Blog - Research

Posted - 12-11-2018

Collections / New Accessions / News / Research

Heraldic Visitation of Wales

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

Posted - 15-10-2018

Collections / Digitisation / Events / News / News and Events / Research

The Peniarth Manuscripts: a bountiful harvest

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

Posted - 19-09-2018

Collections / Digitisation / News / Research

Aberystwyth shipping records

Creating linked open data for Victorian shipping registers

Volunteers at the National Library of Wales have been transcribing 19th century shipping records for Aberystwyth and these are now being shared openly on Wikidata by the Library’s National Wikimedian.

 

For the first time it is now possible to visualise and query this rich historical record giving us a glimpse of life in 19th century Aberystwyth.

 

In the 18th and 19th Century the Welsh ‘interior’ was not easy to reach. Before the coming of the train and the invention of tarmac, the best way to get goods in and out of West Wales was by boat. Shipping was a booming industry in towns and villages along the West Wales coast and Aberystwyth was no exception. Records for more than 500 ships registered in Aberystwyth survive at the National Library of Wales and Ceredigion County Archive.

 

Aberystwyth Harbour by Alfred Worthington

 

Volunteers at the National Library began transcribing the Aberystwyth shipping records in 2012. The data they extracted contained information about the ships, their crew and the voyages they undertook.

 

In 2016 the library began to explore the possibility of enriching some elements of the data using Wikidata as a platform to share this data. If you are unfamiliar with Wikidata, it is part of the Wikimedia family of websites, which includes Wikipedia, and is a massive database of free to use data. It isn’t even six years old but it already contains 50 million data items about all sorts of places, people, things and concepts, all added by volunteers and organisations wishing to share their data with the world. The library’s Wikimedian collaborated with Ceredigion County Archives, who held additional information about the ships in order to create linked data about the ships themselves. This data included details such as the type and size of each ship, the date and location of construction and, where known, their fate.

 

From this, we were able to begin digging around in the data, and creating revealing visualisations. If you wanted to see the most popular names for ships registered in Aberystwyth, for example, we can easily retrieve and present this information. A map of where the ships were built revealed some interesting facts too. As you might expect, many ships were build locally in Aberystwyth, Borth and Aberdyfi, for example, but the data also reveals that dozens of ships were built in Canada. A little more research revealed that the government of the day was so concerned about a French invasion that they deliberately established ship building yards in safer lands, such as Prince Edward Island off the Canadian Coast, in order to safeguard the ability to move good around the uk by boat.

Word map of most popular ship names

 

Left; ships built in eastern Canada. Right; Ships built in Aberystwyth and Aberdyfi

 

We were also able to plot all the shipwrecks mentioned in the records. This not only highlights the perils of 19th century shipping, but reveals how ships from West Wales villages were traveling the world. From India, China and Africa to South America and even the South Pole, Welsh sailors were very well traveled.

 

The location of shipwrecks recorded in the shipping records

 

After the initial transcription work, many of the volunteers who had worked on the collection were keen to do more, to collect more information about the ships, their crew and their owners, so in 2017 a series of new tasks were set. Volunteers began searching for photographs and paintings of the ships, investigating the fate of more of the vessels, recording the owners of each vessel and they began the mammoth task of researching the lives of every ship’s master mentioned in the records.

 

Whilst the task of identifying all the ships masters will take some time yet, the first of the tasks  has now been completed. Data about the owners of each ship exists in the original shipping records, but was not within the scope of the initial project, so two of the volunteers who worked on the original project, Lilian and Myfanwy kindly went back through the records, and other sources such as the Crew List Index Project and extracted the the data. Much of this has now been incorporated with the rest of the data for each ship on Wikidata. Apart from providing an easy way to search and explore the data held within the collection the improved Wikidata allows us to query and visualize the data in new ways, which helps us better understand what these records tell us.

 

The new data now means that for many ships, we can chart its ownership throughout its life on the seas. We have also been able to create data items for each of the ships owners, be they individuals or established shipping companies. We know where the companies were based, and where individuals lived, and we know, from their names whether they were men or women.

 

For example we know that of the 630 owners identified, 47 were women. More research would be need, but at first glance it would appear that most of those 47 took ownership following the death of their husbands.

 

The records show how the ships often changed hands regularly. If we take the rather appropriately named ‘Volunteer’ we can plot a chart which shows all of its owners, the other ships those people owned, and the other owners of those ships – painting a complex picture of the business of ship ownership in West Wales. And it should be stated that the 630 owners identified will, in many cases, simply be the majority shareholders, or the appointed owner/manager. Many of these ships had multiple shareholders, meaning people from many walks of life could afford to invest in the busy shipping trade.

 

Owners of the ‘Volunteer’ with other connected ships and their owners

 

We can also see who the big players were in Aberystwyth by querying ship owners by the number of ships they owned. Thomas Jones, an Aberystwyth shipbuilder comes top of the pyle, owning more than 20 vessels at one time of another.

 

Ship owners, ordered by the number of ships they have owned

 

Timeline showing the ships owned by Thomas Jones

 

Wikidata, like Wikipedia, is a platform which anyone can edit so any one can now help to improve the data. If they spot mistakes, or have extra information it can be easily added directly to Wikidata. Our volunteers are still working hard to collect even more data so the amount of data connected to the Aberystwyth Shipping records will continue to grow over the coming months and years. Everyone is free to explore and reuse the data, so for the technically minded among you, please feel free to hack, create, mash and re-work our data, and be sure to share the results with us!

 

Jason Evans

National Wikimedian

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Posted - 23-07-2018

Collections / Events / News / News and Events / Research

Celtic Knot

The National Library of Wales hosts the second Wikipedia languages conference

 

On July the 5th and 6th, The National Library of Wales hosted the second Celtic Knot Wicipedia Language Conference.

 

The conference is quite unique in its ambitions – with the focus on how small and minority languages can grow and develop Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects in their language.

 

Wikipedia has nearly 300 language editions but some have just a hand full of editors and a few thousand articles. The challenges faced by these communities are often very different to those faced by much bigger Wikipedias. The Celtic Knot conference focused on discussing and addressing some of these issues, such as technical support, community building and partnerships.

 

The conference was attended by 55 delegates from all over the world, with people attending from as far afield as South Africa, Norway, Spain and Germany. The Celtic Nations were well represented too, with delegates from Ireland, Scotland, Cornwall, Brittany and, of course, Wales. We are grateful to the Wikimedia Foundation for funding a number of scholarships which allowed us to help volunteers travel to the event.

 

Delegates being welcomed to the conference by Jason Evans, National Wikimedian

Day one featured a structured programme of presentations and workshops, and the conference was opened by the Welsh Government Minister for Welsh and Lifelong Learning, Eluned Morgan AM, who spoke very positively of Wikipedia as a means of supporting the development of the Welsh language. And she spoke of the importance of the work that the National Library of wales has done in this area, thanks in part to Welsh Government funding.

 

Eluned Morgan AM speaking about the value of Wikipedia in giving access to Welsh language information

Wikimedia UK’s Wales manager Robin Owain then spoke, as eloquently as ever, about the growth of the Welsh Wikipedia. The Minister, Robin and several others spoke in Welsh with simultaneous translation and the audience seemed to enjoy listening to the Welsh language, some hearing it for the first time.

 

We were treated to a number of inspiring presentations and workshops during the day. Ewan MacAndrew of Edinburgh University ran a translation workshop and there were a number of Wikidata talks and workshops led by Lea Lacroix of Wikimedia Deutschland. Presentations highlighting the use of Wikipedia for, or within education were particularly popular, with Aaron Morris of Wici Môn discussing the impact of his work with school children and Koldo Biguri of the Basque Wikimedia user group talking about the Basque Wikipedia for children, or ‘Txikipedia’. The great work of the Basque Wikimedia community in this area was further highlighted by Inaki Lopez deLuzuriaga who spoke about their wider education programme, which is supported by the Basque government.

 

Pau Cabot of Catalonia talking about using Wikidata to generate infoboxes on Wikipedia

After a long day, delegates were treated to a trip on the Aberystwyth Cliff Railway for food and drinks at Y Consti cafe. The National Library of Wales choir kindly sang us all some traditional Welsh songs before we had a Breton folk dancing lesson!

 

A group of delegates discussing long into the evening

On the second day we kicked off  with the a presentation on the Irish Wikipedia and a journey through language gaps on Wikidata, by the library’s very own Wikidata visiting scholar, Simon Cobb. A personal highlight for me, was a video presentation by Subhanshish Panigrahi, a National Geographics explorer who works with Wikimedia India. His talk focused on the importance of recording and preserving endangered languages, and highlighted an Indian dialect which is has just one serving speaker. For me, this brought home the importance of supporting and encouraging the use of minority languages before their use drops to unsustainable levels.

 

After lunch we ran an unconference session, where delegates set their own agenda. There were data workshops, strategy discussions, lightning talks and even a tour of the library. Delegates from Cornwall were thrilled to view important Cornish language manuscripts from the library’s collection.

 

Planning the unconferenced sessions

 

We all came together again for a productive group discussion before the National Librarian Linda Tomos closed the conference with a brilliant talk about the importance of the National Libraries work with Wikipedia and virtual tour through some of the libraries most treasured and important collections.

 

Feedback from delegates suggest the conference was a great success, and everyone indicated that they would attend the conference again next year. We will continue to work with interested parties to find a suitable home for the conference next year and Wikimedia Norge have kindly agreed to look at hosting the conference in 2020. We really hope the conference, and the worlds smaller language Wikipedia’s can continue to grow over the coming years, and we thank everyone who was involved in making this years event so successful.

 

Jason Evans

 

National Wikimedian

 

 

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Posted - 27-06-2018

Collections / Digitisation / News / News and Events / Research

Welsh Portrait Collection

4800 Welsh portraits added to Wikimedia Commons and Wikidata

Over the last 4 years the National Library of Wales has worked with Wikimedia to provide open access to more than 10,000 public domain images. These include the Welsh Landscape Collection, photographs, maps and manuscripts.

 

This partnership has led to more than 455 million views of Wikipedia articles containing National Library images to date.

 

Images

Now the Library is pleased to announce that nearly 5000 portrait prints, photographs and paintings have been placed in the public domain on Wikimedia Commons.

 

Along with the images, the Library’s National Wikimedian has also shared rich metedata for every image as linked open data on Wikidata.

 

The Library’s main goal in releasing such content is to increase access to our collections and to contribute to the creation and sharing of knowledge about Wales and its people.

 

It is now hopped that the Wikimedia community will begin to use these images to illustrate Wikipedia articles. The National Library also plans to run a project to increase engagement with this collection, and hopes that volunteers will be encouraged to create Wikipedia articles about the Welsh sitters, artists, printers and photographers involved in the collection.

 

Because all these images are freely downloadable and in the public domain, we also encourage others to reuse them for any purpose they see fit, from education to the creative industries this is a free resource for everybody.

Data

The creation of linked data for the collection also offers interesting opportunities for researchers and academics. For the first time we can properly disambiguate (untangle) the names of the artists and sitters in order to better understand the makeup of the collection. For example 12 different individuals named John Jones have been identified in the collection, and we now know who they all are, and many are now connected via Wikidata to Wikipedia articles or Dictionary of Welsh Biography entries.

 

We can query and visualize the data in a number of ways using a Sparql query service. For example, we can analyze which engravers copied works by specific artists, and we can see the most frequently depicted types of people (clerics, by a country mile) and features, such as coats of arms, and border decoration.

visualisation of the data showing which printers copied work by certain artists
Visualization of the most frequently depicted things in the collection

We can easily visualize the sitters who appear most in the images using Wikidata’s ‘Main subject’ property. General Thomas Picton, a Welsh born war hero is depicted most often, with 32 portraits. Interestingly his Wikipedia article reveals he was not such a great hero after all, having been convicted of abusing women.

Visualization of the most frequently depicted sitters

We can also explore the collection chronologically and a first look reveals a clear correlation between the popularity of certain types of portrait and historical events. For example the number of images of preachers and clergymen increase dramatically at times of Religious revival.

A timeline of the most frequently depicted things in the collection over time

Language

Wikidata is a multilingual platform, so it also allows us to utilize the multilingual nature of Wikidata’s descriptive labels to view our data in dozens of languages. The Metadata held by the library for this collection was only available in English, however, by converting it to Wikidata 83% of the 40,000 data items were automatically available in Welsh, thanks to the work of Wikidata volunteers, who have added Welsh language labels to many Wikidata items. We hope to engage with Welsh speaking volunteers in order to make 100% of the data available in Welsh.

 

Linking our heritage

Another advantage of sharing our data on a public platform like Wikidata is that many other institutions have done the same, and this means that we can begin to build an extensive network of connected data. The data allows us to connect our own collections together, so for example we can see which publishers have published works in both the Welsh Portrait Collection but also the Welsh Landscape Collection. We have also been able to quickly identify over 400 portraits of people featured in the dictionary of Welsh Biography, and we are now connecting those portraits to the Welsh Biography Website.

All images by one publisher. Blue denotes images in the Welsh Portrait Collection and yellow shows images published by the same publisher which now form part of the Welsh Landscape Collection

Beyond our own institution, we can see which of our sitters also have portraits at the National Portrait Gallery, and we can identify the artists and sitters in our collection who have an Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry. In this way the worlds cultural heritage can be connected together to provide the public with easy access, in one place, to a rich and diverse range of sources.

 

Jason Evans, National Wikimedian

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Posted - 26-06-2018

Collections / Digitisation / Research

Welsh Newspapers Online- Writing ‘Notorious’

This is a guest post by one of our users, Anthony Rhys.

You are welcome to submit posts for our consideration in Welsh or English. All posts must be in relation to either the Library’s work or collections, the Welsh Language or Wales. We will keep full editorial control over any posts published. Please send your posts through the Enquiries Service.

Two years ago I began researching writing the history of two streets in Cardiff called Charlotte Street and Whitmore Lane, an area notorious for brothels, beerhouses and lodging houses. It started out as an art project that quickly grew into a full length book called ‘Notorious’ that follows the lives of thirty people over thirty year period on these two streets.

Without being able to search for names and places on Welsh Newspapers Online over such a vast timescale this book would not have existed. I’d estimate 60% of the sources I’ve used for the book have come from the website.

Telling the life stories of the people in my book would have been impossible without Welsh Newspapers Online. Searching manually through microfiche records would have taken six months working 9 till 5. With a daytime job that time commitment is impossible. Also crucial was the ability to return back to the sources time and time again to research new names and new leads as they came up. Without constant access to Welsh Newspapers Online I would not have been able to tell these people’s stories.

Anthony Rhys

Anthony Rhys’ blog: Two Notorious Cardiff Streets: Charlotte Street and Whitmore Lane 1841-1870

Posted - 18-06-2018

Collections / Research

The Gladstone Pamphlets at the National Library of Wales

In January of this year Dr John Powell, Professor of History at Oklahoma State University, spent some time in the UK, both here at the National Library of Wales and in Gladstone’s Library in Hawarden, undertaking research into the Gladstone’s Pamphlet Collection. We are very grateful that Dr Powell kindly agreed to write this blog about the part of the collection which is based at the Library.

 

William Gladstone was a towering political figure in nineteenth-century Britain, a four-time prime minister who transformed Victorian finance and uniquely framed the political landscape in moral terms. Along with his keen mind and unparalleled capacity for work, he brought to every problem a little library of knowledge amassed from his voracious habit of reading. His library of more than 20,000 books was famous in its day. His books, taken together with the record of daily reading found in his diaries and the many annotations left in the margins, have become integral to the study of Gladstone’s intellectual and policy development. Scholars have only begun to notice that the world of Victorian intellectual discourse depended on a heady mix of books, journals, newspapers and the more ephemeral medium of the tract and pamphlet. As Leah Price observed, if we count “what was produced” instead of what has survived, the Victorians might properly be considered “people of the tract.”

 

We now know that Gladstone himself was a lifelong reader and collector of tracts. He utilized the medium to correct and quickly publish accurate records of his speeches, and to engage in timely debate when the editorial strictures of journal and book publishing hindered immediate response. He campaigned with A Chapter of Autobiography in 1868, defended the Church with The Vatican Decrees and their Bearing on Civil Allegiance in 1874, and quickened the international conscience with The Bulgarian Horrors and the Question of the East in 1876. It is impossible to say how many pamphlets passed through his hands, but it is estimated that some 10,000 are today extant, with the major collections being held at Gladstone’s Library in Hawarden, and at the National Library of Wales (NLW), where some 5,000 Gladstone tracts have proven to be an invaluable source for scholars of the Victorian era. Added to the inherent value of the tracts themselves, Gladstone’s own annotations in a significant percentage of them provide scholars with a kind of evidence not generally found in correspondence, memoranda, and public papers.

 

Even before Gladstone’s death in 1898, the British Museum had expressed interest in receiving the Gladstone Papers. But by 1921 when Hawarden Castle was inhabited by Gladstone’s third son, Henry Neville (b. 1852), the four-time prime minister seemed to be of another age. The trustees of the British Museum only wanted a selection of the pamphlets, and these merely to fill in their holdings. This provided an opportunity for NLW librarian John Ballinger to lobby the younger Gladstone, who served on the library’s Board of Governors.  As a result, Gladstone agreed to send pamphlets not wanted by the British Library to the National Library of Wales. The bulk of these were bound in 459 volumes and shelved as the “Gladstone Pamphlets.” Tracts from a later donation in 1932 remain unbound in 108 boxes, also labelled as “Gladstone Pamphlets.”

 

When Gladstone marked pamphlets in the first flush of new revelations or ideas, he often left a very personal glimpse of the feelings which later would be refined and incorporated into a speech, policy, publication, or attitude. Almost any volume of the “Gladstone Pamphlets” might provide a case in point. Pull volume 174 from the shelf, for instance, and you will find Gladstone’s personal copy of E. B. Pusey’s Entire Absolution of the Penitent, which he read on 8 March 1846. He had long admired Pusey’s spiritual temperament and commitment to Church reform, but by the mid-1840s had begun to doubt his elder colleague’s judgment. Upon reading Pusey’s phrase: “One word only of caution may be added to the young,” with its attending footnote:

“See Mr. Newman’s valuable Sermon, ‘Dangers to the Penitent’”

–Gladstone underlined “Newman’s valuable Sermon” and noted in the margin: “This is hardly decent, time considered”. Newman had converted to Rome less than four months earlier. Reading this comment in the original pamphlet preserved at the NLW is about as close to being with Gladstone in his study and in his head as we are likely to get.

 

John Powell

Professor of History

Oklahoma Baptist University

 

Posted - 23-05-2018

#LoveMaps / Collections / Events / Research

Carto-Cymru The Wales Map Symposium 2018 Synopsis of “Charting the seas …” 18th May

The Welsh Assembly Government has designated 2018 the ‘Year of the Sea’ and consequently sea charts and other matters maritime were the topics of the day in the Carto-Cymru Symposium at the National Library on 18th May.

This year’s symposium was themed ‘Charting the seas and coasts of the World – how maps depict the sea and coastline and how such mapping is used to widen our understanding of these environments’.

 

The presentations comprised:

 

From the Air, on Land and Sea: 21st century mapping of the seas and coast of Wales and Ireland – The CHERISH Project

James Barry, Marine Geoscientist, Geological Survey of Ireland, Rob Shaw, Senior Geo-Surveyor, Discovery Programme, Centre for Archaeology and Innovation Ireland and Daniel Hunt, Investigator – Cherish Project, The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales

 

How selected terrestrial and maritime heritage sites expected to be impacted by climate change are being surveyed and mapped within a number of study areas across both nations during the first year of the project and during the next four years.

 

Bureaucracy, Cartography and the Hydrographic Office of the British Admiralty: Marine Charts and Charting in the Nineteenth Century

Dr Megan Barford, Curator of Cartography, Royal Museums Greenwich

 

The production and use of Admiralty charts in the nineteenth century.

 

The collections, history and work of the Hydrographic Office

Dr Adrian Webb, Head of Archive, United Kingdom Hydrographic Office

 

How this vast collection came into being, how it was developed and why it has moved location from humble beginnings in the Admiralty to a purpose-built archive facility in Taunton.

 

 

Ffuglen a ffaith: mapio glannau ac aberoedd Cymru (Fact and Fiction: mapping the coasts and estuaries of Wales)

Dr Hywel Griffiths, Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography and Director of Undergraduate Studies, Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, Aberystwyth University

 

An overview of the mapping of the geomorphological features of Wales’s coasts and the way in which Welsh coasts and seas have been mapped in the poetry and prose of Cardigan Bay poets and writers in particular.

 

Cist siartiau Cymreig: Casgliad siartiau morol yn Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru (A Welsh chart chest: The marine chart collection at the National Library of Wales)

Gwilym Tawy, Map Curator, The National Library of Wales

 

An overview of the Library’s collection focusing on historic charts of Welsh waters, whilst also including charts of Britain, Europe and beyond, naval charts, specialist charts, harbour development plans and the unusual. Tribute was also paid to Olwen Caradoc Evans, an authority on Welsh antiquarian maps and charts.

 

Charting the Welsh Seas

Deanna Groom, Senior Investigator (Maritime), The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales

 

Royal Commission research to record archaeology in Welsh coastal and offshore areas and archaeological sites where historic charts have been particularly instrumental in establishing the identity of shipwrecks and dates of loss. Consideration was also given to surveys undertaken as part of U-boat Project Wales.

 

Yet another fascinating, informative and successful Carto-Cymru Symposium!

 

Many thanks to all who attended and contributed, particularly the speakers and a special thank you, as ever, to principal organizer Huw Thomas and the Steering Committee chaired by Sally for your hard work and competent navigation over the preceding  months and on the day.

 

Gwilym Tawy

Map Curator

Posted - 30-04-2018

Collections / Digitisation / News / Research

Hidden Histories in the historical Welsh Print Collection: The case of Louisa Calderon

Amongst the treasures in the Historic Welsh Print Collection is a large collection of Welsh and Welsh interest biographies dating from 1800 up to 1914. This collection, soon to be digitised, encompasses over 2000 biographies of figures in Welsh and international public life.

 

This unique collection includes biographies of clergy, politicians, social reformers, poets, authors and musicians of Welsh descent, of international figures, as well as slave narratives, biographies of ordinary people, of infamous criminals, and of emigrants from Wales to the USA and other countries.

 

In its entirety the collection offers a comprehensive picture of Welsh public life from the nineteenth century through to the beginning of the First World War, of the people and the issues that of were of concern during this period and also of how the Welsh viewed the world and how the world viewed the Welsh. They also offer the opportunity to discover hidden or previously forgotten histories that shed new light on some of the leading figures of the day.

 

One of the hidden histories we recently discovered in the collection was that of Sir Thomas Picton and the torture of Louisa Calderon. Thomas Picton is now mainly remembered for his exploits during the Peninsular War and for being the highest ranking officer killed at Waterloo. Indeed, his statue is among the 12 statues of Welsh heroes on display in Cardiff City Hall. However, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, following his time as governor of Trinidad he had a much darker reputation.

 

Picton’s governorship of Trinidad was authoritarian and brutal and led to his trial at the King’s Bench in 1806 accused of ordering the judicial torture of Louisa Calderon. Calderon was a 14-year old mulatto girl, accused of being involved in the theft of money from a Port of Spain businessman, Pedro Ruiz,  whom Louisa’s mother had arranged for her to live with a as a ‘mistress’ at age 11. The trial was a cause celebre at the time and is recounted in detail in The Trial of Governor T. Picton for Inflicting the Torture of Louisa Calderon… published in 1806.

 

Unable to get a confession through interrogation, Picton had issued the order to ‘Inflict the torture on Louisa Calderon’, who was subsequently subjected to piqueting, which at trial William Garrow, the prosecutor dubbed ‘Pictoning’. Calderon did not confess and was imprisoned for a further 8 months before being released. Picton admitted ordering the torture, but claimed that it was legal under the Spanish law still being administered in Trinidad at the time, despite the island being under British rule. The jury found him guilty, but Picton was never sentenced and the decision was partially reversed by special verdict at a retrial in 1808.

 

As noted above, the case became a sensation at the time and shone a light on the brutal realities of the British colonial system and indirectly of colonial slavery. Indeed, Picton had originally been accused of a number of other charges, included the execution of over a dozen slaves, although tellingly these were not viewed as being serious enough by the Privy Council to be taken further. Picton had also been a supporter of the development of slave plantations in Trinidad and had made part of his fortune through speculating in slaves.

 

Despite Picton’s well-deserved reputation as a brutal and autocratic colonial governor, following Waterloo all was quickly forgotten. The Newgate Calendar, which in 1810 had protested that Picton, the perpetrator of these crimes, was still at large was by 1825 portraying Picton as the victim in the case.

 

Despite the focus placed on her at the time, Louisa Calderon, largely disappeared from the historical record, although she is believed to have returned to Trinidad in 1808 and according to one source died in poverty in June 1825.

 

Sources

 

The Trial of Governor T. Picton for Inflicting the Torture on Louisa Calderon a Free Mulatto and one of His Britannic Majesty’s Subjects in the Island of Trinidad, (London, 1806).

James Epstein – ‘Politics of Colonial Sensation: The Trial of Thomas Picton and the Cause of Louisa Calderon’, American Historical Review, 112 (3), 2007

James Epstein – Scandal of Colonial Rule: Power and Subversion in the British Atlantic during the Age of Revolution, (Cambridge, 2012)

Kit Candlin – The Last Caribbean Frontier, 1795-1815, (Basingstoke, 2012)

 

Dr Douglas Jones

Published Collections Projects Manager

Posted - 20-04-2018

#LoveMaps / Collections / Digitisation / Research

Old Periodicals, a New Datatype and Spiderfied Query Results in Wikidata

Several years ago the National Library of Wales appointed the Worlds first Wikidata Visiting Scholar. The volunteer, Simon Cobb, has worked with the library ever since to share, enrich and explore the library’s data using Wikidata – a massive open access linked data repository which contains tens of millions of pieces of data on just about every subject imaginable. In this guest blog, Simon presents his recent work, using open library data on periodicals, publishers and printers in conjunction with the latest Wikidata visualization tools. Jason Evans, National Wikimedian.

Recent developments in Wikidata have made it possible to display more items from the National Library of Wales’ collections on a map. A cluster feature in the Wikidata Query Service map view has enhanced geolocation data visualisation and the new geoshape datatype provides access points for content discovery.

Previously, the display of geolocated images was hampered by only one item per coordinate location being shown on the map. Since a SPARQL query can return multiple results with an identical location this was never an ideal situation. The problem is, in fact, inherent to linked data because every item with a specific relationship to a place will appear at exactly the same point on the map. This is due to the coordinates being attached to the place rather than each individual item.

If the item is an image of Aberystwyth Castle, it depicts the castle and, conversely, the castle is depicted by the image. This is a semantic relationship between the subject (image) and object (castle). The location of the castle is recorded as latitude and longitude coordinates, and thus a query to show on a map the location that the image depicts will use these coordinates. Other images that depicts Aberystwyth Castle will also have these exact coordinates.

 

The marker cluster plugin was implemented to address this problem and it is now possible to view two or more items with the same coordinates. Nearby map markers are grouped using an animated clustering functionality to display an increasing number of clusters, with fewer markers in each, as one zooms in closer. The real gamechanger, however, is the spiderfied markers. Rather than having a solitary marker at a shared location, multiple markers now spiral outwards from a central point, with legs being used to retain their attachment to the precise location and thus show all items in situ.

 

Spiderfied markers of periodicals published in Carmarthen. Unexpanded clusters and single markers are also shown. Each marker contains the periodical’s title, place of publication and cover image (if available). This map is available at: http://tinyurl.com/ycnjsylv.

 

Carmarthen is an important town in the early history of printing in Wales. Some twenty-eight titles in the Welsh Journals and Welsh Newspapers Online digital collections were printed in the town, with twenty-six being first issued before 1900. These periodicals have the same place of publication (i.e. Carmarthen), and thus appear on the map at their shared coordinates. The markers are spiderfied, colour coded according to decade of publication and arranged in a chronologically ordered spiral, starting in the centre with the earliest publication.

In late 2017, a new geoshape datatype was implemented in Wikidata. As the name suggests, it is for storing geographic information in a manner that will produce shapes on a map. Geoshape data can be a single marker at a specific point, a line between two or more points, or a shape, known as a polygon, which is the area enclosed by a point-to-point line, traversing at least four points, with the first and last point being identical. A line or shape is created by structuring geocoordinates to represent the relationship between a series of points; somewhat like a dot-to-dot puzzle. Additional data about a place, such as the address, postcode, website or Wikipedia article, can be attached to a geoshape.

 

The National Library of Wales was the UK’s first Wikidata geoshape. The popup information box includes an image, link to the NLW Wikipedia article and SPARQL queries of the Library’s collections. Markers indicate features of interest and provide images from different vantage points.

 

Since a geoshape can contain multiple points, lines and polygons, it is possible to store data about a group of related locations like, for example, buildings with a similar use. This is a great way to visualise the booktrade locations in Wales that have been added to Wikidata.

Multipolygon geoshape data showing book trade locations in Carmarthen, past and present. These locations and those in other parts of Wales are stored as a single geoshape in Wikimedia Commons (see https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Data:Book_trade_in_Wales.map).

Whilst the book trade locations geoshapes are relatively simple and, therefore, not burdensome to create manually, others, like, for instance, those of castles depicted in the Welsh Landscape Collection, are much more complex. The intricate geoshapes that are formed by sections of perimeter wall between towers or bastions and surrounding the bailey and keep of a castle can be slow and fiddly to make but, luckily, we can draw on linked data instead. A link is forged when an OpenStreetMap feature is tagged with a Wikidata ID and this enables a SPARQL query to retrieve OpenStreetMap data about Wikidata items in the results. Such linking can make a large amount of existing geoshape data accessible.

 

Geoshapes of buildings shown in the Welsh Landscape Collection prints shown in the historic counties of Wales. The buildings are OpenStreetMap features, tagged with the qid of a Wikidata item returned by a SPARQL query, imported as geoshape data and combined with historic county geoshapes from Wikimedia Commons.

 

Geoshapes of buildings shown in the Welsh Landscape Collection prints shown in the historic counties of Wales. The buildings are OpenStreetMap features, tagged with the qid of a Wikidata item returned by a SPARQL query, imported as geoshape data and combined with historic county geoshapes from Wikimedia Commons.

The results of a SPARQL query to retrieve images from the Welsh Landscape Collection can be visualised on a map with geoshapes to represent the building depicted. Shown above, the results for Tintern Abbey are spiderfied to expand a cluster of images with an identical geocoordinates from a single point within the geoshape. Previously, it was only possible to display one of these images on the map view results.

 

Simon Cobb, Wikidata Visiting Scholar at the National Library of Wales

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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.

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