Born 9 November 1836 at Llanfwrog, Denbighshire, son of Peter and Frances Foulkes. He was apprenticed as a compositor to Isaac Clarke, Ruthin, but went to Liverpool on Christmas eve 1854, before completing his apprenticeship. He spent some years as a compositor in the Amserau printing office and then went to the printing works of David Marples. He set up a press of his own in 1862 at 28 King Street (renamed Kinglake Street in 1868). He made several moves before finally settling down at the Don Chambers, Paradise Street, c. 1896. In Gore's Liverpool Directory he is described in 1862 as a bookseller, in 1863 as a printer, and in 1870 as a publisher.
The first book published by him was probably the small hymn book, Llyfr Emynau, for the Welsh Congregationalists. The most notable of his early publications was the first edition, in three parts (1862-4) at one shilling each, of Cymru Fu, a collection of Welsh fables, romances, and traditions, which, with few exceptions (and the authors of these are all named), he wrote himself although there is no indication of this in the work itself; he later sold the copyright of this popular book to Hughes and Son, of Wrexham. In 1870 he published Enwogion Cymru, for many years the largest and best-known Welsh biographical dictionary; this also was originally published in shilling parts. Much of it was written by Foulkes himself and he was its editor as well as its publisher. From then onward he published a large number of Welsh books, including many cheap reprints of the better-known poets and prose writers. Among the more important of the books which issued from his press were Dafydd ap Gwilym, 1873, Y Mabinogion Cymreig, 1880, Iolo Manuscripts, 2nd ed., 1888, Philip Yorke, The Royal Tribes of Wales, 1887, and John Fisher, The Cefn Coch MSS., 1899. He published some outstanding biographies, including those of Thomas Charles Edwards, John Hughes (1827 - 1893), Daniel Owen the novelist, John Ceiriog Hughes (Ceiriog), and the poems and letters of Goronwy Owen. In his cheaper publications, especially the shilling series ' Cyfres y Ceinion,' were included the works of Hiraethog, Ceiriog, Elfed, and many others; the smaller threepenny series, ' Cyfres y Clasuron Cymreig,' included such well-known works as Y Bardd Cwsg, Llyfr y Tri Aderyn, and the poetry of John Blackwell (Alun), etc. He also contributed to the Transactions of the Hon. Society of Cymmrodorion.
He was the author of several novels, including Rheinallt ab Gruffydd, 1874, and Y Ddau Efell, neu Llanllonydd, 1875, and also contributed, in his younger days, to the Welsh periodical press, particularly Y Cronicl, Yr Herald, and Yr Amserau.
It is, however, as the founder, owner, and editor of Y Cymro that Isaac Foulkes is best-known. The first issue of this Welsh newspaper is dated 22 May 1890. Politically a Liberal and a fervent advocate of peace, Foulkes's main purpose was the preservation of the Welsh language and its literature. He did more than any other publisher to popularize Welsh books. During that period, i.e. towards the end of the 19th century, when the literary output of Welsh authors was at a low ebb, Foulkes, through his newspaper and by his publication of cheap reprints of Welsh classics, rendered an inestimable service to the ordinary Welshman.
Foulkes married (1) 1860, Anna Foulkes, Ruthin (died 1900), and (2) 1904, Sinah Owen, Hafod Elwy. He died suddenly at Rhewl, near Ruthin, 2 November 1904, and was buried at Llanbedr in the Vale of Clwyd.
Published date: 1959
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