Sir John Williams' Collection

Sir John Williams’ excellent collection forms the heart of The National Library of Wales’ collection of printed books. He donated his library to the nation when the National Library was established in 1907.

Sir John began collecting Welsh books about 1870. His hobby soon became more or less an obsession as he bought complete libraries with the intention of presenting them to a new National Library.

The collection was moved from Sir John’s home in Llanstephan to Aberystwyth in January 1909. Over a period of 2 days, more than 12 tons of books were moved using horse and cart and train to the new National Library.

According to the Library’s Charter, if the National Library were to move from Aberystwyth at any point then this priceless collection would be transferred to the University at Aberystwyth.

The whole collection consists of about 26,360 volumes. They include a wide range of subjects, but they are mainly of Welsh interest. The collection features 19 of the 22 Welsh books known to have been published before 1600, and amongst them the 3 earliest books:

  • Yny lhyvyr hwn ... , Sir John Prys (1546)
  • Oll synnwyr pen Kembero ygyd (1547)
  • A Dictionary in Englyshe and Welshe, William Salesbury (1547)