Several contemporary observers had already expressed the opinion that one of the main faults of the periodical press in Wales was its denominational nature. For example, Thomas Stephens, the scholar from Merthyr Tydfil, said in 1851:
‘It is of little credit to the nation that it seems unable or unwilling to support its publications unless they are associated with the religious denominations’.
However it should not be assumed that the Established Church and the Nonconformist denominations alone supported the periodical press during this period. Valiant attempts were also made to establish independent journals.
In 1828 Joseph Davies, a Liverpool lawyer, began publishing Y Brud a'r sylwydd [The Chronicle and observer], a bilingual periodical unconnected with any religious denomination. The editor was particularly interested in science and promoting knowledge of it among his fellow-countrymen. He also coined new Welsh words to meet contemporary needs, and added to the vocabulary of the Welsh language words relating to philosophy, science and economics. However Y Brud a'r sylwydd was short-lived and ended in August 1828.
Y Cymmro [The Welshman] was a similar magazine, published in London between 1830 and 1832, but the lack of Welsh compositors there caused its demise. Other more specialist journals of the same period include Y Cynghorydd Meddygawl Dwyieithawg = The Duoglott medical Adviser (1829) and Yr Amaethydd [The Farmer] (1845-6).
A new chapter opened in the history of the Welsh periodical press in 1845 when Thomas Gee established Y Traethodydd [The Essayist] as a quarterly, with Lewis Edwards as chief editor. As a young man of 18 in Aberystwyth Lewis Edwards borrowed some issues of Blackwoood's magazine, which impressed him deeply. He was introduced for the first time to the literature of England and Germany. He grew to appreciate these literatures when he went to Edinburgh in 1833 and was taught by one of Blackwood's most famous writers, John Wilson, - 'Christopher North'. It is hardly surprising; therefore, that Lewis Edwards based Y Traethodydd on English periodicals such as The Edinburgh review and Blackwood's magazine, with particular emphasis on theology, philosophy and education. Yr Adolygydd [The Reviewer] and Y Beirniad [The Critic] were similar publications, but were short-lived compared to Y Traethodydd, which continues to appear today.
There was a further increase in the number of periodicals published in Wales in the mid 19th century, and by 1861 Thomas Watts, Keeper of Printed Books at the British Museum was able to write as follows in Knight's penny cyclopaedia:
In almost every country the periodical portion of its literature has now assumed an importance unknown to previous stages of its history, but in no country is it so predominant as in Wales'.
The magazines of the second half of the 19th century were of a lighter nature, and the number of popular publications increased.
‘Y Brython’ [The Briton] (1858-63), though chiefly of a literary and antiquarian stance, also contained much folk literature - material ignored by the denominational periodicals. The latter, however, became more prepared to publish lighter material, and novels and serials became popular on their pages. Several of these were translations or adaptations of English and American works, and were of a moral and improving nature. Presently the novel became a respectable literary medium, and in 1861 William Aubrey of Llannerch-y-medd, in Anglesey, established Y Nofelydd a chydymaith y teulu, [The Novelist and family companion] as a monthly publication.
Golud yr oes [The Riches of the age] a popular magazine published in Caernarfon by Hugh Humphreys, belongs to the same period. Humphreys was one of the most adventurous and inventive printers of his time, adopting new printing techniques such as engraving from steel and copper plates. This is reflected on the pages of Golud yr oes, one of the century's most ambitious Welsh magazines.
Engravings and cartoons were also characteristic of Y Punch Cymraeg [The Welsh Punch] (1858-64). It was based on the English Punch, except that it was not intended for English gentry and landowners, deriding one another in the realms of fashion and politics. Y Punch Cymraeg was aimed at the common folk of Wales, and its editors mocked everyone and everything, which deserved satirical comment in Wales at the time.
Y Geninen [The Leek] (1883-1928) was more serious in content, providing an opportunity for writers to express differing opinions on literary, political and social subjects. John Thomas ('Eifionydd'), its editor, had been employed at the printing office of Eyre and Spottiswoode in London, and was one of the most experienced editors of his time.
Another was Beriah Gwynfe Evans, who established Cyfaill yr aelwyd [Friend of the hearth] (1881-94), a popular monthly containing poetry, literature and articles on science and current affairs.
Cymru [Wales] (1891-1927), launched by Owen M Edwards, was partly based on Cyfaill yr aelwyd. Owen Edwards's intention was to immerse the Welsh in their history and culture, placing particular emphasis on national heroes and authors. Pictures and photographs were also popular features, and the periodical's influence on contemporary youth was strong. Owen Edwards, who was an inspector of schools, served Wales well as a cultural nationalist, at a time of crisis in the history of its literature.
Other periodicals established by him include: