Medicine and Health in Wales before the NHS


The Library is home to the largest collection of Welsh and Welsh interest printed works on medicine and health. There are over 6,500 items with the earliest dating from 1745. These include books on early medicines, herbal remedies, sanitary reports from medical officers of health, and hospital and asylum reports. Among the collection are the first editions of Nathaniel Williams' early herbal Pharmacoepia, early books on popular medicines such as Pob Dyn yn Phisygwr Iddo ei Hun ac i'w Anifeiliaid Hefyd as well as book about the Physicians of Myddfai and the British Herbal or a British Herbalist by Nicholas Culpeper.

The collection also includes a complete set of annual reports and minutes of the King Edward VII's Welsh National Memorial Association (WNMA), a pre-NHS all-Wales networked public health organisation established to treat tuberculosis in 1911 offering free healthcare.


The ‘Medicine and Health in Wales before the NHS’ project began in November 2018. It is funded by the Wellcome Trust. Over the next year we will be cataloguing the collection and digitizing items published before 1900.

You can access the collection via the Library Catalog. It is hoped that improving access to the collection will facilitate research into the medical humanities in Wales.

A number of outreach events will take place during the life of the project including informal workshops, presentations and a day conference. Please contact us for further information or follow us on Twitter @NLWPrintandMore.

Latest News

Project update

Digitisation work is ongoing in order to allow users to view the Printed Medical Collection online. The good news is that all the early books in the collection have been scanned; the focus now is to scan the journals and various annual reports. At the project conference in November, all scanned items will be online. So, in anticipation of this event, here’s a sneak preview of a publication by the Welsh National Memorial Association, ‘Sully Tuberculosis Hospital’. This item is a short leaflet about the history of the hospital containing a folded chart at the back of book with a block plan of the proposed hospital.

Medicine and Health Workshops

The project's second 'History of Medicine in Wales' workshop took place on 18 July. It was an informative and enjoyable afternoon.
Dr Steve Thompson, a senior lecturer in the Department of History & Welsh History at Aberystwyth University gave an intriguing talk on 'Medical services and the Welsh language in the 1800s.'


Other topics included 'Medical history in photos' by Will Troughton, a look at medical figures in the Dictionary of Welsh Biography with Morfudd Nia Jones and a 'Guide to Medical E-resources' by Jayne Day.  An update on the project's work was delivered by the project manager and the tours of the Medical Printed Collection and Digitisation Unit were enjoyed by all.

A link to the latest project update can be seen below:

The first ‘History of Medicine in Wales’ workshop was held on 21 March at NLW. Dr Diana Luft and Branwen Rhys gave papers, Dr Douglas Jones and Lorena Troughton talked about our printed medical collection and archives and Scott Waby provided an introduction to NLW’s innovative digitization processes. Here are some slides from the workshop presentations:

Save the Date

  • 23 October: Lunch time lecture at the Drwm in the National Library of Wales on 'Aspects of Medicine and Health in Wales before the NHS' by Branwen Rhys.
  • 22 November: One-day Conference on the History of Medicine and Health in Wales will take place at the National Library of Wales. Don't miss your first chance to see the Medical Printed Collection online.

Both events are free, but admission is by ticket only. You can book your tickets from our Events page.


Read the project's latest blog about the campaign to eradicate Tuberculosis in Wales led by David Davies (1880 - 1944).

Branwen Rhys
Email: branwen.rhys(at)
Phone: 01970 632996

Twitter: @NLWPrintandMore    #MedHistWales