Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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WILLIAMS , EVAN ( 1749 - 1835 ), bookseller and publisher .

He was one of the five remarkable sons of David Williams , a Calvinistic Methodist exhorter in Cardiganshire . The father was a blacksmith and he is said to have practised his craft at Swyddffynnon , Esgair near Llangwyryfon , and Pen-y-graig , Llanrhystud . He may have moved to meet the needs of the Mabws and Ffos-y-bleiddiaid estates. The children were probably born at Swyddffynnon , but in 1777 the father was living at Pen-y-graig , and the Calvinistic Methodists of that district used to meet at his house until their chapel at Rhiw-bwys was built. Reckoning from the record of his death, Evan Williams was born in 1749 . He was educated at Ystrad Meurig grammar school under Edward Richard , like his brothers, John (‘ the old Sir ,’ 1745/6 - 1818 , q.v.) , Thomas (see below), DAVID ( warden of Hungerford almshouse , rector of Heytesbury , and father of C. J. Blasius Williams , the expert on pulmonary diseases ), and WILLIAM , rector of Llanstinan . He went to London and became interested in the Welsh movements in the city. In 1789 he became a member of the Gwyneddigion Society , but he does not appear to have held any of its offices. He was a trustee of the Welsh Charity School , and his name appears regularly in its minute books from 1795 until his death. He established a bookselling business with his brother Thomas at No. 13, Strand . The brother remained only for ten years or so in partnership, but Evan Williams continued for over forty years. The brothers began to publish books of Welsh interest . Up to 1800 the name of E. & T. Williams appears as booksellers in imprints (e.g. in 1791 , in Walter Davies , Rhyddid ; D. Thomas , Awdlau ; John Williams , An Enquiry … concerning the Discovery of America ; M. Williams , A Treasury of Knowledge ). In the following year E. Williams appears with J. Owen as publishers of W. Owen Pughe , The Heroic Elegies of Llywarch Hen . Other important books begun by the brothers, and continued by E. Williams alone, are A Welsh and English Dictionary by Owen Pughe , and the Cambrian Register , 1795-1818 . In the second volume of the Cambrian Register issued in 1799 , the brothers are described as E. & T. Williams (successors to Mr. Blamire ), 11, Strand , and they had a warehouse at 156, Leadenhall Street . In 1803 the first batch of E. Williams 's publications as ‘ Bookseller to the Duke and Dutchess of York , and successor to Mr. Blamire ’ appeared. They were Owen Pughe 's Cambrian Biography , Coxe 's A Vindication of the Celts , Sharon Turner 's Vindication of the genuineness of the Ancient British poems , and Peter Roberts 's History of the Cymry. All the books published by E. Williams on the history, poetry, philology, and antiquities of Wales , cannot be listed here, but the following should be noted: E. Pugh 's Cambria Depicta , 1811 ; The poetical works of Edward Richard , 1811 ; Peter Roberts , Cambrian Popular Antiquities , 1815 ; and W. Owen Pughe 's Coll. Gwynva , 1819 ; and Hu Gadarn , 1822 . Evan Williams has a bad name in the letters of literary men of his period. He is called ‘ Mr. Skinflint ’ and ‘ Skin-devil Williams .’ Nevertheless the publication of the kind of books for which he made himself responsible was a considerable venture, and it is right that a tribute should be paid to him on account of his valuable list of publications in Welsh or relating to Wales . He m. Frances , eldest daughter of Robert Neat of Saltross. Wilts. She d. in 1814 at the age of 52. He was 86 when he d. at Penton Street , 25 Aug. 1835 . He was buried in the churchyard of S. James , Pentonville .

His brother

THOMAS WILLIAMS ( 1755 - 1839 )

turned to banking and returned to his native county, taking a share, 13 Sept. 1808 , in the bank of Messrs. Jones, Davies, and Williams (formerly Jones, Morgan, and Davies ) called ‘ Banc y Llong ’ (‘ the Ship Bank ’) in Bridge Street , Aberystwyth . This partnership also was dissolved in 1815-6 , and it is believed that ‘ Banc y Llong ’ then ceased to exist, but Messrs. Williams, Davies, and Co. were keeping a bank in the same premises and were represented by the same London agents ( Sir James Esdaile & Co. ) in 1835 . Thomas d. 15 April 1839 aged 84. There is a memorial to him and his wife ( Margaret , who d. 25 Dec. 1849 ) in the porch of S. Michael's , Aberystwyth , a church towards the rebuilding of which he had given £100 in 1830 .


  • W. Rowlands , Cambrian Bibliography , Llanidloes, 1869 ;
  • Williams , Memoirs and sketches of one hundred-and-eleven eminent men, natives of the County of Cardigan, etc. , 1874 ;
  • NLW MSS 6598, 6664, 9276, and the Mysevin Manuscripts in the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth ;
  • J. Evans , Byr-gofiant am naw a deugain o Weinidogion Ymadawedig sir Aberteifi , 1894-1913;
  • Y Geninen , 1893 , 88;
  • West Wales Historical Records , 1910–29 , vi, 136-8;
  • The Gentleman's Magazine , 1835 .


Evan David Jones, F.S.A., (1903-87), Aberystwyth

Published date: 1959