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Carmarthen collection (17th-19th C.)

The Carmarthen collection derives from the library of the former Presbyterian College at Carmarthen, a dissenting academy founded in the 18th century to train ministers. The collection is rich in theology and Christian religion but also has a range of scholarly literature in other fields (e.g. science, philosophy, history and literature).The collection was transferred in the early 1960s (after the College's closure) to the Cardiff University Collegiate Centre of Theology, then to the University Library. Much was dispersed before it reached the University Library, so we hold a portion of the original collection, rather than the full library.

About half of the material in the collection dates from the 18th century, but around 450 titles are earlier, the oldest volume being a 1527 copy of Erasmus' In evangelium Lucae. The bulk of the material comprises works on theology (doctrinal, practical and natural), Biblical studies (commentaries, lexical aids to Biblical languages, histories of Israel), Church history, studies of Christian denominations and collections of sermons. Many of the authors were key contributors to the development of religious thought in the 17th and 18th centuries (e.g. Samuel Clarke, Edmund Calamy, Gilbert Burnet, Jean Leclerc, Simon Patrick) and the collection therefore provides an invaluable insight into religious controversies and debates of the period. The collection, however, also reflects the Presbyterian emphasis on an educated clergy and contains books on a broad range of subjects. There are works on English grammar and literature, European languages and literature, oriental languages, British and world history, philosophy, law and political theory, ethics and logic. In additional, there is a small selection of books on geography, natural history and about a dozen or so works on physics and chemistry.

Date range: 17th-19th centuries.

Significance: Significant in Wales and the United Kingdom.

Strengths: Educational works for dissenting ministers.

Size: c. 4,000 printed volumes.

Language: Mainly English.

Keywords: Christian religion, theology, philosophy, science, history, literature

Notes: A collection of early scientific instruments that were used in the College's educational programme was also transferred to Cardiff University, and are now displayed in Special Collections and Archives. It includes: an orrery, or planetarium, (dated c. 1800); a compound microscope (dated c. 1800); and an octant (dated c. 1800) used for measuring the altitude of the sun, moon and stars above the horizon. A previous member of the University staff, Dr R. Elwyn Hughes, has written about the collection's contents in Gwyddoniaeth i'r gweinidogion.