Sub-fonds E - Iolo Morganwg papers

Identity area

Reference code



Iolo Morganwg papers


  • [16 cent., second ½]-[1830s] (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

12 small boxes, 2 large 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

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Papers, [16 cent., second ½]-[1830s], of Iolo Morganwg, including manuscript music, [18 cent., last ¼]-[19 cent., first ¼], and printed sheet music, [17 cent., second ½]-[late 18 cent.]; hymns, [19 cent., first ¼]; travel journals, 1796-1815; Welsh and English poetry, 1776-[1826]; notes and notebooks, [18 cent., last ¼]-[1830s]; financial papers, 1782-1826; old covers, [18 cent., last ¼]-[19 cent., first ¼]; financial papers of Iolo's grandfather Edward Matthew, 1705-1736; and miscellaneous collected deeds and documents, [16 cent., second ½]-1824.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

The papers in this sub-fonds have been rearranged a number of times, by Iolo himself, Taliesin ab Iolo and Aneurin Williams, as well as by several staff members at NLW. Where there is evidence of an original or early order (such as E3, E8/6-9) the papers have generally not been rearranged. Where papers have been arranged more recently and have been foliated (E1/1, E6/1, 3, 8, E7/19, E8/1-2, 4-5, E9/2) these have not been rearranged.
The remainder of the sub-fonds has been sorted so that, as far as is possible, material of a similar nature is grouped together. It should be borne in mind that Iolo's practice of reusing scraps of paper, sometimes for several different purposes, necessarily results in some papers potentially belonging to multiple files; their placement is therefore somewhat arbitrary.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Conditions governing reproduction

Language of material

  • English
  • Latin
  • Welsh

Script of material

Language and script notes

English, Welsh, some Latin.

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

Each box (except E3 and E11) contains a more detailed list of contents.

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

NLW MSS 21387-433 (Miscellaneous papers) were assembled, during the 1970s, from loose papers of a nature similar to this sub-fonds (had cataloguing of the archive continued at that time it is reasonable to suppose that many of these papers would have been treated in a similar fashion); for papers relating to a particular subject readers are advised to consult both groups.

Related descriptions

Notes area


Title based on contents.

Alternative identifier(s)

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Description control area

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Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion


  • English



Accession area

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