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Born at Tre'r Ddôl, near Corwen, possibly on 1 May 1648. At the age of 18 he is said to have gone to London as a tailor; he is afterwards found attending fairs at Chester, Shrewsbury, Wrexham, and Bristol — possibly as a vendor of books. H. R. Plomer (Dict. of Printers and Booksellers… at work… from 1668 to 1775) connects his name with The Character of a Quack Doctor, 1676. In the autumn of 1679 he issued the first number (for 1680) of the series of thirty-two Welsh almanacks with which he was to be connected up to about 1712; the letters patent granting him the sole right of writing, printing, and publishing an almanack ‘in the British Language’ are dated 1 January 1679, whilst the assignment to him by the Company of Stationers of the sole right of publishing almanacks for each year ‘in the Welsh tongue’ was made on the first day of March in the same year. In 1681 he appears to have had a shop in Paul's Alley, London, in 1685 he was settled in Blackfriars, whilst the preface to his Welsh dictionary of 1688 was written at his house near the sign of the Elephant in Lower Moorfields. Three very rare works published by him in London were Llyfr Plygain, 1683; Athrawiaeth i ddysgu ysgrifennu amriw fath ar ddwylo, 1683, probably the ‘first Welsh copybook’ (Jnl. Welsh Bibliog. Soc., iv, 67, 113); and Y Gwir er Gwaethed yw, 1684, a Welsh story, in verse, of the Popish plot (Jnl. Welsh Bibliog. Soc., iv, 243); the above three works are represented by unique copies in N.L.W. In 1687-8 he published a Welsh edition of the Book of Common Prayer, a Welsh version of the Thirty-nine Articles, and the metrical psalms of Edmund Prys. Another substantial London publication was Y Gymraeg yn ei Disgleirdeb, 1688, a Welsh - English dictionary. By about this time Thomas Jones was working up a substantial business as a bookseller with selling-agents at Chester, Abergavenny, Bala, Dolgelley, Llanfyllin, Oswestry, Welshpool, and Shrewsbury. When he actually settled in Shrewsbury is not definitely known, but some bibliographers believe that Carolau a Dyriau Duwiol, 1696 (an anthology based upon Ffoulke Owen's Cerdd-Lyfr published in 1686), was issued at Shrewsbury; another fairly early Shrewsbury publication may have been Artemidorus: Gwir Ddeongliad Breuddwydion (1698?; there is an imperfect copy in N.L.W.). It is definite that Attebion i'r Hôll Wâg Escusion, 1698, and the Welsh version of John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, i.e. Taith y Pererin, 1699, were printed at Shrewsbury. Jones was busy compiling, printing, and publishing Welsh books and thereby establishing the position of Shrewsbury as a most important centre for the publication and sale of Welsh books. Details as to the various places in Shrewsbury where he lived or worked are given in Llywelyn C. Lloyd's monograph on ‘The Book Trade in Shropshire’ (in Trans. Shropsh. Archaeological Society, xlviii, 1935-36).
The list of publications by Thomas Jones (from London and Shrewsbury) is long and impressive. He was most definitely a benefactor to Welsh literature; even his almanacks had more than an ephemeral interest, for they contained poems, most of them hitherto unpublished, by several of the better-known Welsh poets. Details are given in various volumes of the Jnl. Welsh Bibliog. Soc., i, ii, iv; see also Ifano Jones, History of Printing and Printers in Wales, and T. Shankland in Trafodion Cymdeithas Hanes Bedyddwyr Cymru, 1912-13. Thomas Jones has one other title to fame, for he can be described as the first Welsh journalist. He would appear to have founded the first Welsh newspaper; this is inferred by references in his almanacks for 1691 and 1692 (Jnl. Welsh Bibliog. Soc., ii, 99). The venture was unsuccessful and no copy of the work has survived; for the lack of success the publisher blamed Welsh ‘mercers’ and other vendors for not ordering copies. T. W. Hancock (in Bye-Gones, 25 May 1881) said that Jones published a news-sheet (A Collection of all the Material News, Printed and sold by Thomas Jones in Hill's Lane (?) near Mardol. Price 1d.), possibly in 1705; if this was the case then Shrewsbury was one of the places where the earliest provincial newspapers were published (Francis Burges's Norwich Post began publication in September 1701; see Llewelyn C. Lloyd, op. cit.).
Thomas Jones died 6 August 1713; this date is deduced from a Welsh elegy, ‘Marw-nad am yr enwog Sywedydd Thomas Jones yr hwn a fu farw y 6 Dydd o fis Awst 1713’; he is probably the ‘Thomas Jones, of ye Castle Hill’ who was buried on 8 August 1713 (S. Mary's parish register).
Published date: 1959
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