Online Seminar explores Lampeter’s Bowdler Tract Collection


The inaugural seminar in the Lampeter Treasures series will explore the University’s Bowdler Tract Collection.  The Seminar, to be delivered by Professor Nick Seager, will be held online via Microsoft Teams on 10 February, at 7.30pm.

Image of three of the Bowdler Tracts

The seminar series has been developed by the University’s Library and Archives team to support the range of online and physical exhibitions hosted as part of the University’s bicentenary celebrations.

The Bowdler Tracts are among the greatest jewels within the University library, comprising a collection of 9 000 pamphlets collected by three successive members of the Bowdler family between 1638 and 1785..

Their subject matter ranges from religion to medicine, and from the theatre to foreign trade and the colonies which means and that they provide a superb picture of 17th and 18th century life.

Siân Collins, Head of the University’s Special Collections said: “The Bowdler Tract collection came to Lampeter soon after the death of Dr Thomas Bowdler IV (1754-1825). He is better known for editing (expurgating) Shakespeare in1818 to remove potentially objectionable or unsuitable content. His name entered the English language in the verb ‘to bowdlerize.’  

Although the Bowdler pamphlets are known to have reached Lampeter some time before 1836, the details of this are still uncertain. In 1811 Thomas Bowdler IV, moved to the Rhyddings in Swansea then part of the diocese of St David's; he was well acquainted with Bishop Thomas Burgess, the founder of St David’s College Lampeter. They shared the same circle of pious friends including William Wilberforce, Hannah More, and other members of the Clapham Sect. In fact, Bowdler and his sister, Henrietta Maria, editor of the first edition of The Family Shakespeare (1807), were both early contributors to Burgess' building fund for the future college.

“Dr Bowdler presented Burgess with copies of a number of his own publications and those of others which are still housed in the University’s Roderic Bowen Library and Archives. In the year before he died, he had addressed the Royal Society of Literature, founded by Bishop Thomas Burgess. Burgess' known book-collecting interests may have served as the final stimulus in encouraging the gift of the pamphlet collection to Lampeter”.

Professor Nicholas Seager said: “This collection of pamphlets and tracts is a fascinating and little-known resource for a number of subjects. It is particularly strong in providing evidence of the use of propaganda in shaping public political opinion during this period. There are also intriguing glimpses into the fear of the possible arrival of plague into the country during the early 18th century. I have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity of dipping into the collection and getting to know its contents.”

Alison Harding, Executive Head of Library and Learning Resources at UWTSD said:  "As part of the university’s bicentenary, I’d like to welcome all to the first in a series of events designed to both celebrate the institution's Special Collections and Archives, and also to share the stories they hold to the widest audience possible. These collections give us amazing glimpses of those who have gone before us, at least in part, and in doing so tell us so much of who we are now".

Professor Nicholas Seager’s seminar is part of the Treasures Series in which eminent academics are invited to explore the University’s special collections. The collections held within the Roderic Bowen Library and Archives include the University's oldest printed books, manuscripts and archives and are one of the principal resources for academic research in Wales.  Acquired over the last 200 years, largely by bequest and donation, the Special Collections include over 35,000 printed works, 8 medieval manuscripts including the famous Monk’s blood manuscript and the 1279 Lampeter Bible, around 100 post medieval manuscripts, and 69 incunabula.  Material from the Archives includes the early student registers and photographs from the mid nineteenth century onwards.

Further information on the Bowdler Tracts may be found on the Library and Learning Resources webpages.

The Library and Learning Resources Team has organised a series of exhibitions and seminars as part of the University’s Bicentenary celebrations which commemorate the establishment of St David’s College, Lampeter on 12 August 1822 through the laying the foundation stone which marks the beginning of higher education in Wales. 

During the year, events and activities are being organised across the University’s campuses.  For more information and our up to date events calendar please visit our webpages.


Note to Editor


Professor Nicholas Seager is Professor of English Literature and Head of the School of Humanities at Keele University. He has published on writers including John Bunyan, Jonathan Swift, Eliza Haywood, Daniel Defoe, Samuel Richardson, Laurence Sterne, Samuel Johnson, Oliver Goldsmith, and Jane Austen. He recently completed an edition of the correspondence of Daniel Defoe, which will be published by Cambridge University Press in 2022.

 The Seminar will be delivered online:,i5KWJtWu0kGSNU4I7dvx5Q,sSB67rrdyUqxtjT9eAOI0g,QvpkXLUiiU-mVR6PvL0uPw,FG5kqIq6vk6k9RcsHa_BuA,tPg2kbQclUiY2-hqhEJOAQ?mode=read&tenantId=4e0f11f9-046e-4505-9cb8-db2152311e21