 1792 Iolo Morganwg held the first meeting of the Gorsedd of the Bards of the Isle of Britain in London. During the occasion he introduced a form of druidism, later discovered to have no true historical root. Morganwg is arguably the most controversial writer and poet Wales has even known. He did not live to see his volume ‘Cyfrinach Beirdd Ynys Prydain’ in printed form. It was published in 1829, three years after his death. This truly unique thesis on the origins of the poetic art of Wales demonstrates Iolo Morganwg’s firm grasp on the subject. However, both his broad knowledge and extraordinary imagination are evident in ‘Cyfrinach Beirdd Ynys Prydain’. In this volume, he rejected the pre-standardised poetic forms introduced by Dafydd ab Edmwnd in the fifteenth century and proposed in their place old strict measures as well as newly formed ones. Morganwg supported his propositions with falsified examples, derived from ancient Glamorgan poets, which also served as proof of the literary excellence and authority of his home county.

Want to see more posts from this series? See below:


Elen Hâf Jones – Digital Access Projects Officer

This post was created as part of the Europeana Rise of Literacy Project

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