Blog - Collections
In the wake of the Armistice Day Centenary commemorations, it is perhaps timely to draw attention to the Library’s maps relating to the conflicts of the First World War, a cataclysm in which 20 million lives were lost, some 40,000 being Welsh.
The Library’s many war maps and atlases display frontlines, trenches and other military paraphernalia, the war’s geopolitical impact in changing political boundaries, post-war redevelopment schemes and even include recreational map-based war games. The maps are of both military and civilian origin, the latter published to inform the public and boost morale.
Some two hundred maps have been digitised as part of the Library’s War Centennial programme. Included are these two examples of maps from the unsuccessful Gallipoli Campaign – which was associated with inaccurate maps that regularly included outdated information gathered during the Crimean War.
The Gallipoli collection comprises contemporary War Office maps such as the two illustrated examples showing Ottoman defences on the campaign’s opening day and a later map of ANZAC positions, together with commercially published sheets.
The Allied attack on Turkey’s Gallipoli peninsula, popularly known as the Gallipoli or the Dardanelles Campaign, lasted from April 1915 to January 1916. Here, British Empire and French forces engaged the Ottoman Empire in an unsuccessful attempt to aid Russia and break the impasse on the fighting fronts by opening a shipping route with Russia unimpeded by excessive winter sea ice and extreme distance.
A failed naval attack in the Dardanelles Strait in early 1915 progressed to a major land invasion on 25th April by British and French troops together with the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps or ANZAC forces. A later landing occurred at Suvla Bay on 6th August.
Allied intelligence deficiencies, indecision and delay, combined with fierce Ottoman resistance thwarted headway and success and mired the belligerents in an entrenched battle of attrition and consequential heavy casualties. The British authorized evacuation began in December 1915, and ended the following January.
Explore Your Archive is a campaign guided by the Archives and Records Association to raise awareness of archives across the UK and Ireland. The campaign, which runs all year, will be launched in Wales in Gwynedd Archives on 16 November. The Library is contributing to the campaign by focusing on the five items which have been enrolled on the UNESCO Memory of the World UK Register. UNESCO established the Memory of the World Programme in 1992 to highlight the value of the documentary heritage as reflecting and promoting the understanding of national memory and identity and for underpinning good governance and sustainable development. UNESCO states that that the documentary heritage should be permanently accessible and re-usable to all without hindrance.
Since its foundation, the Library has been committed to collecting, preserving and giving access to all kinds and forms of recorded knowledge, especially relating to Wales and the Welsh and other Celtic peoples, for the benefit of all. Every day during the launch week, the Library will focus upon one of the enrolled items and promote it through its Twitter account. There will also be talks about the fascinating story of the discovery of the film The Life History of Lloyd George and the work of the Library’s conservation section. Tickets are available through the Library’s website.
During Tudor and Stuart times, heraldic visitations were tours of inspection undertaken by Heralds or their deputies to scrutinise, register and record the coats of arms of the nobility and gentry in England, Wales and Ireland. Having recently purchased a fine pedigree roll of the period, the National Library invited two modern-day heralds to visit us in October: the present Wales Herald Extraordinary, Mr Thomas Lloyd, and his predecessor, the sprightly 90-year old Dr Michael Powell Siddons.
They are seen here inspecting (and no doubt approving of) the heraldic roll, dated 3 December 1591, which was recently purchased by the Library at auction in Shrewsbury. The roll (now NLW MS 24125G) traces the pedigree of Frances Vichan (or Vaughan), heiress of Hergest Court, Herefordshire to ‘Kradog, Earle of Herefourde, Lord of Radnor and Knight of ye Round Table in King Arthur’s time’. Frances married Herbert Jeffreys of Kirham Abbey, Yorkshire, whose grandfather, Col. Herbert Jeffreys, had been Governor of Virginia.
The 2-metre long roll, which seems to be in the hand of Richard Adams, scribe and painter of Ludlow, was produced by Thomas Jones (c. 1530-1609) of Fountain Gate, Cardiganshire. Jones, the almost mythical ‘Twm Siôn Cati’, is popularly depicted in later literature as a brigand and rogue, and is sometimes described as ‘the Welsh Robin Hood’. In real life, he was a canny producer of pedigrees for the up-and-coming Welsh nobility, and had cornered the market for ornate displays of prestige and one-upmanship on parchment. Strict accuracy was not always a primary consideration, and having appealed to the vanity of his patrons, one can almost imagine this entrepreneur’s smirk as the pocketed the proceeds of his latest venture.
Thomas Jones – the ‘Del Boy’ of Tudor Wales?
Maredudd ap Huw
Curator of Manuscripts
Last Friday, 2nd of November, The Welsh Political Archive Annual Lecture was delivered by The Revd Dr D. Ben Rees at Y Drwm, The National Library of Wales. The lecture is delivered in Welsh every three years, and the title for this year was ‘Camp Aneurin; y Gwasanaeth Iechyd Gwladol’ [translated as Aneurin’s triumph; the National Health Service in English].
The lecture was an opportunity to mark the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the National Health Service and to acknowledge the magnificent achievement of Aneurin Bevan in all this. With all the tickets sold out before the evening, a great lecture was delivered by D. Ben Rees who traced the relationship of the Minister for Housing, Health and Local Government with the Tredegar Medical Aid Society which gave him a socialist vision to create a National Health Service.
This was the thirty-second public lecture in a celebrated series instituted in 1987. The previous lectures include Lord Kenneth O. Morgan, Lord Roberts of Conwy, Professor Angela V. John and Menna Richards.
Although he has spent the last 50 years in Liverpool, Dr Rees is a native of Llanddewi Brefi, Ceredigion, and is one of the most prominent preachers of his denomination. In addition, he is a well-known lecturer and broadcaster, and is an author of over 70 publications in Welsh and English.
He published a biography in Welsh on Jim Griffiths in 2014, a volume which was well-received as it was the first in Welsh to encompass the life and career of one of the most important political figures in Wales in the second half of the 20th century and the first Secretary of State for Wales. A sister volume was published last summer, which was a comprehensive biography of another political giant in 20th century Wales, Cofiant Cledwyn Hughes.
Interesting questions and a good discussion were had following the lecture, and a vote of thanks was proposed by Rhys Evans, Head of Strategy and Education at BBC Wales, who is a member of The Welsh Political Archive Advisory Committee which met earlier that afternoon.
The lecture is now published on the pages of The Welsh Political Archive (together with lectures of the past fifteen years) on the Library’s website, and a recording of the lecture forms part of The National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales.
D. Rhys Davies
Assistant Archivist, The Welsh Political Archive
An architectural drawing of Dylan Thomas’s Majoda bungalow in New Quay, Ceredigion has recently been purchased by the Library. The poet lived at Majoda from 1944 to 1945 where he found creative inspiration and started to write Under Milk Wood. Here he also succeeded in furthering his reputation both near and far -and what better fillip for any all-too-quiet, war-weary community than a resident Dylan Thomas perking things up?
The plan is associated with a notorious incident at Majoda on the night of 6th March 1945 when Captain William Killick, a Special Operations Executive (SOE) Commando and also Dylan’s neighbour and erstwhile watering hole chum appeared with a Sten gun and hand grenade and fired into the bungalow in which Dylan and his family were residing. Three friends were also present at the time. The grenade (which had no detonator) was not deployed and luckily there were no casualties. The ferment led to a court case in Lampeter which was covered by the major newspapers and portrayed in the semi-biographical film The Edge of Love in 2008.
Captain Killick, who had recently returned from active service in Greece, was venting his spleen following tensions with Dylan which included the relationship between Dylan and the Captain’s wife, Vera, with whom Dylan had grown up in Swansea.
The plan was commissioned from an Aberystwyth architect specifically for the court case. PC Islwyn Williams was the village ‘Bobby’ who investigated the incident and whose pencil notes appear on the reverse of the plan. These notes describe his observations at the scene – primarily the location of bullet holes.
Captain Killick was fortunate in being acquitted of all charges, including attempted murder. In both court and local community there had been some sympathy for the soldier who had survived several highly dangerous war missions behind enemy lines and indeed had been described by the SOE as having ‘an excellent operational record’.
On 26th October 1918, Stonehenge was given to the nation by its owner Cecil Chubb, who had purchased it three years earlier. The site had been put up for auction in 1915 following the death in the First World War of the only male heir of the family which had owned it since the 1820s.
Although it is one of Britain’s most famous monuments, the purpose of Stonehenge remains a mystery. This is reflected in the title of a book recently purchased for the collections of the National Library, Conjectures on the mysterious monument of ancient art, Stonehenge, on Salisbury Plain. Published in 1826, this is the fourteenth edition of the 82-page publication, reflecting the enduring interest in the monument and its history. The book contains accounts of different aspects of Stonehenge by sixteen writers, including two Welshmen, Geoffrey of Monmouth, Bishop of St. Asaph (1100?-1154), and Giraldus Cambrensis (1146?-1223?). Both writers recount that the stones had originally been taken by giants from Africa to Ireland, where the monument was known as the Giants’ Dance, and were brought to their present location by Merlin for Aurelius Ambrosius, King of the Britons, to commemorate the treachery of Hengist, the Saxon general. Other writers in the book advance different theories about the origins of Stonehenge, and the preface acknowledges that it is almost impossible to ascertain the true purpose of the monument.
The preface begins by stating the purpose of the book: “No publications afford more entertainment, and prove of more public utility, than local delineations and descriptions, drawn with correctness and fidelity; they enable persons to form a just idea of remarkable places, to which fortune or situation denies them access.” Thanks to the generosity a century ago of Sir Cecil Chubb (created a baronet the following year on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, David Lloyd George), access to Stonehenge is now available to all.
Rare Books Librarian
Unlocking Our Sound Heritage is a five-year project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and led by the British Library. The project is part of the ‘Save Our Sounds’ programme which aims to preserve and provide access to sound recordings across the UK. Ten Network Audio Preservation Centres have been established across the UK and will receive funding for three years to deal with the threat facing sound recordings. These institutions are:
- National Museums Northern Ireland
- Archives + Manchester
- Norfolk Record Office
- National Library of Scotland
- University of Leicester
- The Keep in Brighton
- Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums
- National Library of Wales
- London Metropolitan Archives
- Bristol Culture
The project will focus on digitising and preserving rare unique sound recordings, those that are under threat of physical deterioration and those at risk of being lost because the playback equipment is no longer available.
The British Library will lead the project, sharing skills and supporting hubs across the UK to preserve their own unique and rare sounds while making them available to the public.
By the end of 2021 the National Library of Wales will have digitally preserved and provide access to unique and rare recordings from our own collection and from partners’ collections across Wales.
The recordings will be used in learning and engagement activities and will raise the profile for collections for Sound Archives across the UK. By the end of 2021 more people will have engaged in sound recordings and a new website will allow listeners to listen and explore a selection of online recordings.
Alison Lloyd Smith
Unlocking Our Sound Heritage Hub Project Manager
Back in March, the Library published the first group of Peniarth Manuscripts to have been digitised as part of an ambitious plan to present the contents of the entire collection online.
This week, as the Library celebrates items and collections which have been inscribed on UNESCO’s UK Memory of the World Register, we announce that images of a further 25 manuscripts from the Peniarth Collection have appeared on our website. They are presented here according to dates of creation:
From the 14th century, we welcome 190, a Welsh manuscript containing religious texts such as Lucidar and Ymborth yr Enaid, together with 328 and 329, two legal manuscripts in Norman-French, with the latter containing the text of Magna Carta.
From the beginning of the 15th century, we welcome the Latin and English religious texts of 334, and from the middle of that century, the work of Petrarch in a Latin manuscript produced at Oxford (336), and the Welsh text of Gwassanaeth Meir (191). An abundant crop from the second half of the century includes Welsh Law (175), a calendar in the hand of Gutun Owain (186), and poems written by Huw Cae Llwyd (189).
A dearth of sources from the first half of the 16th century is followed by an abundant crop from 1550 onwards, including the manuscripts of Roger Morris of Coed-y-talwrn (169), Thomas Evans of Hendreforfudd (187), lexicographer Thomas Wiliems (188), Simwnt Fychan (189), and another version of Gwassanaeth Meir (192). Pedigrees are represented in 193, and medical tracts in 184, 206 and 207.
Robert Vaughan did not neglect contemporary manuscripts, and 17th century examples include a collection of Welsh poetry (184), grammars and vocabularies written by John Jones of Gellilyfdy (295, 296, 302, 304 and 305), and volumes written by Robert Vaughan himself (180 and 185).
Finally, one lonely manuscript of Welsh sermons (324) from the 18th century, possibly the product of Montgomeryshire.
For a complete list of all Peniarth Manuscripts available digitally, consult the dedicated page on our website. Meanwhile, our diligent digitizers continue to work through the collection!
Maredudd ap Huw
Curator of Manuscripts
Murdoch Mackenzie (Senior) contributed more enduringly to British theoretical and practical hydrography than any other individual. Born in Orkney in 1712, this grandson of the Bishop of Orkney had a mathematical aptitude which brought him into contact with mathematician Professor Colin Maclaurin who successfully advocated Mackenzie’s suitability to undertake a hydrographic survey in the Orkney Isles from 1742. Here, Mackenzie had valuable contacts to aid his work which resulted in the most precise and comprehensive marine survey yet undertaken in the British Isles. In 1750 his charts were published as Orcades, or a geographic and hydrographic survey of the Orkney and Lewis Islands.
With Admiralty patronage, Mackenzie then embarked on a much grander project. He was commissioned in 1751 to survey the west coast of Britain and the entire coast of Ireland, a twenty-two year task which culminated in the publication of two chart volumes in 1774 and 1776.
By 1757 Scotland’s west coast mainland and islands had been surveyed. There followed a ten year survey of Ireland before his return to Great Britain’s western shores. In 1770 the survey ended in Pembrokeshire, the Menai Strait being omitted, having been regarded by Mackenzie as unnavigable for larger vessels.
Mackenzie’s tried and tested surveying methods were acceptably accurate. They were also relatively swift, as is apparent from the prodigious length of coast surveyed in twenty years. This achievement was also particularly commendable bearing in mind the limitations of his surveying and monetary resources.
On Mackenzie’s retirement in 1770, he was succeeded as Admiralty Maritime Surveyor by his nephew, Lieutenant Murdoch Mackenzie (Junior). In 1771 Lieutenant Mackenzie continued where his uncle had ended by surveying the Bristol Channel.
The National Library recently purchased a group of literary papers relating to Edward Thomas (1878-1917), the poet, writer and soldier, all of which were all once in the possession of his friend the Gloucester lawyer Jack Haines (1875-1960).
They include two letters from Thomas to Haines and one from Thomas’s widow, Helen – the latter containing a frank description of the relationship between her, Edward and his close friend and fellow poet Robert Frost – as well as an apparently unpublished book review in his hand, dating from 1903, and several typescript copies of his poems.
However by some distance the most significant and interesting item is a school exercise book once used by Myfanwy, Edward Thomas’s daughter, which was reused by him to write his poetry. The majority of the pages were torn out of the book long ago, probably by Thomas himself, but the remaining eight leaves contain multiple drafts of two of his very earliest poems ‘The Mountain Chapel’ and ‘Birds’ Nests’, dated 17 and 18 December 1914. Until now no autograph copies or drafts of these were known to exist and so the manuscript potentially adds significantly to our understanding of his development as a poet.
The manuscript also has a draft of another poem ‘House and Man’, which was one of two published in the journal Root and Branch in 1915, the first of Thomas’s poems to see print.
The manuscripts are a valuable addition to the National Library’s already significant collection of manuscripts and papers of Edward Thomas, which include manuscript drafts of many of his poems, correspondence with his wife, his diaries, among them his 1917 War diary, and his letters to W. H. Hudson.
Rhys M. Jones
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Assistant Manuscripts Librarian