Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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ROWLANDS , WILLIAM ( Gwilym Lleyn ; 1802 - 1865 ), Wesleyan minister, and bibliographer ;

b. 24 Aug. 1802 at Bryncroes , Llŷn, Caerns. , son of William and Eleanor Rowlands . He was educated at schools at Bryncroes and Botwnnog and then learnt his father's craft — that of weaving . He was brought up as a Calvinistic Methodist but joined the Wesleyan connexion when he was 18 years old. He began to preach in 1821 , shortly before he moved, with his parents, to Tŷ-coch , near Bangor . He preached for some years as a Wesleyan minister . In the latter capacity he served at Merthyr Tydfil 1831 , Amlwch 1834 , Pwllheli 1835 , Newmarket, Flints. 1837 , Ruthin 1840 , Llanidloes 1842 , Tredegar 1845 , Machynlleth 1848 , Bryn-mawr 1850 , Llanidloes 1853 , Tredegar 1856 , Aberystwyth 1858 , and Machynlleth 1861 . He retired from the circuit service in 1864 and settled at Oswestry , partly to act as supernumerary and partly in order to complete and publish (if possible) his greatest work. He d. 21 March 1865 , and was buried at Caerau , near Llanidloes .

Gwilym Lleyn was still a young man when he began to interest himself in the collection and listing of books in Welsh and books relating to Wales . His work as a circuit minister gave a searcher such as he was a wonderful opportunity to examine and collect books . The first fruits of his researches appeared in Y Traethodydd for 1852-3 , under the title of ‘ Llyfryddiaeth y Cymry ’ (‘ Bibliography of the Welsh ’). He proposed to issue the work, when completed, as a fifteen-shilling volume. The work was not published, however, until 1869 , four years after his death, when it was prepared for the press and edited by Daniel Silvan Evans (q.v.) and printed by John Pryse (q.v.) of Llanidloes , under the title of Cambrian Bibliography: containing an account of the books printed in the Welsh language, or relating to Wales, from the year 1546 to the end of the eighteenth century; with biographical notices . There was also a Welsh title-page, Llyfryddiaeth y Cymry … , and it is under this Welsh title that bibliographers and historians of literature in Wales and elsewhere know the work and refer to it. This was at the time a notable achievement, and, although it has its imperfections and its errors of fact, the book continues to be a most useful work of reference; when it is realised that there were in the time of the compiler no Welsh libraries at Cardiff , Aberystwyth , or Bangor , the achievement of the author must be regarded as remarkable.

Rowlands edited Yr Eurgrawn Wesleaidd from 1842 to 1845 , and again from 1852 to 1856 ; he also contributed to periodicals such as Golud yr Oes and Y Brython . His other published works were concerned with religion and denominational controversy. He wrote a series of biographical articles on famous Welshmen ; after his death the manuscript of the work was acquired by Isaac Foulkes (q.v.) who incorporated some of the material in his Geiriadur Bywgraffiadol o Enwogion Cymru ( Liverpool , 1870 ), and referred to it there as the ‘ Lleyn MSS. ’ A memoir of Rowlands , by his son-in-law, R. Morgan , appeared in the twelve issues of Yr Eurgrawn Wesleaidd for 1868 ; see also D. Silvan Evans 's preface to Llyfryddiaeth y Cymry .


  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography ;
  • Geirlyfr Bywgraffiadol o Enwogion Cymru (1870)


Sir William Llewelyn Davies, M.A., LL.D., F.S.A. (1887-1952), Aberystwyth

Published date: 1959