Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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PHILLIPS , DAVID RHYS ( 1862 - 1952 ), librarian ;

b. 20 March 1862 at Beili Glas , Pontwalby , Glynneath, Glam. , his grandfather's farm, the s. of David and Gwenllian (née Rees ) Phillips , but he was brought up at Melincourt , Resolven , in the Neath valley . He was educated at the National School , Resolven and at private schools — Burrows School , Arnold College — in Swansea . After a period as a miner he became a compositor and proof-reader at Walter Whittingdon's printing office in Neath in 1893 and also acted as an auxiliary postman , but in 1900 he was appointed a reader at Oxford University Press . He was editor of the Welsh Bible in 1908 but more important, he followed courses in librarianship at Oxford Technical College . He returned to Swansea as Welsh Assistant in the Borough Library in 1905 , having gained his Library Association diploma , and was responsible for cataloguing the Welsh section (including the collection of Robert Jones , Rotherhithe , DWB , 508-9) . He was elected F.L.A. in 1913 and F.S.A. (Scotland) in 1920-21 . He was promoted Borough Welsh and Celtic librarian and subsequently in 1923 joint-librarian with W.J. Salter until his retirement in 1939 .

D. Rhys Phillips was nurtured in the literary and cultural societies of Resolven and Neath and he was inspired to research local history , to write entertaining articles to the Welsh press and to compete at eisteddfodau . He wrote a number of substantial essays on musical and biographical subjects at National Eisteddfodau in 1931 , 1932 , 1936 , 1938 , 1948 , 1949 and he was active in many Welsh societies, including the Welsh Folksong Soc. , National Eisteddfod Council , the Gorsedd Board ; he was a keen Celtophile and was one of the supporters of the Celtic Congress in 1917 , secretary until 1925 and a prime mover in establishing the Cornish Gorsedd in 1928 . He published several articles on the development of the public library service but his main interest was in library and printing history . He was one of the founders of the Welsh Bibliographical Soc. in 1906 , secretary from 1907 to 1951 . There can be little doubt that his zeal and enthusiasm sustained the society and its journal. His own publications include: Select bibliography of Owain Glyndwr ( 1915 ), The romantic history of the monastic libraries of Wales ( 1912 ), Dr Griffith Roberts, Canon of Milan ( 1917 ), Lady Charlotte Guest and the Mabinogion ( 1921 ), The Celtic countries, their literary and library activities ( 1915 ). It is very easy to draw attention to the faults in Rhys Phillips ’ work but he has an honourable place as one of the pioneers of modern Welsh bibliographical studies .

In 1918 he won a £100 prize at the Neath national eisteddfod for an essay on the history of the Neath valley . This was published in 1925 as A history of the Vale of Neath , the fruits of many years research and collecting documents and traditions of all kinds relating to the life of the community, a facsimile reprint appeared in 1994 .

He m. twice, (1) Mary Hancock , who died April 1926 , and (2) Anne Watts , ‘ Pencerddes Tawe ’, Dec. 1927 . The son of the first marriage died in 1924 , and there was a dau. of the second marriage. Rhys Phillips died at his home Beili Glas , 15 Chaddesley Terrace , Swansea , 22 March 1952 .


  • D. Rhys Phillips papers at NLW and Swansea City Library;
  • Journal of the Welsh Bibliographical Society , 7 (1952) , 119-21, 122-24;
  • Journal of the Welsh Bibliographical Society , 12 (1983-84) , 43-50;
  • Who's who in Wales (1937) ;
  • The Library Association Record , 54 (1952) , 189;
  • Tom Davies , in Hywel Teifi Edwards , ed., Nedd a Dulais (Llandysul, 1994) (1994) , 218-38.


Dr Brynley Francis Roberts, Aberystwyth

Published date: 2001