- [16 cent.]-1885 (Creation)
Level of description
Extent and medium
Name of creator
Edward Williams (Iolo Morganwg) was born and lived for the greater part of his life in Glamorgan. He is said to have received no schooling other than from his mother and from the numerous poets he met throughout his life and who taught him their craft. It was while residing in London from 1791 to 1795 that Iolo began to expound the doctrines of bardism and to hold 'druidical' gorseddau on Primrose Hill. When an eisteddfod was held in Carmarthen in 1819 under the auspices of the Dyfed Provincial Society Iolo succeeded in including the gorsedd as a prominent part of the proceedings. He maintained that he had discovered 'bardic' manuscripts in Glamorgan and in his old age busied himself in arranging to publish the material in his Cyfrinach Beirdd Ynys Prydain ([?1828]). Iolo has been considered something of a charlatan: he invented much of the bardic, literary and historical material he wrote, including alleged 'medieval' poetry, as well as the 'druidic' 'traditions' as they are expressed in eisteddfodau to this day. He was, however, an excellent poet in his own right and was possessed of a complex, if unorthodox, mind.
Name of creator
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.
After Iolo Morganwg's death his manuscripts came into the possession of his son Taliesin Williams (Taliesin ab Iolo). After Taliesin's death a large portion of the manuscripts (belonging mostly to Classes B and C) were acquired by Sir Benjamin Hall, bart. (aft. baron Llanover), and his wife Lady Augusta (née Waddington) of Llanover, Monmouthshire. Lady Hall was actively associated with Cymdeithas Cymreigyddion y Fenni and the presence of their papers amongst the Llanover MSS is probably due to this association. The present collection was deposited in the National Library of Wales in 1916 by Lady Llanover's grandson Major-General Sir Ivor John Caradoc Herbert, bart. (aft. 1st baron Treowen), and the deposit was converted into a donation in 1939 by Lord Treowen's daughter the Hon. Mrs. Walter Francis Roch of Llanarth Court, Raglan, Monmouthshire. Many items missing in 1916 were later deposited separately and are now listed among the Iolo Morganwg and Taliesin ab Iolo manuscripts and papers.
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
Hon. Mrs Walter Francis Roch; Llanarth Court, Raglan; Donation; 1939.
Content and structure area
Scope and content
The collection consists of four groups, namely: a collection of manuscripts, [late 16 cent.]-[18 cent.], containing transcripts of Welsh poems and prose items being largely volumes of Glamorgan origin acquired by Edward Williams (Iolo Morganwg) and forming part of his library (NLW MSS 13061-86); miscellaneous notebooks, papers, etc., of Iolo Morganwg, bound into eighty volumes (NLW MSS 13087-162); miscellaneous papers and correspondence of Cymdeithas Cymreigyddion y Fenni ('The Abergavenny Cymreigyddion Society'), 1836-1848 (NLW MSS 13182-5E); and miscellaneous other manuscripts (NLW MSS 13163-81). The second group (NLW MSS 13087-162) contains a mass of notes on matters of Welsh literary, historical, and antiquarian interest, transcripts of historical documents, transcripts of Welsh poems, series of triads, and prose compositions, and copies of original poems, essays, and reports by Iolo himself, etc. Amongst the historical and antiquarian material are items which Welsh scholars do not accept as authentic but which they regard as being spurious and the fruit of Iolo Morganwg's inventive mind. The literary material too has its quota of items regarded as forgeries, including Welsh poems written by Iolo Morganwg in imitation of the style of earlier poets and attributed by him to such poets. The accounts given of the contents of the manuscripts which belong to this second group are intended to be descriptive and not analytical and, except in the case of major 'forgeries' such as the chronicle 'Brut Aberpergwm' and the poems attributed to Dafydd ap Gwilym, and a few other items such as letters attributed to the Rev. Edward Gamage, no attempt is made to include comments on the authenticity or spuriousness of the items noted. Many of the Welsh items contained in the volumes belonging to the second group were published with English translations and notes in Iolo Manuscripts: A Selection of Ancient Welsh Manuscripts in Prose and Verse from the Collection made by the late Edward Williams, ed. by Taliesin Williams (Llandovery, 1848) and Barddas; or, a Collection of Original Documents illustrative of the Theology, Wisdom, and Usages of the Bardo-Druidic System of the Isle of Britain, ed. by John Williams (Ab Ithel), 2 vols (Llandovery and London, 1862-1874).
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling
System of arrangement
Arranged as follows: manuscripts acquired by Iolo Morganwg (Class B. 1-6, 8-9, 11-13, 15, 17-24, 27-30); transcripts and other papers of Iolo Morganwg (Class C. 1-75); miscellaneous other manuscripts (Class E. 1-16 + 2 unnumbered); papers of Cymdeithas Cymreigyddion y Fenni.
Arranged according to NLW MSS reference numbers: NLW MSS 13061-13178, 13180-13185.
Conditions of access and use area
Conditions governing access
Conditions governing reproduction
Usual copyright laws apply.
Language of material
- Old English
Script of material
Language and script notes
Welsh, English, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, Cornish, Anglo-Saxon.
Physical characteristics and technical requirements
NLW MSS 13061-13180 are listed in NLW, Preliminary Schedule of the Llanover Manuscripts Deposited by the Rt. Hon. The Lord Treowen, C.B., C.M.G. (1916); this schedule, based on an 1847 catalogue of Taliesin ab Iolo's library by his son Edward Williams, listed the manuscripts in five groups, Classes A-E, with those at Llanover mainly appearing under Classes B, C and E.
The descriptions are 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
NLW MSS 13063B, 13069B and 13167B are available at NLW as working copies on microfilm (no film numbers allocated).
Related units of description
The provenance of Edward Williams's manuscripts, correspondence, etc., subsequent to his death in 1826 is discussed in G. J. Williams, Iolo Morganwg: Y Gyfrol Gyntaf (Cardiff, 1956), pp. xi-xx. See also Lemuel John Hopkin James, 'The Llanover MSS', Journal of the Welsh Bibliographical Society, I, No. 6 (Feb. 1914), 180-183.
Title based on contents.
NLW MSS 13061-13178 formerly known as Llanover B. 1-6, 8-9, 11-13, 15, 17-24, 27-30, C. 1-75, E. 1-16 (see individual file descriptions).
NLW MS 13179 (Llanover E. 17) is described in the Preliminary schedule of the Llanover Manuscripts... (1916) as 'Barddas. MS. as printed, in hand of Ab Ithel' but it was not to be found when the collection was given NLW accession numbers and is therefore not included in this description.
In the descriptions of the manuscripts frequent references are made to three works by Prof. Griffith John Williams, namely Iolo Morganwg a Chywyddau'r Ychwanegiad (Llundain, 1926), Traddodiad Llenyddol Morgannwg (Caerdydd, 1948), and Iolo Morganwg: Y Gyfrol Gyntaf (Caerdydd, 1956). The abbreviations IMCY, TLLM, and IM are used in such references.
Virtua system control number
Subject access points
Place access points
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Description control area
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 2010-November 2016.
The following sources were used in the compilation of this description: Handlist of Manuscripts in the National Library of Wales, Volume IV (Aberystwyth, 1971); Y Bywgraffiadur Ar-lein, viewed via WWW, 23 April 2010; Cydymaith i Lenyddiaeth Cymru (Llandysul, 1986).
Description compiled by Bethan Ifans for the retrospective conversion project of NLW MSS, and revised by Rhys M. Jones.