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New Welsh publisher launches to meet demand for classic Welsh literature

05 Feb 2024 5 minute read
Llyfrau Melin Bapur Books

A new Welsh publisher has launched to meet a gap in the market for classic Welsh literature and translations.

Melin Bapur is a new enterprise selling books through a print-on-demand model. The new publisher intends to publish a wide range of books, but intends to develop a specialism in classic Welsh literature, with new editions of Welsh classics which have long been unavailable, as well as making available literature which has never before been available in book form.

Major voices

Melin Bapur’s founder, Adam Pearce, explains: “I had the idea for Melin Bapur when reading Alan Llwyd’s wonderful biography of T. Gwynn Jones.

“Gwynn’s greatness as a poet is undisputed, but one of Llwyd’s points is that Gwynn was also a major voice in the development of the novel in Welsh, writing some ten novels of extremely high quality, many of which only ever appeared as serialisations in magazines, often anonymously, and even the ones which appeared as books have been hard to find for many years now.

“Similarly, only recently there was an article on the BBC where someone had decided to explore Daniel Owen’s writing, having seen the statue in Mold, only to find that she could only get his novels in their English translations as the Welsh versions were out of print!”

Adam Pearce

Among the volumes with which Melin Bapur are launching their new Llyfrgell Cymraeg series are two novels by T. Gwynn Jones, Lona, his own favourite of his novels, a love story inspired by E. B. Yeats, and Gorchest Gwilym Bevan, a social novel about a strike in the quarries and which argues for workers’ rights.

In due course, the publisher hopes to make all of T. Gwynn Jones’ novels available, along with the work of many other Welsh writers both familiar and new.

Cultural heritage

“There’s a lot of work needed in Wales when it comes to curating our cultural heritage, and making more of what we already have: these books are wonderful, and deserve to be talked about – the first step on that journey is making them available in the first place!

“In English you have labels like Penguin and Oxford producing series of classics, but we’ve never had an equivalent in Wales that really catalogued our literature systematically in that way. This is what we’re trying to do with the Llyfrgell Cymraeg.”

“T. Gwynn Jones is a canonical figure of course, but a big part of our mission at Melin Bapur will be to unearth hidden gems which haven’t received the attention they deserve.

“There are writers who probably appeal more now than they did when they first wrote, and yet who were neglected by the literary establishment, for whatever reason.

“You have a writer like Mary Oliver Jones, for example, who wrote the first crime novel in Welsh, which we are extremely proud to be publishing for the first time ever well over a century after it was written!

“Gwyneth Vaughan is another female writer of absolute genius whose work deserves to be widely available, and whose work we hope to publish in the near future.”

World literature in Welsh

Another area Melin Bapur hope to explore is the publication of translations of world literature into Welsh. Adam Pearce explains:

“Languages the world over translate books regularly, yet despite there being a great many translators working professionally in Wales I’ve often encountered people who think we don’t need to bother ‘translating books into Welsh, particularly from English, and particularly literature for adults.

“I suppose people think that people would rather read the originals; but I think this misses the point of why people might want to read a book at all, especially reading in Welsh. There are probably a lot of people out there who like the idea of reading in Welsh, but don’t know what to read, so offering them something familiar can be a gateway that gets them used to reading in the language.

“It’s also an extremely valuable resource for learners to have high quality translations of familiar works in a language they are trying to learn.”

Accordingly, alongside the books in the Llyfrgell Cymraeg series, Melin Bapur have made available Pearce’s own translation of H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine, Y Peiriant Amser, which is the first time any novel by H. G. Wells has been available in Welsh.

The publisher is interested to hear from translators who have translated works into Welsh, or  have interest in doing so. They also intend, in due course, to begin publishing books in English, particularly translations of Welsh literature and bilingual editions, or even other languages.

National importance

“Translation is a natural and normal cultural activity for healthy languages and literatures. It’s understandable that the Welsh Books Council have concentrated their resources on promoting original writing, but I think it’s therefore all the more important that the independent sector sees what we can do in this space. The Welsh public love to read, and the world will love to read about us!”

Melin Bapur is a wholly independent publishing label which doesn’t receive any public money. Their books can be purchased online via the publisher’s website, or from all common online book stores; independent Welsh booksellers and bricks and mortar shops interested in stocking Melin Bapur’s books are encouraged to contact the publisher directly at [email protected].

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Geoff Horton-Jones
Geoff Horton-Jones
5 months ago

Warnes did publish Beatrix Potters books in Welsh

5 months ago

Mae’n hen bryd hefyd. Diolch yn fawr.

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