Blog - Research

Posted - 14-03-2018

Digitisation / Research

The David Hawkes Collection

Amongst the National Library of Wales’s most important Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic collections is the David Hawkes collection, a rich collection of mainly Chinese books and books of Chinese interest. The collection also includes a smaller set of Japanese books and books of Japanese interest.


David Hawkes (1923-2009) was a celebrated Sinologist and translator, best known for his translations of Cao Xueqin’s The Story of the Stone, one of China’s ‘four great novels’, and of the poetry anthology The Song of the South. Hawkes’s translation of The Story of the Stone has rightly been recognised  as one of the finest examples of the translators art, which made the work more accessible to English-language readers while remaining sensitive and faithful to the language, meaning and poetry of the original.


The David Hawkes Collection is his working library which Hawkes donated to the National Library in 1983-84 and is one of the most important collections of Chinese books in the UK. The collection is comprised of 1,710 titles in 4,400 volumes including a large number of works on Chinese literature, alongside works on Chinese philosophy, religion, history, music, art and archaeology. The collection also includes annotated works from the collection of another renowned Sinologist and translator, Arthur Waley, who was a friend and mentor to Hawkes.


In 1989 The Hawkes Collection was catalogued on to cards by Dr Wu Jianzhong, later Director of Shanghai Library, as part of his training whilst studying at Aberystwyth for a research degree. At present the collection is only accessible via this card catalogue, however the Library is currently in the process of developing a project with the aim of making the collection accessible via our online catalogue as well as digitising some of the  works in the collection.


Dr Douglas Jones

Published Collections Projects Manager

Posted - 30-10-2017

Collections / Research

Edmund Jones, “The Old Prophet”

Tomorrow is Halloween – the eve of All Hallows’ or All Saints’ Day. It is also the anniversary of what is regarded as the start of the Protestant Reformation – the appearance of Matrin Luther’s 95 theses. This year is special – it is the 500th anniversary of the event.


So it is an ideal time to draw attention to one of the Library’s more fascinating collections. Edmund Jones (1702-93) of Pontnewydd near Pontypool was popularly known as Yr Hen Broffwyd (the Old Prophet) and his library of books is the most interesting if not the only chapel library of such rarity to have survived in Wales. It comprises 80 volumes of Welsh and English Protestant sermons and theological writings, mainly from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, almost all of which have been marked by Edmund Jones. Some have detailed notes, such as his opinion on the contents of the volume and from whom he received it; in two of the books he wrote inside that they were given to him by John Wesley. The books have all been catalogued by myself, and are therefore available for users to read and research the impact that these early Protestant sermons had on Jones and the Welsh public.


Edmund Jones was deeply interested in the new Methodist movement in Wales in the 18th century pioneered by men such as Howell Harris, Daniel Rowland and William Williams, Pantycelyn, (whose birth was celebrated this year and noted in this blog a couple of weeks ago). His form of Christianity was more experiential and heartfelt than the cerebral form which was still favoured by many in the established Anglican Church at the time. He professed a belief in spiritualism and apparitions which may have been derived from the new ideas spreading at the time. His reputation in this regard rests on his alias of The Old Prophet and a book which he wrote entitled Relations of Apparitions in Wales. This contains accounts of alleged supernatural occurrences in Wales, which Jones attested to. Can you, the reader, find any evidence in some of the notes seen in his books (see images above) to confirm some of his strange beliefs?



Hywel Lloyd,


Assistant Librarian

Posted - 22-09-2017

Reader Services / Research

A look back at the ’97 Referendum using the Library’s electronic resources

This week saw the 20th anniversary of the Welsh referendum that paved way for the creation of the National Assembly for Wales. I decided to see what I could discover about this historic occasion within the Library’s various online subscriptions.  (*To access these resources from outside the Library building you will have to use your reader’s ticket. If you haven’t got a reader’s ticket you can register very easily here).

Whilst support for devolution was low during the first referendum in 1979, the ensuing political and economic landscape over the next decade and a half led to increased calls for a second referendum. As a result, the Labour party included proposals for a second referendum in their 1992 manifesto, and after their landslide victory in the 1997 general election, these were set in motion.

The Referenda (Scotland and Wales) Act asked voters if they were in favour of devolution for Scotland and Wales. Many commentators analysed what devolution would mean for the future of the United Kingdom, as can be seen in this article from ‘The World Today’:


The referendum was held on the 18th of September 1997, and unlike the referendum in 1979, the result was extremely close. In fact, the votes were so close, the result hung on the announcement from Carmarthenshire. As the result came in, there were wild celebrations amongst the Yes campaigners as devolution was secured by a margin of 6,721 votes.

The Guardian reports for the days after both Welsh referenda can be seen here and here:


As a result of this narrow victory, the Government of Wales Act 1998 was passed by the Labour government to create a National Assembly for Wales:


There was a concern that the low voter turnout meant that voters were apathetic towards the notion of a national assembly, however this study by Roger Scully, Richard Wyn Jones and Dafydd Trystan concludes that this was not the case:


However, even though Welsh devolution was achieved by the narrowest of margins, Richard Wyn Jones and Bethan Lewis were keen to point out that the result was a substantial achievement for those in the ’Yes’ campaign


Following such a momentous change to the country’s political landscape, and following further referendums in 2006 and 2011, it’s only natural that commentators and scholars have sought to discuss and evaluate the impact of devolution on various aspects of life in Wales:

Evaluating Devolution in Wales by Adrian Kay

Serving the Nation: Devolution and the Civil Service in Wales by Alistair Cole

New Labour, Education and Wales: the devolution decade by David Reynolds

Devolution and the shifting political economic geographies of the United Kingdom


Paul Jackson

Legal Deposit, Electronic and Acquisitions Librarian

Posted - 15-09-2017

Events / News / News and Events / Research

Wici-Iechyd (Wiki-Health)

Improving online access to Welsh language health information

The newly appointed National Wikimedian at the National Library of Wales will begin in his new role by tackling an important issue facing Welsh speakers – access to free, quality information on important health and wellbeing issues in Welsh.

Wicipedia is the most viewed Welsh language website in the world with over 90,000 articles. A recent audit of the content revealed that Welsh Wikipedia has very few articles about health and yet the few articles which do exist are, on average, being viewed more times than articles on any other subject. This suggests that Welsh speakers want to consume information about their health in Welsh, through Wicipedia.

  • Welsh Wicipedia has 1,500 Welsh language articles on health compared to 84,000 in English
  • 2.09% of Welsh Wikipedia articles about Health – 6.67% in English
  • Views of Welsh articles about health make up 12% of total page views, more than any other subject.

It is thought that Wikipedia has become the most consulted health resource in the world (based on 4.8 billion pageviews in 2013) and therefore it is vital that it contains reliable, comprehensive information on all aspects of health, from medications, and surgical procedures to fitness, wellbeing and historical information.

It is estimated that poor health costs Wales billions each year, and free easy access to health information through the medium of Welsh (on Wicipedia) would help provide the public with the information they need in a format they are familiar with.

The project, funded by the Welsh Government, will see the National Library of Wales hold a series of public events across Wales, to teach and encourage Health professionals, Medical students and the general public to help improve health content on Wikipedia.

The National Wikimedian will also seek partnerships with charities and institutions who already produce Welsh language health content with the aim of working together to provide access to this content through Wicipedia, with links back to their own online services.

It is hoped that the 9 month project will result in the creation of 3000 new Welsh language health related articles on Wicipedia.

This project aligns with the mission of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, namely, to help develop A healthier Wales and A Wales of vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language. The National Library of Wales is one of the Government’s key partners in delivering on the act.

The project will also help the Library to engage with new communities and develop new partnerships in the education and health sectors in order to promote and develop the use of Welsh as a digital language.

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Posted - 17-08-2017

Collections / Research

Thomas Stephens Letters: Transcripts now available online

As part of a Leverhulme Trust funded project on Thomas Stephens of Merthyr Tydfil at the University of Wales Centre for Celtic Studies, transcripts of over 400 letters sent to the Chemist of Merthyr Tydfil who fuelled a revolution in Welsh historical scholarship are now available online. Team members Marion Löffler and Adam Coward, whose aim is to rediscover Thomas Stephens and re-establish his work, have decided to make the first fruits of its research available to the public in this way.
Thomas Stephens’s voluminous archive was donated to the National Library of Wales in 1916, and most of the letters to him were bound in two volumes, Letters A-M (NLW MS 964i-iiE) and Letters M-W (NLW MS 965i-iiE), 1840-1876. The Library’s website therefore seemed the natural home for our transcripts of letters sent to Merthyr from Australia, America, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Scotland, Switzerland and Wales, but which have long found a permanent home in Aberystwyth.
Are you are interested in Merthyr Tydfil and Welshmen in Australia, Welsh Victorian scholarship and druids, cromlechs and antiquarians, or the eisteddfod, Unitarians and European scholarly connections? Would you like to read letters by Victorian luminaries like Augusta Hall (Lady Llanofer), Walter Davies (Gwallter Mechain), Harry Longueville Jones, Thomas Price (Carnhuanawc) and Hersart de la Villemarqué? Then click on these links to the manuscripts and the transcripts:

HAVE A LOOK AT THE PROJECT HERE: Knowledge Transfer and Social Networks: European Learning and the Revolution in Welsh Victorian Scholarship

Marion Löffler Dipl.Päd. Dr.Phil. FRHS
Reader University of Wales CAWCS, Knowledge Exchange and Social Networks
Assistant Editor Dictionary of Welsh Biography
Head of Graduate Studies

Posted - 24-04-2017

Collections / Digitisation / Research

A Welsh cinematic journey via the Library’s online newspapers

Whilst reading the current issue of Empire magazine, I came across an article on how “Citizen Kane” lost out to “How Green Was My Valley” for the Best Picture award in the 1942 Oscars. The article got me thinking about other Welsh films or films set in Wales, and I decided to see if I could find some more interesting articles in the Library’s collection of online newspapers. (*To access these resources from outside the Library building you will have to use your reader’s ticket. If you haven’t got a reader’s ticket you can register very easily here).

I began by searching for a report of the 1942 Oscars Ceremony, and found this in the Telegraph Historical Archive:


(The Telegraph Historical Archive, 1855-2000)



As you can see, this is a far cry from the awards hysteria we see today. However, to be fair, they did have more pressing matters to report about at the time!


Staying with the academy awards, my next search was for “Hedd Wyn”, the first ever Welsh language film to be nominated. It was interesting to find in this article in The Guardian that the Academy’s board was unaware of the existence of the Welsh language, and that the film was only selected after a Welsh-English dictionary was sent to them as proof!

(ProQuest Historical Newspapers (Guardian & The Observer))



Ask anyone who was a teenager growing up in Wales during the late 90s to name a Welsh film, and I guarantee you they’ll all have the same answer: Twin Town.  This tale of the Lewis twins causing havoc across Swansea remains a firm favourite, but I discovered there was an outcry in some quarters upon its release. To my surprise, I read in this article in the Sunday Times that some appealed for the film to be banned due to its “amoral” nature.

(The Sunday Times Digital Archive 1822-2006)



“Twin Town” was released at the height of Cool Cymru. Sticking with that theme, Gruff Rhys from the Super Furry Animals has ventured into film making in the last few years. His last film was “American Interior”, which traced the story of a 22-year-old farmhand from Snowdonia who travelled to America in 1792 in search of a fabled Welsh-speaking Native American tribe called the Madogwys. It’s a fascinating story, and it was fantastic to find out that Gruff had used the National Library’s archives when researching for the film.




Of course, I couldn’t write this blog without giving a mention to the film that was recently filmed at the Library!




As you can see, these online newspapers provide users with a wealth of information at their fingertips. Also, if this blog has given you an urge to watch any of these great Welsh films, remember that they’re available to view from the National Screen and Sound Archive, and are also available to buy from the Library shop.


Paul Jackson

Legal Deposit, Electronic and Acquisitions Librarian

Posted - 20-03-2017

Collections / News / Research

Thomas Pennant’s Description of London

The Library has an extensive collection of the works of Thomas Pennant (1726-1798), the naturalist, antiquary and traveller who was born in Downing in Flintshire.  The first volume of his Tours in Wales was published in 1778, and the second (the first part under the title A journey in Snowdonia) in 1781.  His main work on zoology (British zoology) appeared in four volumes between 1761 and 1777, with a new edition published in 1812.


Pennant travelled extensively in the British Isles and the continent of Europe.  His description of London was first published in 1790, and a new edition appeared in 1814 with the title Some account of London, Westminster, and Southwark, including a number of additional illustrations.  I recently purchased a copy of this edition to add to our collections.


The illustrations show how much the capital has changed in two centuries.  The general view of the city still looks quite rural.  In the picture of Westminster the Abbey looks familiar but the iconic building of the Palace of Westminster does not appear, most of the present building dating from after the fire in 1834.


This copy is in four volumes bound in blue morocco with gold tooling.  The bookplate with the name Gyrn shows that the volumes were in a private collection in Wales before turning up in the catalogue of a bookseller in London.


Timothy Cutts

Rare Books Librarian

Posted - 09-03-2017

Events / News / News and Events / Research

Gender equilibrium

The Welsh Wicipedia becomes gender neutral.

The Welsh Wicipedia has become one of the first Wikipedia’s in the world to offer as many articles about women as it does about men.


Historically Wikipedia has struggled to attract female editors, who make up around 15% of Wikipedia contributors globally, and this is reflected in the imbalance of content being created.

Addressing this gender imbalance has been a strategic priority for Wikimedia for some time and Wikimedia UK has been working with partners in Wales to help put things right.


The National Library of Wales, have been partnering with Wikimedia UK for several years have been doing their bit to encourage more Women to edit Wikipedia.


Last year the Library took part in the global Art and Feminism Edit-a-thon, which takes place in hundreds of locations around the world. This was the first time the event was held in Wales.


This year the Library’s Wikimedian in Residence will be helping a Machynlleth community group to run their own Art & Feminism Wikipedia event.

The library’s award winning volunteer team has also been getting stuck in, with 10 women volunteers now contributing weekly to Wikipedia projects.


The fact that the Welsh language Wicipedia exists at all is testament to the resolve of the people of Wales not just to preserve the Welsh language but to see it flourish, but a Wikipedians work is never done! Why not give editing a try?

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Posted - 27-02-2017

Collections / Digitisation / Research

Syrup of turnips anyone? Early Welsh books on popular medicine


Books on medicine and public health, which we’re currently in the process of assessing, form an important part of the Welsh Print Collection. Welsh interest in medicine and the medical has a long pedigree dating back to the Physicians of Myddfai and beyond. Welsh works on medicine date back to William Salesbury’s 16th century treatise on herbs and herbal medicines, Llysieulyfr, not published until 1916, through to the profusion of books on popular medicine published in the 18th and 19th centuries and towards the present day.


This blog will focus on three of the many books published about popular medicine in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The growth in the publication of books on the subject during this period was part of a boom in the publication of books on specialist subjects for the general reader that was fueled by the emergence of a growing literate population, hungry for new knowledge of all kinds.


The first book under consideration is Nathaniel Williams’s Pharmacopoeia, originally published in 1793, with a second edition following in 1835. Williams, besides being a controversial preacher and theologian, was also an amateur doctor and his book continued a tradition of Welsh works on the medicinal properties of herbs and their application dating back to the herbal remedies of the Myddfai Physicians included in the Red Book of Hergest and other manuscripts. The first herbal in the Welsh language, Llyfr Meddyginiaeth a Physygwriaeth i’r Anafus ar Clwyfus, had been published in 1750. Williams’ own book was a follow up to his Darllen Dwfr a Meddyginiaeth, published in 1785. Williams’ Pharmacopoeia was a bilingual book that offered herbal remedies for a large range of maladies ranging from asthma and rheumatism to liver complaints, scurvy and consumptive fits, along with recipes and instructions for preparation of a good poultice, bitter wine, purging drinks and the ever-so-appetising syrup of turnips.


The second book under consideration is Pob dyn yn phisygwr iddo ei hun ac i’w anifeiliaid hefyd, which, reflecting the closer symbiosis of humans and nature at this time, offered advice to the general reader on how to treat both themselves, their families and their animals. First published in 1771, Pob dyn yn phisygwr was hugely popular; by the 1820s it was on its seventh edition. The first part informed the reader of the symptoms and remedies for a large number of ailments ranging from the most mundane such as bad breath and dealing with itches to serious illnesses such as diabetes and smallpox. The second part offered remedies for common aliments amongst horses, cattle, sheep and pigs.


The final book under consideration is Elfenau Meddyginiaeth, published in 1852, a translation of Alfred Smee’s Accidents and Emergencies. Elfenau Meddyginiaeth is an example of an early illustrated first-aid book offering the reader advice on how to treat a large number of injuries and ailments including wounds, broken bones, animal bites and fits as well as treating victims of drowning and other life-threatening situations.


All three books offer a fascinating glimpse into the type of popular medicine practiced during this period and how this practical knowledge was presented and disseminated to an increasingly literate population. In a period when registered medical practitioners were thin on the ground in Wales it is little wonder that these books were popular. They also offer a glimpse into the state of popular medical knowledge during this period, which remained to a large extent dependent on the traditions of herbal medicine, Elfenau Meddyginiaeth is to some extent an exception. Some significant breakthroughs, such as Edward Jenner’s development of a vaccine for smallpox, were still to register in these works. Within a generation significant steps would to be taken in the development of medical knowledge coupled with a further professionalization of medical practitioners, leading to the emergence of a recognisably modern medical practice in Wales.



  1. Robin Chapman – ‘The Turn of the Tide: Melancholy and Modernity in Mid-Victorian Wales’, Welsh History Review 27 (3), 2015, pp. 503-527.

Melfyn R. Williams – ‘Yr Hen Gyfrolau Meddyginiaethol’, Y Casglwr 4, 1978, p. 13.

Nathaniel Williams, Dictionary of Welsh Biography.

Pamela Michael – ‘An Overview of the History of Health and Medicine in Wales’ in Health and Society in Twentieth Century Wales, Cardiff, 2006, pp. 1-59.



Dr Douglas Jones

Published Collections Projects Manager.

Posted - 20-01-2017

Collections / Events / News / News and Events / Research


A new project will focus on improving Welsh language Wikipedia coverage of the Welsh Pop Music scene.

The Welsh Wicipedia contains around 90,000 Welsh language articles and the Wikipop project aims to add 500 more articles in a bid to record and enrich the written history of the vibrant Welsh music scene.

Source: Wikimedia Commons CC_BY. Attribution Silvio Tanaka, 2009.

January marks two years since the National Library of Wales first appointed a Wikipedian in Residence. In those two years the Library has helped to train new Wikipedia editors who have created hundreds of new articles, and the library has lead the way in promoting open access to Welsh cultural heritage.


15,000 digital images from the library’s collections have been shared on an open license via Wikimedia Commons and library images used in Wikipedia articles have now been viewed nearly 200 million times.


Now, with the help of a grant from the Welsh Government and in collaboration with Wikimedia UK, the National Library is embarking on a 3 month project to create and improve Welsh language Wicipedia articles about Welsh pop music.


The aim is to create 500 new articles using a variety of methods including an outreach program and a series of ‘edit-a-thon’ events which will encourage people to write new content.


Members of the public and organisations will be encouraged to share information which may already be available, and coders and the National Library will trial automated creation of Wikipedia articles using data.

If you would like to be involved in this exciting new project, please get in touch.


Jason Evans

Wikimedian in Residence at the National Library of Wales

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About this blog

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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