Fonds GB 0210 DJONES - David Jones (Artist and Writer) Papers

Identity area

Reference code



David Jones (Artist and Writer) Papers


  • 1821, 1853-1981 (predominantly 1930-1980) (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

0.934 cubic metres (83 boxes, 2 outsize vols)

Context area

Name of creator

Biographical history

David Jones (1895-1974) was an accomplished artist who produced watercolours, illustrations and inscriptions, and who also gained acclaim as a poet, especially as the author of In Parenthesis in 1937, and the long prose poem The Anathemata in 1952.
David Walter Jones was born in Brockley, Kent, on 1 November 1895. His mother, Alice Ann née Bradshaw, was from London, and his father, James Jones, was originally from Holywell, Flintshire. He attended the Camberwell School of Art from 1910-1914, and the Westminster School of Art from 1919-1921.
He joined the London Welsh Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers in 1915 and served as a private with them until 1918. This experience had a profound effect on him, and his first book, In Parenthesis (1937), is an epic war poem which deals with the period he spent in France.
In 1921 he was received into the Roman Catholic Church, adopting Michael as a middle name. This was a defining moment in his life and work. In the same year he met Eric Gill and joined Gill's community at Ditchling, Sussex, where he learnt wood-engraving. In 1924 he became engaged to Petra Gill and often visited the family at Capel y ffin, near Abergavenny. His engagement with Petra was broken off in 1927 and subsequently he never married.
Between 1928 and 1932 he moved around a great deal, producing watercolours and also writing. In 1933 he suffered a breakdown in health and endured repeated periods of ill-health from then onwards. He virtually stopped painting until 1937. In 1937 Faber published In Parenthesis, which T. S. Eliot regarded as 'a work of genius'. He was awarded the Hawthornden prize for it in 1938.
He was based at the parental home at Brockley until his mother's death in 1937. He then lived in Notting Hill, and from about 1946 lived in Harrow on the Hill. In 1970 he fell ill after breaking a bone in his hip and resided at Calvary Nursing Home, Harrow until his death in 1974.
A volume of essays Epoch and Artist was published by Faber in 1959, followed by The Fatigue (1965), The Tribune's Visitations (1969) and The Introduction to The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1972). The Sleeping Lord (1974) and The Roman Quarry (1981) were published posthumously.
In 1955 he was awarded the CBE, and also the Harriet Monroe memorial prize. In 1960 he was awarded the degree of D. Litt from The University of Wales and became both Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a member of the Royal Watercolour Society in 1961. He was awarded the Royal National Eisteddfod of Wales Gold medal in 1964 and the Welsh Arts Council Literature Prize in 1969.

Archival history

His whole written archive was acquired in four groups, two in 1978 and two in 1985; and a small group was transferred from the Department of Printed Books. For the purpose of noting old reference numbers they will be referred to in the catalogue as 'Group A', 'Group B', 'Group C', '1978 Purchase', and 'Items from books'. Groups A, B, and C were purchased with the aid of the National Heritage Memorial Fund in 1985.

'Group A' was deposited at the Library by the executors of the estate of David Jones in August 1978 and subsequently purchased in 1985. A brief list appeared in the NLW Annual Report for 1978-1979, pp. 79-80, and a schedule of this '1978 deposit' was compiled in 1981. The collection had already been sorted, arranged and briefly listed by Harman Grisewood before the collection came to the National Library of Wales. It included mainly letters by David Jones to editors of newspapers, and literary manuscripts of material published in Epoch and artist: selected writings by David Jones, edited by Harman Grisewood (1959), and The Sleeping lord and other fragments (1974).

'Group B' was previously deposited at Cambridge University Library by the Trustees of David Jones in January and February 1982, and was purchased by the National Library of Wales in 1985 (see NLW Annual Report for 1985-1986, p. 60). It included biographical material and correspondence assembled by René Hague for Dai Greatcoat: a self-portrait of David Jones in his letters (1980), material for A commentary on The Anathemata of David Jones by René Hague (1977), and a large quantity of material from which was compiled The Roman Quarry and other sequences edited by Harman Grisewood and René Hague (1981).

'Group C' had remained with the Trustees of the estate, and was purchased by the Library in 1985, at the same time that Group A and Group B were purchased (see NLW Annual Report for 1985-1986, p. 60). The group included a collection of letters to David Jones from various correspondents; a collection of manuscripts, the majority relating to the pieces posthumously collected as The Dying Gaul and Other writings (1978), and a collection of biographical data, mainly financial, catalogued by Harman Grisewood.

A fourth group, known as the '1978 purchase' was a collection of literary manuscripts and papers of David Jones which was purchased by the Library from the executors of the estate of David Jones at the same time 'Group A' was deposited by them. This group included manuscripts of In Parenthesis, The Anathemata, Epoch and Artist, The Sleeping Lord and other fragments and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. This collection was briefly listed on p. 62 of the NLW Annual Report for 1978-1979, and a draft catalogue of the worksheets of In Parenthesis and The Anathemata was compiled at the Library in 1981 (NLW ex 2393).

The Library of David Jones was deposited at the National Library of Wales in 1975, and was subsequently bought from his heirs in 1978. Some of the books as bought contained letters and prints. Where a letter related to a book it was left in place, but where there was no obvious relationship the letter was transferred to the Library's Department of Manuscripts, and form part of this collection. For further details see Huw Ceiriog Jones, The Library of David Jones: A Catalogue (Aberystwyth: National Library of Wales, 1995).

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Acquired in four groups: August 1978 purchase; August 1978 deposit (subsequently purchased in 1985 with funding from the National Heritage Memorial Fund); and two further groups purchased in 1985. For futher details see Annual Reports 1978-79, pp.62 and 79-80; 1985-86, p. 60. Also, an additional file (see LA4/4) donated August 2007; 1978, 1985, 2007; 1979/131, 1979/154, 1985/36, 1986/070.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Literary manuscripts of David Jones, with manuscript drafts of In Parenthesis: Seinnyessit e gledyf ym penn mameu; The Anathemata: Fragments of an attempted writing; Epoch and Artist: Selected writings by David Jones; The Sleeping Lord and other fragments; The Dying Gaul and other writings, and The Roman Quarry and other sequences. There is a substantial body of letters to David Jones from friends, editors and others, 1910-1976; draft letters from David Jones to friends, newspaper editors and others, 1929-1982; and letters by David Jones, 1919-1985, published in Dai Greatcoat: A self-portrait of David Jones in his letters. There are some examples of David Jones' art, and material relating to David Jones as an artist, as well as personal documents, financial papers, family papers, photographs, and accumulated research material.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling

All material except for displaced empty envelopes have been retained.


Accruals are not expected.

System of arrangement

Arranged at NLW into five groups: literary manuscripts, 1927-1981, correspondence, 1910-1985, material relating to his artistic works, 1821, 1900-1970, personalia, 1853-1976, and accumulated papers, 1892-1974.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Readers consulting modern papers in the National Library of Wales are required to sign the 'Modern papers - data protection' form.

Conditions governing reproduction

Usual copyright laws apply. Permission to copy or to publish material written or produced by David Jones must be obtained from the trustees of his estate c/o Nicholas Elkin or Sarah Williams (see the WATCH file (Writers, Artists and Their Copyright Holders) (viewed August 2011).

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

Language and script notes


Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

The earlier schedule of the 1978 deposit (now known as NLW ex 2393) has been superseded by this description. A table of previous and current reference numbers is available on line at

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

Letters from David Jones which are at the National Library of Wales are listed in detail with the 'Correspondence (C)' section of this list. -- NLW MS 16556D is a questionnaire completed by David Jones and NLW MS 22431D contains radio adaptions of his work. -- Approximately 110 photographs of friends, family and places have been transferred to the NLW collection of photographs, Llyfr Ffoto 4302. Two albums of family photographs are in Llyfrau Ffoto 25A-26B. -- David Jones's Library was acquired by NLW in 1975.-- The NLW holds some works of art by David Jones including 'Tir y Blaenau', 'Capel-y-ffin', 'Llys Ceimiad: La Bassée Front 1916', 'Beird Byt Barnant', 'Cloelia Cornelia', 'Cara Walia Derelicta', 'Pwy Yw'r Gŵr' and 'Optima Musa Veritas'. Recordings of BBC radio programmes about David Jones, a tape of an interview 'David Jones: artist and writer', and a broadcast of In Parenthesis are available at the National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales. -- David Jones' letters and manuscripts are also held in other repositories, e.g. Exeter University Library, Tate Gallery Archive, Kettle's Yard Gallery, National Sound Archive, Georgetown University Library (Harman Grisewood Papers), Yale University (Agenda Records), and at the University of Toronto Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library. See also Location Register of 20th-century English literary manuscripts and letters (published 1988 and also available on-line), and 'A list of letters by David Jones made by Tony Stoneburner', Limekiln Press, 1977.

Publication note

Thomas Dilworth, The Shape of Meaning in the Poetry of David Jones (Toronto: University of Toronto, 1988).

Publication note

David Jones: Man and Poet, ed. by John Mathias (Orono: University of Maine, 1989)

Publication note

Jonathan Miles and Derek Shiel, David Jones: The Maker Unmade (Bridgend, 1995).

Notes area

Alternative identifier(s)

Virtua system control number


GEAC system control number


Access points

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Name access points

Genre access points

Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier

Rules and/or conventions used

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


Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion

August 2004, online June 2008.


  • English



The following sources were used in the compilation of this catalogue: Huw Ceiriog Jones, The Library of David Jones (1895-1974): A Catalogue (Aberystwyth: The National Library of Wales, 1995); William Blissett, The Long Conversation. A Memoir of David Jones (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981); Robin Ironside, David Jones (London: Penguin Books, 1949); David Blamires, David Jones: Artist and Writer (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1971); Dai Greatcoat: A Self-portrait of David Jones in his Letters, ed. by René Hague (London: Faber and Faber, 1981); Elizabeth Ward, David Jones Mythmaker (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1983); Location register of twentieth-century English literary manuscripts and letters : a union list of papers of modern English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh authors in the British Isles (London : British Library, 1988), as well as David Jones' published works.

Archivist's note

Compiled by Nia Mai Daniel.

Archivist's note

The archivist relied on notes previously prepared by former National Library staff. In some cases notes found in the archive which were prepared by Harman Grisewood, René Hague and Tom Goldpaugh were also followed.

Accession area