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IV. The Welsh Press
Oneida County has from the beginning been the center of Welsh printing and publishing in the United States. A large part of the periodicals issued in Welsh have come from Utica, and the vicinity, and most of the Welsh books published in this country have come out of the presses of Oneida County printers. If in this account I am forced to overstep the boundaries of the county, it is because those publications issued outside of the county had many subscribers within it, and many of them even had a portion of their existence there.
The Welsh literature reflects the character of the people; it is essentially religious. Aside from works of poetry, which moreover have been for the most part of the same spirit, there have been but few books published in Welsh that have not been either written by clergymen or about them. Books of sermons and theological discussions, a profusion of biographies of clergymen, which by their numbers testify strongly to the high esteem in which these men were as a class held, many accounts of travels, which for the most part deal with the various church organizations encountered in the course of the journeys, these make up the bone and sinew of the literature of the Welsh Americans. One, therefore, expects to find the earliest printed volumes of that nature and he is not disappointed.
The first Welsh book printed in Oneida County, if the existing evidences are complete, was a hymnbook printed in Utica in 1808 and known as Pigion O Hymnau or Selections of Hymns. By that time the Baptists and Congregational Churches of Utica felt the need of hymns appropriate to their worship and so the Rev. Daniel Morris, pastor of the Welsh Congregational church, undertook the work of editing such a book. (1) In this work he was assisted by John Roberts and Evan Davies, local preachers of Utica, and by Walter G. Griffiths and Timothy Griffiths of Steuben, who proved very diligent in the labor of selecting hymns for the purpose. (2) The printing was done by Ira Merrell (3) , Mr. Morris binding them himself.
Two other hymn books are among the early Welsh publications. One of them printed in Utica in 1827 by William Williams is an American edition of a Welsh hymnal. It was a small volume of 342 pages with the title of Caniadau Sion. The third hymnal was published for the Baptists by W. G. Thomas under the title of Casgliad O Hymnau, an American edition from the Welsh of J. Harris, Abertawe. It was printed in Utica by W. C. Rogers in 1838.
These are not the only Welsh books published in Oneida before 1840, but from lack of definite information it is not possible to tell of what character or how numerous the others were. There were several printers before that time who were turning out material in Welsh. One of these was T. Walker in Utica, who in 1822 printed a pamphlet of twenty-three pages giving a history of the Welsh Bible Society in Utica and Steuben from 1816 on.
It was after 1840 that most of the publishing of Welsh books was carried on. For over a score of years following that date books and pamphlets were being issued in large numbers from the Oneida County presses. There were several competing printers at the time, the largest being E. E. Roberts in Utica. R. W. Roberts and D. C. Davies were also printing in Welsh at Utica and R. R. Meredith at Rome printed a large number of books. After 1862 the printing house of T. J. Griffiths gradually acquired the leading place among the Welsh printers. The two houses of Roberts disappeared about that time and Meredith moved to Chicago, devoting most of his attention thereafter to music publishing. The same thing has been true in New York, where much Welsh printing was formerly done. There the Welsh printers have disappeared as the demand for their services has fallen off. This has left a clear field for the Griffiths house, of which it has taken almost complete possession. Welshmen in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin and other states as well as New York have for the past forty years had their books and others productions of any size printed by Griffiths. While the other Welsh printeries have gradually dropped out, the house of Griffiths has continually expanded, taking up the places left by others until at present most of the Welsh printing in the United States is done by that company. Aside from his printing, Griffiths has also built up a publishing business, having purchased the two periodicals, Y Drych and the Cambrian, both of which he printed before becoming the owner. An account of these papers will be given later.
What is of much more interest than the subject of the printers is that of the publishers, the men who took the financial responsibility of the books which those already named have printed and who had charge of distributing them. The proprietors of the various Welsh magazines have all published a number of books. John M. Jones, the publisher of Y Cymro Americaidd, published Welsh books from his office in New York. Robert R. Meredith, a printer in Rome, published several books besides his magazine, Yr Arweinydd. Robert Everett, from the office of Y Cenhadwr, published a number of small books beside Uncle Tom's Cabin, which was an American edition of a translation made in Wales. He also published at the instance of the Congregational organization of the county a hymnal which ran to three editions and an American edition of a memoir of one of the foremost preachers of their denomination in Wales, William Williams of Wern. The first three publishers named had their own presses and were both printers and publishers. Rowlands and Ellis, like J. M. Jones, an early proprietor of Y Drych, had their books printed by the printers of their papers.
The greatest publishers, however, were men who neither had printing presses nor who published papers. Among them there stand out preeminently two Welsh preachers of the Calvinistic Methodists, Thomas R. Jones, for sometime a resident of Rome, and Thomas T. Evans, who lived in Floyd and Holland Patent. A large part of their publications was made up of American editions of Welsh books. A few of the books which Evens brought out were: An Essay on the Sabbath, by Rev. John Elias, in 1845; Gurnal's Christian in Full Armour, originally in English and translated into Welsh in Wales, in 1850; a biography of Mr. Jenkin Thomas, Penhydd, Glamorgan, in 1864. All of these were printed for the publisher by E. E. Roberts of Utica. Jones has similarly a long list to his credit, printed by Meredith and other printers in Rome. In 1877 we find Jones publishing Daniel's Life of D. L. Moody, which he had translated into the Welsh, and which was printed by T. J. Griffiths.
In the publishing of these books, Evans and Jones bore the whole responsibility, the printers being paid just as the modern printers for publishing houses. But these publishers had no organization for the disposal of their books. Their method was by simple colportage. In this their profession of the ministry was rather a help than a hindrance. Neither was for long a settled pastor. During much of the time they served only as supplies and so were free to travel much through the country, carrying their books with them and selling them in the churches they supplied on the way and to the Welsh people they could reach. They distributed in this way a great many books among the Welsh who were eager to purchase, and did a vast amount of good. Not all of their books were disposed of in this way. Both advertised their publications in the Welsh periodicals and sold many copies by mail. (4)
These men found the business profitable and Evans, at least, was able to make a small fortune from it. (5) For the ordinary author, however, the difficulty in disposing of his book was a great hardship. He had to be of necessity both the author and the publisher. The publishers already mentioned published only their own books and books from Wales, and there was nobody who would accept the responsibility of distributing a new book by a Welsh American author. The printers, when paid, would print and bind the books, and then it was for the authors to sell them. They had as a rule to employ the same methods as Jones and Evans, but with less success, for they were less free to travel about than these two and having but the one book, they found the profits from the sales not much greater than the traveling expenses. The clergymen were accustomed to take copies of their books to churches where they might go to supply and to the various church meetings, which would take them into new territory among new men, who would be prospective purchasers. Sales were also made through the mail as the result of advertising in the Welsh papers. Whether Jones or Evans or other men of the same type in other parts of the country even undertook to dispose of books published by others I am unable to say, though it seems probable.
Before leaving the subject of Welsh book publishers, there should be mentioned two organizations which have issued a number of books for the Welsh in this country, the American Bible Society in New York. In 1821 the New York Society was distributing Welsh Bibles (6) probably at this time obtained from the British Bible Society. Shortly after that the American society began publishing Welsh Bibles and Testaments and has continued this until recent times. These were distributed among the Welsh through the agency of the various Bible societies which came to be established. The American Tract Society was established in New York in 1825. So far I have been unable to learn exactly when they began the publication of Welsh books, though it seems it was about 1845. (7) Their publications were Welsh translations of famous religious books in English, such as Baxter's Saints' Rest, President Edwards' Work of Redemption, Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, and John A. James' The Anxious Enquirer. These books sold for from twenty to fifty cents. The society issued also a series of penny tracts in Welsh that were largely circulated.
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