in London. He also borrowed books from John Williams, rector of Llangadfan, 1717-73, David Evans, rector of Llanerfyl, 1737-76, John Tinsley, vicar of Llandinam, 1784-1830, and from his pupil Gwallter Mechain. Jones was clearly a voracious reader. Apart from the works of Voltaire, he derived ideas and insights from material as diverse as The Rights of Man, Archaeologia Britannica, the Political Magazine, the Shrewsbury Chronicle, the poems of Milton and Y Cylchgrawn Cynmraeg. He read works on astronomy and physics, music, geography, topography and navigation. He traced the voyages of Captain Cook, familiarized himself with the terrain of Africa, Arabia, Brazil and Egypt, and became extremely well versed in the civilization of the Incas and the work of the Peruvian historian, Lasso De La Vega.10 There was virtually nothing which did not excite his curiosity. Titbits of information from wandering gypsies and pedlars were absorbed and used, for Jones, as he frankly confessed, was never loath to 'stoop to pick up gems, even from a dunghill'.11 By the early 1790s, according to Gwyn A. Williams, he was 'one of the best-informed men on popular America in Britain'.12 Even in an age which discouraged narrow specialization, William Jones was a man of unusually wide interests and talents. Like many versatile lower middling sorts in eighteenth-century Wales, William Jones was essentially a self-taught man who pulled himself up by his bootstraps. Baptized at Llangadfan parish church on 18 June 1726, he was the youngest of three sons born to William Sion Dafydd (1666-1758) and his second wife Catherine (d. 1760). 13 His family was of humble stock. John David, his grandfather, had been buried in wool in December 1683, and his father eked out such a bare living on the farm of Dolhywel on the Wynnstay estate that he was obliged to supplement his income by serving as a guard on the stage coach which regularly rattled through the parish., There are only brief references to his mother Catherine in William Jones's letters: apparently she could mumble Catholic prayers and incantations which she had learnt on her mother's knee, and the deft manner in which she dressed and roasted geese left a deep impression on her son.15 When his elder brother, John William Sion Dafydd of Bwlch Llety Griffith, died in December 1750, William Jones was prevailed upon by his father to take up the tenancy of Dolhywel, a decision which, at least in the short term, sharply cured him of 10N.L.W. MS. 170C, f. 10; 323, ff. 1-4; 1806E, ff. 782, 787; 13221E, ff. 303-4, 337-38; 13222C, ff. 219-21. "The Cambrian Register, II (1796), 242. 12Gwyn A. Williams, Madoc: The Making of a Myth (London, 1980), p. 93. "N.L.W., Records of the Church in Wales, Llangadfan Parish Registers. 14E. P. Roberts, 'William Jones, Dolhywel', Mont. Colis., 70 (1982), 42. "N.L.W. MS. 1806E, ff. 788-89.