March 2014 Book of the Month: Y Bibl Cyssegr-lan (The Holy Bible) translated by William Morgan and others (1620)


Title page: Fellows’ Library A.8.7 (© Jesus College, Oxford)

This is the 1620 revision of the Welsh Bible, translated by Bishop William Morgan. It is still used as the standard Welsh Bible and is a major literary as well as theological text.

The 16th century saw many vernacular Bibles published. The first in Welsh was William Salesbury’s New Testament of 1567, but this was stylistically flawed. His desire for varied phrasing led him to avoid spelling words the same way twice within a sentence, even modifying Welsh mutations to maximize visual variety.

Morgan published the first complete Welsh Bible in 1588. He made close reference to Hebrew, Latin, and Greek sources, while adopting a style informed by bardic traditions. The text was later revised by Bishop Richard Parry with Dr John Davies of Mallwyd (also of Jesus College).

While Welsh already had a venerable literary tradition, this Bible provided standard access to the written language. The translation ensured and enriched the survival of Welsh.

Jesus College is fortunate to possess two copies of the 1620 edition. Richard Owen of Caernarfonshire donated this copy soon after publication, while Owen Dryhurst Roberts, a broadcaster and strong advocate of the Welsh language, presented a copy in 2009 to his old college.


Calligraphic record of Richard Owen’s gift, above the college bookplate: Fellows’ Library A.8.7 (© Jesus College, Oxford)

Anna Thomas (Graduate Library Trainee, 2012–13)

 revised by Emma Jones (Graduate Library Trainee, 2013–14)

 Sources and further reading:

  • Catalogue record on SOLO
  • Morgan, Prys. A Bible for Wales. Aberystwyth: National Library of Wales, 2007.
  • Thomas, Isaac. William Morgan a’i Feibl = William Morgan and his Bible. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1988.
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