Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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WILLIAMS , JOHN ( 1727 - 1798 ), Dissenting minister, scholar and author ;

b. at Lampeter, Cards. , 25 March 1727 . After training for the ministry at Carmarthen Academy under Evan Davies and Samuel Thomas , he held pastorates at Stamford, Lincs. , 1752-5 ; Wokingham, Berks. , 1755-67 ; and Sydenham , Kent , 1767-95 . He was appointed librarian of Dr. Williams's Library in 1777 . From the date of his retirement from that position, in 1782 , until his death he was one of Dr. Williams 's trustees. A portrait of him hangs in the Library which he served. He m. (1), 1767 , Mrs. Martha Still (d. 1777 ), a widow; and (2), 1781 , Elizabeth Dunn . He d. 15 April 1798 .

His chief publications were works of Biblical and linguistic scholarship: (1) A concordance to the Greek Testament , 1767 , a standard work until superseded by Wigram 's concordance; (2) A free enquiry into the authenticity of the first and second chapters of St. Matthew's Gospel , published anonymously, 1771 (2nd ed. with author's name and additions, 1789 ); (3) Thoughts on the origin, and on the most rational and natural method of teaching the languages , 1783 , which contains a plea for the restoration of Latin as a universal language. He is also credited with the authorship of the anonymous Critical dissertations on Isaiah , vii, 13-6, 1768 ; and he is said to have had ready for the press at the time of his death a translation of Graeco-barbara Novi Testamenti quae Orienti originem debent , by M. P. Cheitomaeus 1649 . A plea for the release of Dissenters from credal subscription appeared from his pen in 1773 under the title, A serious and earnest address … Perhaps his most famous literary exploit was a defence of the discovery of America by Welshmen in the 12th cent. under the title of An enquiry into the truth of the tradition concerning the discovery of America by Prince Madog ab Owen Gwynedd, about the year 1170 , 1791 . This was followed by Further observations on the same subject in 1792 .


  • Monthly Magazine , 1798 , 388;
  • Cambrian Register (1795–1818) , iii, 190;
  • A critical dictionary of English literature. and British and American authors, living and deceased. from the earliest accounts to the middle of the nineteenth century (Philadelphia, 1859-71) ;
  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography


Reverend Roger Thomas, ( -1980), London

Published date: 1959