Fonds GB 0210 IOLNWG - Iolo Morganwg and Taliesin ab Iolo manuscripts and papers

Identity area

Reference code



Iolo Morganwg and Taliesin ab Iolo manuscripts and papers


  • [16 cent.]-[20 cent., first ¼] (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

169 volumes, 28 boxes.

Context area

Name of creator

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.

Archival history

Following Taliesin Williams's death in 1847 his son Edward produced a catalogue of the manuscripts and papers of Iolo Morganwg in the family's possession, divided into four groups, Classes A-D (additionally Class E consisted of printed books, see T13/2).
Some years later a large portion of the papers were acquired by Lord and Lady Hall, Llanover. These were deposited in the National Library in 1916 (see NLW, Llanover Manuscripts) and consisted of the majority of Class B (24 out of 30), all 75 volumes in Class C and a further 17 volumes apparently not listed by Edward Williams (confusingly these were then designated as Class E).
Besides Taliesin's papers, the manuscripts and papers donated by Iolo Aneurin Williams and family from 1953 onwards consist mostly of the papers in Class D and a few of the missing Class B. The vellum rolls listed as Class A remain missing.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

NLW MSS 10341-3A: Mr Frank R. Boatfield; Torrington; Purchase; January 1936.
Mr Iolo Aneurin Williams and his sister Miss H. Ursula Williams, great-grandchildren of Taliesin Williams; London; Various donations; 1953-1954.
NLW MS 19899E and other items: Mrs J. Mackinlay [Bertha M. D. Mackinlay (née Williams)], great-granddaughter of Taliesin Williams (and cousin to Iolo Aneurin Williams); Hawes, Yorkshire; Donation; 1955.
E13/7: Iolo Aneurin Williams; Kew; Donation; 1960-61.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Manuscripts and papers of Iolo Morganwg and Taliesin ab Iolo, [16 cent.]-[20 cent., first ¼], 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; correspondence, 1809-1864, and other papers, 1761-[1840s], of Taliesin ab Iolo; and family correspondence of Taliesin's grandson, Aneurin Williams, [?1868]-1908.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling

All records donated to the National Library of Wales have been retained.


Accruals are not expected.

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 21287-386); miscellaneous papers (NLW MSS 21387-433); additional manuscripts (NLW MSS 10341-3, 19098-9, 19899); Iolo Morganwg papers; Taliesin Williams (Ab Iolo) papers; Aneurin Williams family letters.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Conditions governing reproduction

Usual copyright laws apply.

Language of material

  • Ancient Greek
  • English
  • French
  • Italian
  • Latin
  • Welsh

Script of material

Language and script notes

English, Welsh, some Latin, French, Italian and Greek.

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

See Sub-fonds descriptions for details.

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

The other main group of manuscripts and notebooks of Iolo Morganwg is NLW, Llanover Manuscripts (consisting of NLW MSS 13061-185). Some printed books from his library are also in NLW (see Note). A few notes, sketches and music in Iolo's hand may be found, here and there, in NLW, John Bedford Papers, which were at one time in Iolo's possession.

Related descriptions

Publication note

G. J. Williams, Iolo Morganwg: Y Gyfrol Gyntaf (Cardiff, 1956).

Publication note

Brinley Richards, Golwg Newydd ar Iolo Morgannwg (Swansea, 1979).

Publication note

P. J. Donovan, Cerddi Rhydd Iolo Morganwg (Cardiff, 1980).

Publication note

A Rattleskull Genius: The Many Faces of Iolo Morganwg, ed. by Geraint H. Jenkins (Cardiff, 2005).

Notes area


Title based on contents of fonds.


Papers donated by Mrs J. Mackinlay in 1955 (the 'Mackinlay Group') were originally catalogued as a separate sequence (designated M1-82; see NLW, Schedule of Printed Books, Letters, and Papers relating to Iolo Morganwg and members of his family... (1955)). With the exception of M68, M70 and M72-82, which are now NLW MS 19899E, they were subsequently integrated into the rest of the archive (see NLW MSS 21281-2E, 21285-6E, 21397E, 21410E and 21419-20E).


Formerly known as the 'Iolo Aneurin Williams Manuscripts' or 'Casgliad Iolo A. Williams' (named for the donor of the majority of the archive). Those manuscripts catalogued up to the 1970s were previously designated Iolo A. Williams (or IAW) 1-145.


Twelve printed books (some annotated) belonging to Iolo Morganwg or Taliesin ab Iolo have been transferred to the existing 'Casgliad Iolo Morganwg' in the Printed Collections Department (August 2016). These comprise the seven volumes numbered 1-4, 6, 7-8 in NLW, Schedule of Printed Books, Letters, and Papers relating to Iolo Morganwg and members of his family... (1955); together with copies of Thomas Llewelyn, Remarks on the British Tongue... (1769), John Davies, Antiqvae Lingvae Britannicae... Rudimenta (1621) and Edward Williams, Salmau yr Eglwys yn yr Anialwch (1812), donated by Iolo A. Williams, January-August 1959; a copy of the 'Salmau Cân' of Edmwnd Prys from the Ellis Wynne edition of the Welsh Book of Common Prayer (1710), donated by Iolo A. Williams and Ursula H. Williams, 1954; and an incomplete copy of The Historie of Cambria, ed. by David Powel (1584, STC 4606).
A further four volumes noted in the NLW Annual Reports 1958-60 (Thomas Paine, Rights of Man (1792) and Mark Wilks, The Origin and Stability of the French Revolution. A Sermon… (1791) bound in one volume, The Book of Common Prayer (1802) and Hymns for Public Worship (1802) also bound in one volume, Owen Jones and William Owen[-Pughe], Barddoniaeth Dafydd ab Gwilym (1789) and Thomas Richards, A Welsh Grammar (1804)), and the remaining four volumes listed in the 1955 Schedule have not been located.

Alternative identifier(s)

Virtua system control number


Project identifier


Access points

Subject access points

Place access points

Name access points

Genre access points

Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier

Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru = The National Library of Wales

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

April 2003-November 2016.


  • English



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; NLW, Papurau'r Athro Griffith John Williams P1/4/114-6 (letters, 1953-4, from E. D. Jones, NLW, concerning the donation of the fonds).

Archivist's note

Compiled by Annette Strauch for the ANW project and revised by Rhys Morgan Jones.

Accession area

Related subjects

Related people and organizations

Related genres

Related places