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THE SALES-BOOK OF SAMUEL WILLIAMS,
ABERYSTWYTH PRINTER
(Part I)
The charm of local history lies in the infinite variety of sources that can be
studied. The sales-book of a printer would obviously yield information of
interest to the historiah of the book-trade; what is surprising is the amount
of information it throws on contemporary life. The entries in the sales-
book for the most part record material which was never intended to be
kept, ephemera which played a part in a specific event at a specific time
and was then declared obsolete and discarded. All printers would have
kept accounts of this kind and, had all the accounts survived, the sales-
book of a comparatively minor printer such as Samuel Williams would
not be deemed worthy of study. Sales-books, however, are as few and far
between as the posters, bills and letter-heads that figure so prominently in
them and so Samuel Williams's volume is of particular interest for its
rarity.
Samuel Williams was born in 1782 and served his apprenticeship as a
printer in his native town, Carmarthen. Two of his brothers were also
printers: John A. Williams printed in Swansea from 1825 to 1830, where-
upon he emigrated to the United States of America, and David Williams
was a printer in Llanelli from 1847 to 1874. Samuel Williams came to
Aberystwyth in 1809, at the instigation of John James. John James was
born in Aberystwyth in 1777 and he became a Baptist minister there,
jointly with Samuel Breeze, in 1803. They had the care of chapels in
Penrhyn-coch, Tal-y-bont, Llanrhystud and Machynlleth as well as in
Aberystwyth. John James married Catherine Davies in 1804 and in due
course had one son and two daughters. In common with other ministers
of religion, he found it difficult to maintain a family without an additional
source of income. He decided to take up bookselling and bookbinding and
duly went to Carmarthen for just over three months to learn the craft of
bookbinding.
Carmarthen was the nearest printing-centre to Aberystwyth and by far
the most important. There had been short-lived ventures in Machynlleth:
Titus Evans had set up a press there in 1789, moving thence to Barmouth
in 1793; his apprentice Edward Prichard ran a press in Machynlleth
following his master's departure until 1806. John James was not slow to
realise that there was a potential clientele in Aberystwyth and its environs
for a printer and, as printing could no longer be regarded as a craft to be
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