Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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PHILLIPPS , Sir THOMAS ( 1792 - 1872 ). baronet (cr. 27 July 1821), antiquary, bibliophile, and collector of manuscripts, records, books, etc. ;

b. 2 July 1792 at 32 Cannon Street , Manchester , son of Thomas Phillipps , member of a family long settled at Broadway, Worcs. , and Hanna Walton .

Educated at Rugby and University College , Oxford ( B.A. 1815 , M.A. 1820 ), Thomas Phillipps succeeded, in 1818 , to the whole of his father's property, which included the Middle Hill estate , Worcestershire . A collector from boyhood he developed what can only be described as a voracious appetite for manuscripts and documents, emulating, as he himself says, the examples of Sir Robert Cotton and Sir Robert Harley .

Details of Sir Thomas Phillipps 's career and of his numerous and varied acquisitions, made on the Continent and in Britain (including Ireland ) (he also collected printed books ), are given in the D.N.B. ; the present note must confine itself to the Welsh content of what was destined to become the largest private collection (particularly on the manuscripts and records side; the total has been estimated at 60,000) in Britain at the time and, possibly in western Europe also. Periodical auction sales, which began about 1886 , continued. In the 1895 sale a good collection of Welsh manuscripts was acquired by the Cardiff Public Library ; for details see J. Gwenogfryn Evans , Repts. on MSS. in the Welsh Language , Cardiff , and the annual reports of that period of the Cardiff Public Libraries Committee . One of the most famous early Welsh manuscripts, viz., the ‘ Book of Aneirin ’ (now in Cardiff ), had found its way to the Phillipps collection, via Thomas Price ( Carnhuanawc , q.v.) and others ( B.B.C.S. , xi, 109-12), this manuscript having ‘strayed’ from the Hengwrt collection (see Vaughan , Robert , Hengwrt ). The Sir John Williams collection of manuscripts in the National Library contains 108 Phillipps manuscripts, this group including the Edward Jones ( Bardd y Brenin ) manuscripts (details in J. H. Davies , Catalogue of Additional MSS. in the Sir John Williams Collection ); at least thirty other Phillipps manuscripts have reached the National Library afterwards.

With a view to making the contents of his manuscripts more generally accessible, Sir Thomas Phillipps established, c. 1822 , a private printing press in Broadway Tower on the Middle Hill estate ; in 1862 the library and printing press were removed to Thirlestaine House , Cheltenham . From this press issued a large number of publications, including several of Welsh interest — genealogies and visitations, lists of sheriffs and magistrates, charters, rolls, etc. Examples are Barddoniaeth gan hen awdwyr; or Ancient Welsh poetry ; A Catalogue of the Manuscripts in Llannerch Library, taken June 21st 1787 ; a catalogue of manuscripts at Porkington (Brogyntyn) , and Will of Sir Richard Philipps, Bart., Baron Milford . It has been said that Sir Thomas Phillipps claimed a connection with some of the Phillippses of Pembrokeshire ; [at one time he wished to house his collections in Wales ; he consulted the civic authorities of Swansea on the point, and conceived the notion of reroofing Manorbier castle (Pembs.) as a library].

Sir Thomas Phillipps d. at Thirlestaine House on 6 Feb. 1872 , having bequeathed Thirlestaine House and its library, etc., to his third daughter by his first wife. He was buried at the old church, Broadway . [See also under Rowland , John (Gialdus) .]


  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and sources cited therein;
  • Catalogus Librorum Manuscriptorum in Bibliotheca Phillippica D. Thomae Phillipps, bt., impressum Typis Medio-Montanis, 1837-1871 (London, 1824) , 1824 — Sotheby (London) sale catalogues;
  • Cardiff Free Libraries: Catalogue of Printed Literature in the Welsh Department (1898) and N.L.W. catalogues;
  • English Collectors of Books and Manuscripts (1530-1930) and their marks of ownership (Cambridge, 1930) ;
  • ‘Preface’ to A Selection of Precious Manuscripts, Historic Documents and Rare Books, the majority from the renowned collection of Sir Thomas Phillipps, Bt., 1792-1872 … offered for sale by William H. Robinson, etc (London, 1950) (William H. Robinson, Pall Mall, London, 1950 ).
  • [To our sources of information on Phillipps may now be added the series of Phillipps Studies by A. N. L. Munby , librarian of King's College, Cambridge. Already published are (1) The Catalogues of MSS. (etc.) of Sir Thomas Phillipps… , 1951; (2) The Family Affairs of Sir Thomas Phillipps , 1952 ; (3) The Formation of the Phillipps Library up to the year 1840 1840 , 1954 ; (4) The Formation of the Phillipps Library from 1841 to 1872 , 1956 . No. 5, The Dispersal of the Phillipps Library , and no. 6 (indexes and appendices) are still in preparation. — R.T.J.]


Sir William Llewelyn Davies, M.A., LL.D., F.S.A. (1887-1952), Aberystwyth

Published date: 1959