Blog - News

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 - 06-07-2018

Collections / Digitisation / News

Revealing the Objects: Plays

As of October 2018 the Library will share a number of additional items from its collections on Europeana, a European digital cultural platform. We are currently working with 12 other partner institutions on a project entitled ‘The Rise of Literacy’ which aims to explore the history of reading and writing in Europe. In this weekly blog – ‘Revealing the Objects‘, some of the Library’s contributions will be disclosed on a thematic basis.

Here’s a selection of plays that will be digitized as part of the project.

 

Twm o’r Nant (Thomas Edwards), Tri Chryfion Byd, 1789

Twm o’r Nant (pen name of Thomas Edwards) was a renowned interlude and play writer. This particular interlude, ‘Tri Chryfion Byd’ or ‘Three Pillars of the World’ was one of his most popular. Poverty, Love and Death, the three pillars, are personified by Twm o’r Nant, and all preach, narrate, advise and commentate during the course of this humorous and lively play. Like many of his other works this interlude includes social commentary.

R. J. Derfel, Brad y Llyfrau Gleision, 1854

R. J. Derfel was a poet, writer and socialist. His play ‘Brad y Llyfrau Gleision’ or ‘The Treachery of the Blue Books’ was a direct reaction to the criticisms presented in the 1847 ‘Report of the Commissioners of Inquiry into the State of Education in Wales’, also referred to as ‘The Blue Books’. Derfel portrays Wales as an extremely godly country in his play, which makes it an intolerable destination for the demons. These demons however are excepting of Welsh clergymen, a group that provided most of the evidence used in the 1847 reports. Many Welsh clergymen were accused, mostly by devoted Nonconformists, of betrayal during the inquiry. In the second act Beelzebub (prince of the demons) sends three spies to assess the state of the Welsh people, not dissimilar to the three deputies appointed to carry out the 1847 inquiry. The ‘treachery’ however is committed by the Church goers and clergymen. Many, including Derfel, thought that their evidence enhanced and even fed ‘The Blue Books’’ anti-Welsh judgements. The play was inspired by the tale of the “Treachery of the Long Knives”.

Beriah Gwynfe Evans, Chwareu-gan : drama yn null Shakespeare ar “Owain Glyndwr”, 1879

Beriah Gwynfe Evans was a journalist and dramatist. He wrote many a play, most of which were based on historic events and figures. His play ‘Owain Glyndwr’, was successful at the Llanberis eisteddfod; it broke new ground and arguably inspired a dramatic movement in Wales. A new version of the play was staged at Caernarvon in 1911 during the investiture of the Prince of Wales.

Idwal Jones, Pobl yr ymylon: drama bedair act, 1927

Idwal Jones was a schoolmaster, poet and dramatist. ‘Pobl yr ymylon’ is considered his most important work. This four act play explores the meaning of respectability and argues against some societal expectations.

Want to see more posts from this series? See below:

 

Elen Hâf Jones – Digital Access Projects Officer

This post was created as part of the Europeana Rise of Literacy Project

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Posted - 29-06-2018

Collections / Digitisation / News

Revealing the Objects: Poetry

As of October 2018 the Library will share a number of additional items from its collections on Europeana, a European digital cultural platform. We are currently working with 12 other partner institutions on a project entitled ‘The Rise of Literacy’ which aims to explore the history of reading and writing in Europe. In this weekly blog – ‘Revealing the Objects‘, some of the Library’s contributions will be disclosed on a thematic basis.

Here’s a selection of volumes containing poetry that will be digitized as part of the project.

 

Huw Jones (ed.) – Diddanwch Teuluaidd, 1763

‘Diddanwch Teuluaidd’ was edited by Huw Jones and included works by noted Anglesey poets, for instance, Goronwy Owen, Lewis Morris and Hugh Hughes. The volume was first printed in London and was reprinted at Caernarvon in 1817 and at Liverpool in 1879.

Goronwy Owen was a renowned poet and teacher. In 1757 he sailed from London to Virginia after accepting a teaching position at a grammar school in Williamsburgh. When Owen was a youngster he composed many poetic masterpieces. He was greatly admired by generations of Welsh poets and his poetic works were emulated by many a writer.

Lewis Morris was a noted poetic teacher and Goronwy Owen was among his students. Morris wished to breathe new life into Welsh literature and wrote many metrical and free compositions that were of an irreverent nature; these were included in this volume.

Hugh Hughes was also a bardic teacher and a close friend of Lewis Morris and his brothers. A collection of his compositions were also published in ‘Diddanwch Teuluaidd’.

John Ceiriog Hughes – Oriau’r hwyr: sef, gweithiau barddonol John Ceiriog Hughes, 1860

John Ceiriog Hughes was a renowned poet and ‘Oriau’r hwyr’ was his first publication. Some of Owen’s favourite themes and topics included nature, lust and patriotism. By today’s standards, these poems were highly sentimental in their content and tone, however very popular during Victoria’s reign. In this volume, one can recognise popular pieces that were recited, made into songs and heard on Welsh stages for many generations. With the exception of the Bible, ‘Oriau’r hwyr’ was the most bought volume in Wales during the 1860s, with 30,000 copies being sold between 1860 and 1872.

Sarah Jane Rees, Caniadau Cranogwen, 1870

Sarah Jane Rees, also known as Cranogwen, was a renowned poet, schoolteacher and editor. In 1865, at the Aberystwyth Eisteddfod, she won her first distinguished prize as a poet on the subject ‘Y Fodrwy Briodasol’ (The Wedding Ring). ‘Caniadau Cranogwen’ is a compilation of her work and was published in 1870 after her poetic successes. Cranogwen was also a noted public speaker, preacher and activist; in 1878 she became editor of ‘Y Frythones’, a Welsh journal dedicated to women’s issues.

Alun Lewis, Raiders’ Dawn and other poems, 1942

Alun Lewis was a poet and writer of short stories. The volume ‘Raiders’ Dawn and other poems’ is a compilation of Lewis’s work. These poems were written between 1940 and 1941 when he was at the Bordon military camp, receiving introductory military training. Most of Lewis’s imageries were inspired by Biblical and Greek mythologies and he tended to shape his poems into parables or allegories. All initial copies quickly sold and the volume was reprinted six times.

Want to see more posts from this series? See below:

 

Elen Hâf Jones – Digital Access Projects Officer

This post was created as part of the Europeana Rise of Literacy Project

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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 - 22-06-2018

Collections / Digitisation / News

Revealing the Objects: Religious Publications

As of October 2018 the Library will share a number of additional items from its collections on Europeana, a European digital cultural platform. We are currently working with 12 other partner institutions on a project entitled ‘The Rise of Literacy’ which aims to explore the history of reading and writing in Europe. In this weekly blog – ‘Revealing the Objects‘, some of the Library’s contributions will be disclosed on a thematic basis.

Here’s a selection of religious publications that will be digitized or contributed as part of the project.

 

Gruffydd Robert – Y Drych Cristianogawl, 1585

During parts of the sixteenth century Roman Catholic printing was prohibited in Wales, and as a result, most Catholic works were distributed in manuscript form. ‘Y Drych Cristianogawl’ was amongst two Welsh Catholic publications that found their way into print during that time. These publications were successfully formed through secret presses and the first part of ‘Y Drych Cristianogawl’ was printed by Roger Thackwell in Rhiwledin cave, on the Little Orme, near Llandudno in early 1587. The latter parts were not printed due to government intervention; however they have survived in manuscript form.

William Morgan – Y Beibl cyssegr-lan sef Yr Hen Destament, a’r Newydd, 1588

Y Beibl cyssegr-lan sef Yr Hen Destament, a’r Newydd’ by William Morgan, was the first whole translated version of the Bible to appear in Welsh. It took some years for the work to be completed in printed form; between the Act of Parliament of 1563 and its publication in 1588. Morgan was a Cambridge graduate and later became bishop of Llandaf and St Asaph. He based his translation on the Hebrew and Greek original Bibles, consulting also the English Bishops’ and Geneva versions. ‘Y Beibl cyssegr-lan’ included original translations as well as adaptations of Salesbury’s New Testament. No other Welsh book has been as influential for it is a work of great linguistic and literary significance. The translator skilfully moulded the classical language of the poets into the literary Welsh known to us today. In short, the book is the foundation stone on which modern Welsh literature has been based. It also allowed a highly monoglot Welsh population to read and hear the Scriptures in their own language for the very first time.

John Bunyan – Taith neu Siwrnai y Pererin, 1688

John Bunyan was an English writer and Puritan preacher. His tale ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress from This World, to That Which Is to come’ was an allegory and is amongst the most important pieces of religious English literature. It tells the tale of a Christian, on his journey from this world, the “City of Destruction” to the “Celestial City”. This publication has fascinated generations of readers and its popularity is particularly important with regards to its Welsh translation – ‘Taith neu Siwrnai y Pererin’ by Trebor Lloyd Evans. This version appeared in 1678, a decade after ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’ was first published. Its translation is significant as it gave the Welsh monoglot population a taste of Bunyan’s tale in their own language.

Thomas Charles – Crynodeb o egwyddorion crefydd neu, gatecism byrr i blant ac eraill i’w ddysgu, 1789

Thomas Charles was the main leader of the second generation of Methodists in Wales and became one of the denomination’s most important members. Charles was a great believer in the importance of the catechism and began a campaign to emphasize its significance by publishing ‘Crynodeb o egwyddorion crefydd’, later translated into English – ‘A Short Evangelical Catechism’. The publication was aimed at children.

Want to see more posts from this series? See below:

 

Elen Hâf Jones – Digital Access Projects Officer

This post was created as part of the Europeana Rise of Literacy Project

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Posted - 08-06-2018

Collections / Digitisation / News

New Blog Series – Revealing the Objects: Digitizing items for Europeana project

As of October 2018 the Library will share a number of additional items from its collections on Europeana, a European digital cultural platform. We are currently working with 12 other partner institutions on a project entitled ‘The Rise of Literacy’ which aims to explore the history of reading and writing in Europe. As a result of this initiative, various users will be able to access a wide range of text based objects, many of which are being showcased on a digital platform for the first time: from manuscripts to printed volumes, periodicals to newspapers.

These items will be explored in various editorial features, all focusing, in one way or another, on the development of literacy in Europe. We as institutions are currently working on a range of curatorial content – from digital exhibitions and blog posts to visual galleries, and these will assess the significance of the text based objects within a pan-European context. The curated features will appear on Europeana Collections from October onward.

This new weekly blog series will reveal the Library’s contributions on a thematic basis. From manuscripts to newspapers, dictionaries to cook books, and children’s literature to ballads; they all have something to offer with regards to tracking the history of literacy. From the iconic to the unexpected, they collectively give a multi-layered summary on the evolution of reading and writing in Wales and beyond, from the mid-thirteenth century to the beginning of the twentieth century.

A selection of items: –

The National Library of Wales’s contributions to the project will be disclosed under the following headings in the coming weeks:-

 

Elen Hâf Jones – Digital Access Projects Officer

This post was created as part of the Europeana Rise of Literacy Project

 

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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 - 26-03-2018

Collections / Digitisation / News / Reader Services

Peniarth Manuscripts now available digitally

The National Library of Wales is today launching a number of Peniarth Manuscripts in digital format: they are available here.

What is going on?
To mark the 350th anniversary of Robert Vaughan’s death in 2017, the Library began a piece-meal digitisation of all 560 manuscripts in the Peniarth collection. This is in tribute to the founder of the Hengwrt library, and an acknowledgement of the importance of this, the Library’s ‘foundation collection’.

In what order are your digitising the manuscripts?
To facilitate the work of scanning, the manuscripts are being digitised according to size, beginning with the smallest volumes. They will be scanned and released in batches. The first batch, released today (26 March 2018) include
(1) manuscripts previously captured as ‘treasures’ during the last few years
(2) new appearances by the smallest manuscripts (‘size A’) in the numerical range of 1-70.

Will I see hitherto unseen images, previously hidden on parchment leaves?
No. The manuscripts have been digitised to high resolution, ‘as they are’, without digital manipulation. Therefore, no ‘new’ discoveries have been made. Revealing techniques such as RTI digitisation depend on extra resources, which are unavailable in the Library at present. Readers of Peniarth manuscripts are thus warned that texts MAY be more legible in manipulated microfilm images in the Library Reading Room!

What is the digitisation timescale?
As no extra funding has been obtained for the work, manuscripts will be digitised as-and-when resources allow, i.e. around prioritised project work and funded requests. This means that we cannot give a time-frame for the delivery of the project, or for images of specific manuscripts to appear.

How will I know when a manuscript in which I am interested may become available?
Good question! Follow the order of releases, and a pattern may become apparent. You are also welcome to ‘lodge your interest’ by contacting the Library. We will endeavour to let you know when your manuscript is about to be published. However, you must give us your permission to log your personal data (including email address) when following this route.

Can I ‘jump the queue’, and ask you to digitise a specific manuscript out of sequence?
By all means ask. However, in fairness to other users, we will probably then ask you to pay for the digitisation of that manuscript! Best advice with this project is – ‘be patient, and your manuscript will eventually appear’.

Which manuscripts will you be digitising after the Peniarth collection?
Good news – we are unlikely to run out of manuscripts! The Llanstephan, Cwrtmawr, Bodewryd and other collections await their turns.

What else is happening to the Peniarth Manuscripts?
Many are being catalogued anew by Dr Daniel Huws for his forthcoming Repertory of Welsh Manuscripts and Scribes (due 2019-20). This new resource will make many of our online catalogue descriptions obsolete, and will necessitate a re-consideration of our metadata. In the meantime, our current catalogue descriptions are available here. You are welcome to contact us with new discoveries relating to the manuscripts, if they arise from your own research.

What else is happening with manuscripts at the Library?
Watch out for our Mostyn season in 2018, and for a series of new web-pages on the Library’s medieval manuscripts which will be published during the year. Keep watching our social media platforms for the latest news.

Dr Maredudd ap Huw
Curator of Manuscripts

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