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National Library of Wales
Iolo Morganwg, manuscripts

Reference code(s): GB 0210 IOLNWG

Held at: National Library of Wales

Title: Iolo Morganwg Manuscripts

Short Title: Iolo Morganwg, manuscripts

Creation date(s): [16 cent.]-1900

Level of description: Fonds

Extent: 167 volumes

Name of creator(s): Edward Williams (Iolo Morganwg); Taliesin Williams (Taliesin ab Iolo)


Administrative/Biographical history: Edward Williams (Iolo Morganwg, 1747-1826), stonemason, poet and literary forger, was born 10 March 1747 in Llancarfan, Glamorgan, to Edward Williams (1715-1795), stonemason, and Ann Matthews (1713-1770), and lived for most of his life in Flemingston (or Flimston), Glamorgan, apart from periods spent in London, Kent and elsewhere. His only schooling came from his mother and from the numerous poets who taught him their craft. He worked as a monumental mason and builder. He also tried his hand at various other trades but with little success; he was imprisoned for debt in Cardiff Gaol in 1786. In 1781 Iolo married Margaret Roberts (1749-1827). They had four children, of which two, Margaret (b. 1782) and Taliesin (1787-1847), survived into adulthood. Iolo Morganwg died at Flemingston on 18 December 1826.
Iolo had various literary, antiquarian and political interests. He wrote poetry in both Welsh and English, his Poems Lyrical and Pastoral appearing in 1794. He became a Unitarian from about 1797 and wrote many hymns, published in Salmau yr Eglwys yn yr Anialwch (1812, 1827 and 1834). Following the French Revolution he had radical sympathies. However he has become notorious for his forgeries and fabrications. The edition of Dafydd ap Gwilym published in 1789 contained an appendix of additional poems which were in fact written by Iolo. The Myvyrian Archaiology (1801, 1807), of which he was an editor contained many of his fabrications. These forgeries went largely undiscovered until the early twentieth century. His interest in the ancient druids led to his unveiling of the Gorsedd of Bards of Great Britain, which first met on Primrose Hill, London, in 1792. He claimed it to be a miraculous survival from ancient times and it persists as an integral part of the ritual and pageantry of the National Eisteddfod. However it too was invented by Iolo. Following Iolo's death his son Taliesin, a schoolmaster in Merthyr Tydfil, edited his manuscripts and upheld his legacy, apparently completely oblivious to the forgeries.


Scope and content/abstract: Manuscripts of Iolo Morganwg and Taliesin ab Iolo, [16 cent.]-1900, comprising correspondence of Iolo Morganwg, 1676-1826; manuscripts and other papers, [16 cent.]-1900, mostly collected or written by Iolo Morganwg, including Welsh and English poetry and prose, pedigrees, grammars, and other literary and personal papers; and correspondence of Taliesin ab Iolo, 1809-1864.


Language/scripts of material: English, Welsh, some Latin, French, Italian and Greek.

System of arrangement: Arranged at NLW as follows: Taliesin ab Iolo letters (NLW MSS 21271-79E); Iolo Morganwg letters (NLW MSS 21280-86E); Iolo Morganwg MSS (NLW MSS 10341-3A, 21287-386); miscellaneous papers (NLW MSS 19899E, 21387-433).

Conditions governing access:

Conditions governing reproduction: Usual copyright laws apply.

Finding aids: Hard copies of the catalogues are available at the National Library of Wales. The catalogues can be accessed online.


Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information: All records donated to the National Library of Wales have been retained.

Accruals: Accruals are not expected

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition: Purchased from Mr Frank R. Boatfield, Torrington, January 1936 (NLW MSS 10341-3A); donated by Mr Iolo Aneurin Williams (great-great-grandson of Iolo Morganwg) and Miss H. Ursula Williams, London, 1953-1954 (NLW MSS 21271-21433), and by Mrs J. Mackinlay, Simonstone Hall, Hawes, Yorkshire, 1955 (NLW MS 19899E).


Related material: For further papers of Iolo Morganwg see NLW, Llanover MSS (NLW MSS 13061-184); some printed books from his library are also in NLW.

Publication note: G. J. Williams, Iolo Morganwg a Chywyddau'r Ychwanegiad (London, 1926); Brinley Richards, Golwg Newydd ar Iolo Morgannwg (Swansea, 1979); P. J. Donovan, Cerddi Rhydd Iolo Morganwg (Cardiff, 1980); A Rattleskull Genius: The Many Faces of Iolo Morganwg, ed. by Geraint H. Jenkins (Cardiff, 2005).


Note: Title based on contents of fonds

Archivist's note: Compiled by Annette Strauch for the ANW project and revised by Rhys Morgan Jones. The following sources were used in the compilation of this description: Dictionary of Welsh Biography down to 1940 (London, 1959); Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004; online ed., October 2005) [accessed 22 April 2014]; NLW, List of Manuscripts from the collection of Iolo Morganwg... (1978); NLW, Schedule of Miscellaneous papers from the collection of Iolo Morganwg... (1978); NLW, Schedule of Printed Books, Letters, and Papers relating to Iolo Morganwg and members of his family... (1955); NLW, Schedule of the Letters addressed to Iolo Morganwg or written by him... (1957); NLW, Schedule of the Letters addressed to 'Taliesin ab Iolo' or written by him... (1959); NLW Annual Reports, 1954 and 1955.

Rules or conventions: Description follows NLW guidelines based on ISAD(G) 2nd ed.; AACR2; and LCSH

Date(s) of descriptions: April 2003 and April 2014

Iolo Morganwg, | 1747-1826 | Archives
Iolo Morganwg, | 1747-1826 | Correspondence
Welsh literature
Welsh poetry
Williams, Taliesin, | 1787-1847 | Archives
Williams, Taliesin, | 1787-1847 | Correspondence

Personal names
Iolo Morganwg , 1747-1826
Williams , Taliesin , 1787-1847

Corporate names
Gorsedd y Beirdd

Flemingston (Wales)
Glamorgan (Wales)
London (England)

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