For the past two years, between lockdowns, I have been working my way through a backlog of uncatalogued or partially catalogued maps of Africa, sorting them and adding them to the online database so everyone can access them. We are often told by readers that they did not know we had maps from outside Wales, so I hope this cataloguing project and my blog posts will help more readers to discover the breadth of material we hold.
Most of these maps are from the era of European colonial administration of African countries. This partly results from the source of the maps in the collection — the vast majority have arrived in the library during the 20th century through the legal deposit process, which applies only to material published in the UK. The most prolific British publisher of overseas mapping in the 20th century was the government’s Directorate of Colonial Surveys. It was established in 1946 to centralise production of maps of the empire. In 1957, with independence movements across the empire gaining momentum, it was renamed the Directorate of Overseas Surveys. Other governmental departments, such as the Central Office of Information, also produced maps for a general audience, while the Ministry of Defence (MoD) produced and collected maps for military purposes, some of which have been added to the library collections as the MoD reduces its paper map collection in favour of a more digital approach. However, the dominance of colonial administrative perspectives in the collection also reflects the importance of mapping the colonial world — maps ‘prove’ who owns land.
Our first two maps are from a set used to define and legalise the border between British Tanganyika (modern Tanzania) and Belgian Rwanda and Burundi. The maps were drawn in the 1920s, and divided the spoils of the First World War as decided by the Treaty of Versailles. Tanganyika, Rwanda and Burundi had until then been part of German East Africa, but were to be divided as reparations between Britain and Belgium.
The ceremonial signatures of British and Belgian commissioners can be seen on the map. No reference is made to local people or leaders, whose signatures were not required for this division of their territory.
Wiedergutmachung von Unrecht?, 1918
Our next map is a German challenge to British Prime Minister David Lloyd George’s speech outlining his aim of ‘compensation for injustice’ [Wiedergutmachung von Unrecht] through the peace process. Lloyd George had demanded that Germany and its allies withdraw from Belgium, Serbia, Montenegro, Italy, Romania, Alsace and Lorraine — this German map argues that his demands were hypocritical while Britain and its allies held colonies around the world. German East Africa is not included on the map.
While some colonial borders were defined with reference to geographical features, such as Lake Tanganyika in our first map, a quick glance at ruler-straight national boundaries in north Africa, for example, suggests that other borders were defined on paper, by lines drawn on maps, rather than with reference to the land itself, or its people.
This six-sheet 1959 map of the town of Voi in southern Kenya demonstrates this on a smaller scale: the town’s administrative boundary is a perfect circle, map information stopping abruptly at the circle’s edge.
The map of Voi was intended for administrative use within Kenya itself. However, many maps in the collection were made for a UK audience, to inform people about the empire. As a result, some are much more visually striking than the large-scale maps used for colonial administration.
West Africa, 1948
East Africa, 1947
West Africa, 1948 [border]
West Africa, 1948 [Mungo Park]
East Africa, 1947 [legend]
Our next two maps were produced in the late 1940s by the British government’s Central Office of Information for a general British audience. Both were drawn by Leo Vernon, who also illustrated maps of other parts of the empire, as well as tourist and historical maps of Britain.
They are intended to convey something of the culture and history of the places they depict through their use of colour and highly illustrated borders.
On the West Africa map, numerous figures are depicted around the edge of the map. The only one named is Mungo Park, a Scottish explorer. The numerous Black Africans depicted are unnamed, and most have only the slightest suggestion of facial features, in stark contrast to the detailed image of Park.
Both maps also show the rich resources found in Britain’s colonies, emphasising the exploitative and extractive nature of much of British colonialism. This focus on exports and commercial potential is a common feature on the maps in the collection.
Africa: commercial development, 1922
Legend from Africa: commercial development, 1922
The next map dates from 1922, and aims to classify the ‘commercial development’ of the entire African continent. The neat colour coding presents an impression of scientific rigour and accuracy, in contrast to the pictorial appeal of Leo Vernon’s illustrations.
In this hierarchy of development, mining, industry and plantation agriculture (run by and for European settlers) come at the top, while ‘virgin’ lands, although used by local communities for hunting and ‘primitive’ collecting, are classed as undeveloped. It is clear in whose interest ‘commercial development’ is intended to be. There is also very little interest in internal trade within countries or regions, only in external connections — those that benefitted imperial countries.
The continent of Africa, 1954
A number of maps in the collection emphasise the difference between colonies, protectorates and trusteeships, including our next map, as well as the 1948 West Africa map discussed above. Although trusteeships were theoretically intended to ensure that economic development benefitted both native people and colonial interests, they were thought of in a decidedly paternalistic way. An article published in 1946 describes trusteeships:
“Trusteeship, both national and international, is a conception which is at the forefront of the human advance. It assumes a relatively stable human society in which nations, themselves mature, rational, and governed in their actions and policies by high conceptions of law and justice, undertake to assist less advanced peoples to climb the ladder of self-government…”
The maps also frequently include short texts extolling the virtues of the colonial system, detailing the benefit that British rule supposedly bestowed upon Africans, and the ‘progress’ to be made before Africans could be ‘trusted’ with self-government:
The continent of Africa, 1954 [text]
East Africa, 1947 [text]
This blog has only scratched the surface of the fascinating material I have catalogued during this project, and there is plenty more work still to do, so I will be doing more blog posts in future to update you all with my favourite finds from this process.
In the year 1870. A Welshman by the name of John Hughes stood in a desolate land in Eastern Ukraine. This land was chosen as the site of his ironworks. The area, later to be named Hughesovka after him, became an enormous industrial complex attracting workers from all over the world.
Hughes was born in Merthyr Tydfil in 1814, and made a name for himself in South Wales and London for being the mastermind behind several steel foundries. He learnt his trade under his father at the Cyfarthfa Iron Works and by the time Hughes was in his mid 30s, he owned his own foundry in Newport. He then moved to London to continue his meteoric rise. In 1870, Hughes was given the opportunity by the Russian Tsar to bring his expertise to Imperial Russia.
His newly formed company, the New Russia Company Ltd., not only created a new industry within the region, but also provided amenities for the newly formed population, with churches, hospitals, and other important services available, to ensure a happy and harmonious working environment. Workers were even allowed to re-locate their families to the new region, in the hope that this would minimize homesickness.
The working conditions were tough with hot dry summers, dust storms, torrential spring rains, and harsh winters with large snowfalls. Hughes hoped that the good rate of pay and consistent work, which many other countries couldn’t provide, would compensate for the extreme weather conditions that the workers had to endure.
Hughesovka, latterly Stalino, then Donetsk, became a thriving community by the early 21st century, with the region becoming an important part of the Donbas region. Unfortunately, conflict soon followed.
References and online sources:
Edwards, S. Hughesovka: a Welsh enterprise in Imperial Russia : an account of John Hughes of Merthyr Tydfil, his New Russia Company, and the town, works and collieries which he established in the Ukraine, 1992
Thomas, C. Dreaming a city : From Wales to Ukraine : The Story of Hughesovka/Stalino/Donestsk, 2009*
Glamorgan Family History Society Journal, No. 128 (December 2017), p. 10-13 (Diggins, R. Hughesovka: a Welsh enterprise in Imperial Russia)
May has arrived and once again it is time for the National Library of Wales and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales to join together to hold our annual map symposium Carto-Cymru. This will be the sixth event in the series since we started in 2016 and this year we are once again holding an online symposium, though unlike last year the whole event will take place on a single day, the 20th of May.
Our theme this year is ‘Mapping in Megabytes– how computer generated mapping is changing the way maps are produced, used and preserved and what this means for those who hold such information and make it available to the public.’
We have an exciting line-up of speakers, starting with our very own Jason Evans, who will be talking about ‘Decolonising Welsh mapping’. Jason is the Library’s Open Data Manager, and he will be telling us about Welsh speaking users of Openstreetmap and Wikidata have been working to safeguard Welsh language place names and why it is important to do so.
He will be reflecting on a recent Welsh Government funded project, led by the National Library of Wales, to combine these two datasets in order to improve Welsh language mapping services. He will also be looking ahead at the potential of crowdsourced data to empower Welsh speakers and ensure they have equal access to digital map-based services.
Our second talk will be by Jon Dollery, the Royal Commission’s Mapping Officer, who will be discussing the exciting project he is currently working to create interactive digital data from historic mapping.
He poses the intriguing question “What if we could have an OS Mastermap style system of polygons for landscapes now lost to the ravages of time and human progress and what if these polygons could be linked with estate, census and historic environment records?”
The UK has a vast collection of historic cartographic sources, increasingly these are being digitised and georeferenced. The AHRC funded ‘Deep Mapping of Estate Archives’ project seeks to take all of the information contained within these various mapping sources and create innovative interactive digital spatial data that will improve our understanding of landscape development over the past 400 years.
Jon’s talk will explore the types of spatial data we currently capture and how they are used within the historic environment sector and how these new developments can give us new ways to use them. We know there is a wealth of data in our historical written and cartographical sources, but we need to make it easier to get at and analyse. This talk will demonstrate some of the ways in which this can be achieved.
After the lunch break Dr Gethin Rees, Lead Curator of Digital Mapping at the British Library will talk about the Legal Deposit Libraries’ Map Viewer. His presentation will outline the steps that the six legal deposit libraries have taken to ensure that digital maps published in the United Kingdom are available for current and future generations.
Gethin will discuss how access to an increasing amount of data is provided through the legal deposit libraries’ map viewer, built on familiar web map technologies that offer user-friendly functionality and make the collection accessible within the reading rooms of the legal deposit libraries.
Finally, he will look towards the future and outline some of the upcoming plans for map collecting as the legal deposit libraries seek to keep pace with the increasing diversity of maps published in the UK today.
In our final talk Sally MacInnes, Head of Unique and Contemporary Content at The National Library of Wales and Dr Sarah Higgins, Senior Lecturer in Information Studies at Aberystwyth University, will discuss the issues surrounding the preservation of digital maps.
Sally will describe the Library’s approach to preserving born digital content, with a focus on digital maps and how this fits into the Library’s new strategy: A Library for Wales and the World.
Sarah will then describe a project being undertaken in partnership between Aberystwyth University, The Royal Commission and The National Library to develop an AI enabled Trusted Digital Repository for Wales.
This promises to be an exciting day with the chance to hear about some cutting-edge projects in the field. So do come and join us. Tickets are free and can be obtained from events.library.wales
The Library is surrounded by around 9 acres of grounds, which include lawn and formal garden, a craggy knoll which has been left over to natural vegetation, mainly stunted trees and gorse, and open fields, grazed by sheep. At the southernmost point of the site is a knoll which is not grazed and is covered in gorse and with some more mature trees. The site is an extremely exposed location, with open aspects to the sea exposing it to high winds and rain, and in the summer the harsh effects of the strong sun. Originally part of the Gogerddan Estate, there are a number of examples of the original planting such as mature Scots Pine still to be found.
The Library has been undertaking a long term plan to make its gardens more environmentally friendly and enhance the natural environment to encourage biodiversity in all parts of the site. The fields are let for grazing, whilst the two “knoll” areas are left to nature, with occasional management in relation to oversize trees.
Although the gardens surrounding the Library are required to contribute towards the impression of formality and compliment the Grade 2* listed status of the building, recent improvements to the gardens have included a long term vision to make them more sustainable and to encourage biodiversity.
The main actions that have been taken are:
Adopting sustainable gardening practices
The Library has stopped buying in annual bedding, instead all annual flowers have been grown from seed and are aimed at attracting pollinators. Echium, cornflower, ecsholtzia, cosmos and geranium are all part of the planting scheme.
Flowering perennials were bought in as plug plants and will be grown on for future years. There are also a number of areas that have been planted with heathers that give permanent ground cover and the range of varieties ensure that there is always something in flower at every time of the year. The planters at the front of the building, which are particularly exposed to extremes of dryness and heat, have been planted with lavender which can tolerate the harsh conditions. A number of areas in the front gardens have now been planted with flowering bulbs which are left in situ, rather than being replaced by summer bedding which had been the previous practice.
The gardens on the north side of the main steps have been cleared and replanted with a selection of low maintenance shrubs and perennials that are bee and insect friendly. The fence at the top of the garden has been planted with the rambling rose “Seagull” which is very attractive to bees.
Carrying out environmental improvements
The Library’s car park has a hedgerow on the east and part of the south boundary, and a new hedgerow has been planted across the Library’s field to the east. On the northern boundary with the University fields and immediately surrounding the cark park the Library unstable and dangerous Leylandii was removed and the sterile conditions created by these conifers have been replaced with formal laurel trimmed bushes in the car park, and by native species such as crab apple and cherry trees on the northern boundary.
Being insect friendly
In the formal gardens around the Library we have consciously planted a number of insect friendly shrubs such as cotoneaster, hebe, fushia, buddleia, cotton lavender, artemesia and laurel, as well as allium, sedum, and hybrid roses.
The Library has also ceased to routinely use Pesticides and herbicides, only where absolutely necessary on an exception-only basis.
All garden waste is composted on site in three specially constructed compost bins. This compost is periodically removed and used as a mulch around the gardens.
Over the last few years the Library has made a great deal of effort to improve the condition, impact, and sustainability of the gardens immediately surrounding the building. The aim of these improvements has been to improve biodiversity, as well as to create a beautiful environment in which members of the public and Library staff can relax. In the next few years the planting will mature and it is hoped that the gardens will make a major contribution to wellbeing. The Library has started to involve the gardens within the Library’s volunteering scheme and hopes that this will offer unique opportunities to volunteers.
The Library provides an exhibition each year for the St. David’s Day Prayer Breakfast in Cardiff. This special event is organised by a group of Christian members of the Senedd from different parties, and the guests include members of parliaments from across Europe, church and chapel leaders, and representatives of a number of Christian organisations.
The theme of this year’s Prayer Breakfast was “Revivals”. The earliest item in the exhibition was Llythyr ynghylch y ddyledswydd o gateceisio plant a phobl anwybodus (1749) by Griffith Jones, who was responsible for establishing thousands of circulating schools in order to teach people to read the Bible. There was a close connection between these schools and the efforts to persuade the SPCK to provide Bibles in Welsh.
Two letters, giving an account of a revival of religion in Wales by Thomas Charles of Bala were published in 1792. The time of spiritual awakening recounted by Charles led to the founding of the Bible Society, and the exhibition also included the first edition of the Welsh Bible published by the Society in 1807.
In order to reflect the international aspect of the theme, we showed Hanes llwyddiant diweddar yr Efengyl, a rhyfeddol waith Duw, ar eneidiau pobl yn North America (1766), a translation by William Williams, Pantycelyn of a pamphlet describing the spiritual awakening in America two years earlier. Also included in the exhibition were the autobiography of Ben Chidlaw (1890), a Welshman who emigrated to America but was also involved in the 1839 Revival on a visit to Wales, and The revival in the Khasia Hills (1907), the history of the Calvinistic Methodist foreign mission in India.
Two manuscripts from the 1858-9 Revival were shown: the diary of Dafydd Morgan, Ysbyty, and a letter from John Matthews of Aberystwyth. The item which attracted most interest was Evan Roberts’s Bible, which he had with him when working as a miner. The Bible was partially burnt in an explosion in 1897 which killed five of his colleagues. This led to his conversion, described in the diary of the Rev. Seth Joshua, which was displayed beside the Bible. Evan Roberts became the leading figure of the 1904-05 Revival.
It was a privilege to display these treasures from the Library’s collections in the foyer of the Senedd and discuss them with the guests. In creating the exhibition I sought to recount the work of God through a number of revivals in Wales, as well as revivals in other countries which have either had an influence in Wales or benefited from the contribution of Welsh missionaries.
One of the Library’s main aims is to collect all kinds of recorded information about Wales and the people of Wales for the benefit of the public, with a new emphasis on ensuring that our collections represent all aspects of Welsh life and history, especially under-represented individuals and communities. The ‘Collecting’ exhibition gives a taste of our recent acquisitions, including archives and manuscripts, books, maps, photographs and artwork.
In terms of archives the material represents a number of themes – literature, wars, sport and entertainment, politics and music, industry and culture. It contains material of interest in the study of women’s history, the history of slavery, the social history of Wales, the history of art, and the history of the entertainment world, dating from 1866 to 2018. The writers Edward Thomas, David Jones, Menna Elfyn and Eigra Lewis Roberts are among those featured, as are Frederick Douglass, David Lloyd George and Jill Evans from the political world, and Mollie Doreen Phillips, Harry Secombe and Llio Rhydderch from the entertainment industry.
This is what’s on display:
The poet Edward Thomas’s exercise book contains drafts of ‘The Mountain Chapel’, December 1914. (NLW MS 24122B). Purchased with financial assistance of the Friends of the National Libraries.
An illustrated letter in Welsh which forms part of a collection of letters from David Jones to Valerie ‘Elri’ Wynne-Williams. (NLW MS 24167i-iiiE) Purchased with financial assistance of the Friends of the National Libraries.
Notebook of the writer Menna Elfyn dating from 1977 containing early poetic endeavors and drafts of poems. (Menna Elfyn Archive, 1/1/1) Purchase.
Eigra Lewis Roberts’ manuscript draft of the popular television program ‘Minafon’. She wrote about the lives and discontents of Welsh women in post-war Britain, a subject that was not widely addressed by Welsh writers at the time. (NLW MS 23074B) Donation.
Papers of Captain Ted Lees, relating to Island Farm Prisoner of War Camp, Bridgend. Captain Lees was the camp’s Intelligence Officer and interpreter during the period 1946-1948, when it held some of the most senior German officers, including Feldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt. (NLW MS 24094E) Purchase.
Scrapbook relating to Mollie Doreen Phillips, the Carmarthenshire-based ice skater who competed in the 1932 and 1936 Winter Olympic Games. (NLW ex 3043 (i)) Purchase.
A selection of items from the Harry Secombe archive, including a letter from Prince Charles in 1981, the script for the final ‘Goon Show’ radio programme, broadcast in 1972, and photographs of ‘The Goons’. (Harry Secombe Archive) Donation (below):
Copy of a petition, presented to the European Parliament on behalf of Residents against Ffos-y-fran in an attempt to stop opencast mining in Merthyr Tydfil. (Jill Evans MEP Papers, 1 ) Donation.
David Lloyd George’s War Department Pass, Military Identity Card and Westminster Palace Pass from 1940. (Coalition Liberal Association Papers, 1) Purchase.
Papers relating to the 2007 travelling exhibition, ‘Crossing Oceans: Wales, Slavery and Its Music’, the year of Women in Jazz’s 21st anniversary and the bicentennial anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade. (Jazz Heritage Wales Archive : Women’s Archive of Wales) Donation.
A collection of Welsh music fanzines from the 1980s from Rhys Williams’ collection, including ‘Yn Syth o’r Rhewgell’ fanzine, April 1985. (Rhys Williams Fanzine Collection) Donation (below):
Manuscript score of ‘Dwy Gwningen Fechan’ by noted harpist Llio Rhydderch, to the words of I. D. Hooson, 1955. (Llio Rhydderch Papers, 1) Donation.
Autograph album belonging to the journalist John Griffith, compiled during visits to Reconstruction Era America to report for Baner ac Amserau Cymru between 1866 and 1868. Seen here is the autograph of the famous African-American abolitionist, Frederick Douglass. After escaping from slavery in Maryland, he became a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York. (NLW MS 24173B) Purchase.
Poster for a gig August 8th 1991 where Welsh bands Tŷ Gwydr, Llwybr Llaethog and Datblygu played. This poster was donated as part of The Welsh Music Archive’s appeal for Welsh gigs posters #poster2020 . Donation (below):
Casglu / Collecting – our exhibition of recent acquisitions is on from 14.02.22 – 03.06.22. Remember to pop in to see it.
Nia Mai Daniel
Head of Archives, Manuscripts and Contemporary Records Section, and The Welsh Music Archive Coordinator
In our current exhibition ‘Collecting’ there is a scrapbook on display which belonged to Mollie Doreen Phillips (1907-1994), figure skater and Olympic judge. It is one of three scrapbooks (NLW ex 3043i-iii) purchased at auction in London by the Library in November 2020.
They comprise press cuttings from newspapers relating to her varied skating career including The Skating Times and European newspapers, letters from the National Skating Association of Great Britain and programmes for skating competitions. She began competing as a pair with Rodney Murdoch but later chose to compete solo. Mollie Phillips was the first woman to carry a national flag at the opening ceremony of an Olympic Games at the 1932 Winter Olympics held at Lake Placid and the first woman to judge at the 1948 Winter Olympics held in St. Moritz. She was also the first woman to be elected to the National Ice Skating Association.
Although Mollie Phillips was born in London she had strong Welsh family connections and lived mainly in Cilyblaidd, a mansion in Pencarreg, near Llanybydder, Carmarthenshire, where she bred dairy cattle. Her father was George Phillips, founder of the Phillips Rubber shoe-soling company, and chairman of the Carmarthenshire Society (Cymdeithas Shir Gâr Llundain) in 1936. She was an eminent public figure in her adopted county and was High Sheriff of Carmarthenshire, 1961-62, and Justice of the Peace for many years. Mollie Phillips also studied law at Lincoln’s Inn. In 1978 she was awarded an OBE.
In her obituary published in The Independent Dennis Bird wrote: ‘She was a well-liked personality with a vast fund of skating experience and anecdotes. Her smile became a familiar sight on television as she held up her marks at a championship.’
As part of International Women’s Day 2022 celebrations the National Library is displaying some items from the collections of Menna Elfyn, Jan Morris and Margiad Evans:
• Menna Elfyn is an award-winning poet and playwright who writes with passion of the Welsh language and identity. She is one of Wales’s best known and most translated modern Welsh-language poets.
• Jan Morris (1926-2020) was a Welsh historian, author and travel writer. Published in 1974, Conundrum was her first book under her new name, and one of the first autobiographies to discuss a personal gender reassignment.
• A novelist, essayist, poet and writer of short stories, Margiad Evans (1909-1958), born Peggy Eileen Whistler, was one of the most remarkable women writers of the mid-twentieth century. She is known for her ground-breaking depictions of love, sex, illness and death in the lives and work of women inhabiting harsh and restrictive rural environments.
Learn more about the collections by searching our catalogue:
It’s hard to believe that 1997 is 25 years ago, but a chat last year reminded me that it was getting on for a quarter of a century since the Welsh devolution referendum on 18 September 1997, and that the Welsh Political Archive should do something to make this historic event.
A number of ideas were discussed, including holding a travelling exhibition, but in the end we decided that the best thing to do would be to digitise the parts of the Welsh Political Ephemera Collection which focussed on the two referendums held in 1979 and 1997 so that the campaign material would be permanently available all across Wales. Last week we prepared the files for digitisation.
Going through the material brought back a number of memories and seeing the various messages and arguments in favour and against the devolution proposals was really interesting. In 1979, some influential trades unions such as NALGO were urging a No vote – but not because they opposed devolution. They wanted devolution for England at the same time and an independent civil service for Wales. Another No campaign leaflet raised the spectre of violence saying “Bu gan Gogledd Iwerddol Gynulliad ers 1921. A ydych chi am weld hynny yn digwydd yma?” (Northern Ireland had an Assembly since 1921. Do you want to see that happen here?). At the same time leaflets produced by the Communists and Labour urged a Yes vote (although Labour was divided on the issue), while the Liberals resurrected David Lloyd George to play a part in their campaign in favour!
In 1997, many of the same arguments were seen, but Labour’s campaign, in which Prime Minister Tony Blair played a high profile role, was much more united. The campaign focussed on democracy, the Assembly saving public money and the opposition of the Conservatives. The No campaign went after the costs of devolution and portrayed it as the start of a slippery slope to independence.
I don’t remember the 1979 referendum – I was more interested in Duplo at the time – but the circumstances and feeling of the 1997 campaign was very different. In 1979, a weak government which was on the verge of losing a General Election called the referendum and the No result was clear. In 1997, with Tony Blair’s government still fresh, very popular in Wales and with a huge majority called the vote.
Even then, the result was very close but the Yes campaign won the day. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Over two weeks in January the Library’s trainee conservators, Rhydian Davies and myself, traveled to Wakefield. While there, we attended a paper conservation module at the West Yorkshire History Centre. We are half way through the training, and here’s a taste of what we learned in the first half of the module.
Repairing wet documents
Wetting paper is a very useful way to relax it and wash dirt inherent in the fibers in preparation for repairing the document. Before washing the document, the surface should be cleaned. If this isn’t done, there is a danger of removing dirt inside the paper fibers. A soft brush is used to clean the dust, and a ventilated latex sponge (smoke sponge, aerated latex sponge) to remove more stubborn dirt. Sometimes a Staedtler eraser is used too.
After cleaning the surface, the document is ready to wet. The biggest risk with wetting any document is that the ink runs when it comes into contact with the water. To avoid disaster, we test the ink with a drop of water and alcohol. Shown above is a photograph of Rhydian doing just that.
Most manuscripts use “iron gall” ink that is not soluble in water or alcohol. The document has a seal present, which is soluble in alcohol but not in water, so we wetted the document in water only.
After washing it in water, we transferred the document to a glass table to start repairing. Due to the fragility of the document it was decided to place Japanese silk paper (2gsm) over the entire back; the tissue paper is so light and thin that it does not hide any words on the document.
The photograph above shows myself holding the Japanese tissue paper. The material is easily seen through, and once placed on the document, will be almost invisible!
This is the document after receiving the Japanese silk paper over the back. As as you can see from the photograph, it is much more stable. But the tissue paper alone is not strong enough to protect the document from mechanical damage. The document could be easily damaged further.
The next step was to learn to use the leaf casting method. It uses the concept of how paper is created in the first place, using a paper pulp to fill in the missing areas. The document is flooded, and once plugged, gravity pulls the pulp down to the places that need filling.
We don’t have a photograph of the final result, as the first half of the module finished after this step. We start the second half of the module on 7 February, so there will be much more to say after then! But for now, I hope you found this article informative.
A blog about the work and collections of the National Library of Wales.
Due to the more personal nature of blogs it is the Library's policy to publish postings in the original language only. An equal number of blog posts are published in both Welsh and English, but they are not the same postings. For a translation of the blog readers may wish to try facilities such as Google Translate.