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Lampeter University's Special Collections

Literary Lampeter was the venue for our June trip. We spent a fascinating afternoon in the university's special collections archive. We learned about the origins of the collection and were privileged to be able to turn the pages of these historic documents, some of which dated back to the 1300s. A number of historic documents and images of Aberaeron had also been specially selected for us to view.

For those of you who were unable to join us, there is an open day on 28th September 2024 - see the link at the bottom of the article that follows.

Thanks to Ruth Gooding, Special Collections Librarian, for hosting the event and for providing the information below:

The University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) Special Collections contain 35,000 volumes, almost all donated to St David’s College, Lampeter, before 1850. 

The college was founded by Thomas Burgess, bishop of St Davids from 1803 to 1825. Welsh speakers, without the resources to attend Oxford or Cambridge, were to be given a good education, equipping them for the Anglican priesthood.  The first of UWTSD’s three major collections is Burgess’ own working library.  Its greatest treasures include a 13th century manuscript of the Latin Bible, copied by a lame monk, G. de Fécamp, and a copy of the Golden Legend, a medieval book of saints’ lives, printed in 1498 by William Caxton’s successor Wynkyn de Worde.

The second collection was donated by a retired East India Company surgeon, Thomas Phillips. Phillips gave 22,000 volumes in sixty consignments, dispatching them from London by sea to Carmarthen, and then overland to Lampeter.  They included two 15th century Books of Hours, and most of Lampeter’s 69 incunables, (volumes printed in or before 1500). There is a fascinating assortment of early atlases, travellers’ writings, architects’ volumes, botanicals, medical books, and much, much else.

The third collection consists of 9,000 17th and 18th century tracts and pamphlets, amassed by three generations of the Bowdler family. These cheaply produced items, designed to be ephemeral, give a fascinating picture of life from the civil wars of the 1640s onwards. As well as a great deal of religion, the subjects covered include astrology, witchcraft, the South Sea Bubble, 17th century conspiracy theories and the evils of coffee drinking!

Special Collections will be taking part in CADW’s annual heritage festival, Open Doors. We will be displaying some of our treasures on the afternoon of Saturday 28 September, 12 noon to 4 pm. There are more details on the CADW www site at


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