Edward Lhwyd 1659/60?-1709

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Edward LHWYD / LHUYD 1659/60?-1709

Biographical Note

Born at Loppington, Shropshire, illegitimate son of Edward Lloyd of Llanforda, Oswestry. Matriculated at Jesus College, Oxford 1682, but did not graduate (though given an MA, 1701); became associated with the newly formed Oxford Philosophical Society, led by Robert Plot, first Keeper of the Ashmolean Museum, whose assistant he became in 1687, and who he succeeded as Keeper in 1691. His extensive endeavours as an antiquary and naturalist led him to produce a catalogue of British fossils (Lithophilacii Britannica, 1699), to tour Wales to revise the Welsh section for a new edition of Camden’s Britannia, and to advance understanding of early British languages through his Glossography, the first (and only published) volume of a projected Archaeologia Britannica (1707). He corresponded extensively with other contemporary scholars, and was described by Hans Sloane as the best naturalist in Europe.


Lhywd assembled an important collection of Welsh manuscripts, sold to Sir Thomas Sebright in 1715, after several other abortive expressions of interest; many of these manuscripts were subsequently given, in the late 18th century, to Trinity College, Dublin or to Thomas Johnes of Hafod. Others were dispersed by auction at the Sebright sale (Leigh & Sotheby, 6.4.1807). ca.100 manuscripts from the Hafod collection were destroyed by fire in 1807.

The extent of Lhwyd’s holdings of printed books is unclear; Hearne described his collection as “bad and of no great account” (despite several being “curious and valuable”), while a late 18th century description refers to printed books of great worth. It seems that his library was split between Oxford and Wales (the latter part, in 1728, being said to be in the possession of Robert Foulkes, Rector of Llanbedr). The books in Oxford were given to the University, in lieu of debts owed by Lhwyd. Ca.50 surviving vols, mostly in Oxford collections, were identified in an account published in 1979. Examples: Bodleian 8vo.V.108.Art, 8vo.V.102.Art, 4to.D.13.Med.

Characteristic Markings

Inscription of Edward Lhuyd (Blickling Hall E. Gibson, Chronicon Saxonicum, Oxford, 1692)

Lhwyd regularly inscribed his name on titlepages, in English or Latin, sometimes adding date and other details of acquisition. He commonly annotated his books with comments on the text.