File NLW MS 13187E. - Letters to Abraham Ortelius,

Identity area

Reference code

NLW MS 13187E.


Letters to Abraham Ortelius,


  • 1568-1571 / (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

Sewn on cords and bound in brown levant morocco in the National Library of Wales. The design on both the upper and lower covers consists of an outer gold line and a centre panel bounded by two gold lines of different thickness. Inside the panel is a quill pen inlaid in white leather poised over an inlaid parchment scroll bearing representations of the signatures, that of 'Humfredus lhuyd' on the upper cover and those of the Owen brothers on the lower one.

Context area

Name of creator

Archival history

The letters formed part of a collection which had belonged until 1955 to the Dutch Church, Austin Friars, London.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Sotheby's; London; Purchased at auction, lots 367, 380 and 379; 1968

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Three letters, 1568-1571, written in Latin to Abraham Ortelius, the Flemish cartographer, the first, 3 August 1568, from Humphrey Llwyd (Lhuyd), physician and antiquary, at Denbigh when he was mortally ill (a contemporary note, possibly by Ortelius, at the foot of the letter states that he died 31 August ('prid. Cal. Sept.') [1568]), the second, 2 November 1570, from Robert Owen in haste at Douai, and the third, 2 January 1570[/1], from Hu: Owen, brother of Robert Owen, at the earl of Arundel's house in London, all three letters connected with each other and with the work of Humphrey Llwyd. In the top left hand corner they are numbered in pencil 27, 31 and 34: these are the numbers which were given to them when they were published in chronological order by J. H. Hessels in Ecclesiae Londino- Batavae Archivum, Tom. 1, Abrahami Ortelii . . . epistulae (Cantabrigiae, 1887). The pagination in ink (421-4, 829-30, and 425-6) and other numbers in pencil (? 131, 211 and 210) appear to belong to earlier arrangements of the letters, one in order of Christian names, the other in order of surnames (Hessels, op. cit., pp. x-xi). The Humphrey Llwyd letter has been reproduced as a frontispiece to the Annual Report of the National Library of Wales, 1967-1968. In his letter Llwyd acknowledges receipt of Ortelius's description of Asia, refers to his own serious illness, and sends Ortelius his (Llwyd's) map of Wales, two maps of England, and what he describes as some fragments of a description of Britain written in his own hand. Only the conclusion of the letter (after 'vale'), one or two insertions and corrections, the address and an endorsement are in the handwriting of Humphrey Llwyd. The endorsement reads 'Mr Owen [i.e. Hugh Owen] fold vp these saff & delyuer theym at on EMANVEL house at Somers kay beneth bylyngesgate to be sent to Antwerp: vale' (see also Trans. Cymmr., 1937, plate facing p. 136). Hugh Owen and Robert Owen were Roman Catholics and of the Owen family of Plas-du, Llanarmon, co. Caernarvon (see D.W.B. under Owen family of Plas-du, Caerns., and the references given there). Robert Owen in his letter enquires on behalf of his brother whether the description of England and the chorography of Wales by the late Humphrey Llwyd, together with a letter written in Latin, have reached Ortelius. He asks him not to write to Douai as he will be going to England for the sake of his health following a serious illness, but rather to direct his letter to his brother or him at the earl of Arundel's house in London. Hugh Owen acknowledges receipt of a letter from Ortelius from which he learned that Humphrey Llwyd's brief commentary of Britain with the map of Wales has reached him safely and thanks him for so readily embracing the last, but immature and imperfect, works of their common friend. He is sorry knowledge of Ortelius's doubts about certain words did not reach him before his brother left the Netherlands but he will do his utmost to fill the gap if Ortelius will send him notes and lists both of the words in the commentary and of the matters and places in the map. He has kept a copy of the book lest any harm should befall it in transit and so that it need not be sent back if Ortelius is in doubt on any point [It was published under the title Commentarioli Britannicae descriptionis fragmentum. Auctore Hum/redo Lhuyd, Denbyghiense, Cambro Britanno (Coloniae Agrippinae: Apud Ioannem Birckmannum, 1572)].

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Conditions governing reproduction

Language of material

Script of material

Language and script notes


Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

The description is also available in the Handlist of Manuscripts in the National Library of Wales, Volume IV (Aberystwyth, 1971).

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Digital version available at (viewed March 2018)

Related units of description

Related descriptions

Publication note

See Theodore Max Chotzen, 'Some Sidelights on Cambro-Dutch Relations...', in Trans. Cymmr., 1937, pp. 101-44, and R. Geraint Gruffydd, 'Humphrey Llwyd of Denbigh: Some Documents and a Catalogue', in Transactions of the Denbighshire Historical Society, vol. 17, 1968, pp. 99-101 in particular, and also vol. 18, 1969, p. 179. See also Trans. Cymmr., 1937, plate facing p. 136.

Notes area


Title based on contents.


Preferred citation: NLW MS 13187E.

Alternative identifier(s)

Virtua system control number


Access points

Place 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

June 2010.


  • English



The following source was used in the compilation of this description: Handlist of Manuscripts in the National Library of Wales, Volume IV (Aberystwyth, 1971).

Archivist's note

Description compiled by Bethan Ifans for the retrospective conversion project of NLW MSS.

Accession area