Blog - Digitisation

Posted - 15-06-2018

Collections / Digitisation

Revealing the Objects: Prose and Novels

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 novels and prosaic works that will be digitized as part of the project.

Anna Maria Bennett – Anna, or, Memoirs of a Welch heiress, 1785

Anna Maria Bennett was an eighteenth century Welsh novelist. She spent most of her early years in Merthyr Tydfil. During her life-time, Bennett wrote a total of seven popular novels including ‘Anna, or Memoirs of a Welch Heiress’.

Thomas Jeffery Llewelyn Prichard – The Adventures and Vagaries of Twm Shôn Catti, descriptive of life in Wales: interspersed with poems, 1828

Thomas Jeffery Llewelyn Prichard was a travelling actor and author. Prichard is mostly known for his tale, entitled ‘The adventures and vagaries of Twm Shôn Catti’. The volume was a financial success and was recognised by some as Wales’s first ever novel; a comment that sparked later debate. This 1828 first edition, printed at Aberystwyth, was his crudest version in terms of content and style. It was reformed and improved in two later editions, printed in 1839 and 1873.

Roger Edwards – Y Tri Brawd a’u Teuluoedd, 1869

Roger Edwards was an ordained minister with the Calvinist Methodists; he was also a devoted editor and writer. As editor of ‘Y Drysorfa’ ( 1847-86; jointly with John Roberts until 1853), he made the decision to publish, in serial form, his own novels in the publication, starting with ‘Y Tri Brawd’ in 1866. Edwards’s aim was to allay Methodist suspicion of fictional literature and thus he paved the way for Daniel Owen, who ‘discovered’ the Welsh novel, inducing him to contribute ‘Y Dreflan’ to that journal.

Elizabeth Amy Dillwyn – The Rebecca rioter: a story of Killay life, 1880

Amy Dillwyn was a novelist, industrialist and activist that spent most of her life in her home city of Swansea. ‘The Rebecca rioter’ was the writer’s first novel and is recognised as her best work. It tells the story of a famous attack on the Pontardulais toll gate by the Rebecca Rioters. The novel is written from a rioter’s perspective, and the author’s support to their cause is evident. Amy Dillwyn’s novels also focused on the rank of women in Victorian society, it is no surprise therefore that she was an avid supporter of the Women’s Freedom League.

Daniel Owen – Profedigaethau Enoc Hughes, 1891

Daniel Owen is one of Wales’s most noted novelists. In his childhood he received little education and during his early career he worked at a tailor’s shop. In 1865 Owen went to Bala C.M. College, he did not excel as a student, however he was well read and took great interest in English literature. At the request of Roger Edwards, he contributed his first novel – ‘Y Dreflan’, chapter by chapter in ‘Y Drysorfa’, a Calvinist Methodist publication. Daniel Owen was fond of exploring a Welsh community that revolved around the chapel. However in his third novel ‘Profedigaethau Enoc Huws’ he moved beyond the Methodist seiat and included characters that were on the outskirts of those religious meetings. ‘Profedigaethau Enoc Hughes’ was serialised by Isaac Foulkes in ‘Y Cymro’ between 1890 and 1891. The novel centres on the character Enoc who was raised in a workhouse, but becomes a successful shopkeeper. This comedy tells the story of Enoc’s hopeless love affairs, the peculiar troubles between himself and his housekeeper, and his tumultuous encounters with the Captain Trefor. All of Owen’s publications were significant in the development of the Welsh novel.

Daniel Owen’s second novel ‘Hunangofiant Rhys Lewis, gweinidog Bethel’ will also be digitized as part of the project.

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 - 11-06-2018

Collections / Digitisation / Events

Magician of the Ball: The 2018/1958 World Cups

With the 2018 World Cup due to kick-off on Thursday, football fans from 32 nations are hoping that their dreams will be realised. The rest of us will be itching to find out the answers to a number of momentous questions. Who will win the tournament – Germany, France, Brazil or Argentina, or one of the dark horses such as Uruguay, Colombia or Portugal? Who will be the player of the tournament – Salah, Neymar, Messi, Firminio or Ronaldo? And who will be the shock team of the tournament?

 

Unfortunately, following their feats at the Euro 2016 tournament, Wales won’t be taking part in Russia after a disappointing qualification campaign. However, 60 years ago Wales were about to play their second game in the 1958 World Cup, a 1-1 draw against Mexico at the Råsunda Stadium, Solna. The rest of the story is familiar to Welsh football fans – Wales went on to reach the quarter finals where a Pelé goal broke Welsh hearts.

 

But what is it like playing international football for your country? We are given some idea from John Charles’s foreword to the novel Dewin y Bêl [Magician of the Ball], which was published in 1957 as the excitement built up around the Welsh team and the 1958 World Cup. The novel by Alun Owen, a copy of which is held in the Library’s Historic Welsh Print Collection, was pioneering, the first novel according to its publisher to portray ‘the career of a young lad from Wales as a football player.’ The novel itself follows the travails of Gwyn Ellis from playing football for his school team to scoring a hat-trick for the Welsh Amateur team. Another of the novel’s main attractions was the foreword and endorsement given to it by John Charles, the period’s leading Welsh footballing hero.

 

 

In his foreword John Charles gives us a taste of an experience the vast majority of Welsh supporters will never have the privilege of experiencing – wearing a Wales shirt in an international football game. According to Charles:

I have had many incredible experiences during the course of my career as a professional footballer. But without a doubt, there is no experience more pleasurable than going out on to a Welsh pitch wearing the red jersey of Wales with talented fellow Welsh players  in front of a crowd of Welsh people who love sport. On those occasions it has been my privilege to appreciate the fire and passion for international soccer shown by our Welsh friends surrounding us.

 

Over the next month, these will be the feelings flowing through footballers from 32 nations as they represent their countries on the football pitch. The only pity is that Wales won’t be amongst them.

 

Dr. Doug Jones

Published Collections Projects Manager

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:-

  • Prose and Novels
  • Religious Publications
  • Poetry Volumes
  • Plays and Interludes
  • Ballads, Almanacs and Popular Pamphlets
  • Expatriate Literature
  • Children’s Literature
  • Travel Books
  • Histories and Cultural Publications
  • Folklore
  • Music
  • Political and Radical Publications
  • The Blue Books
  • Cooking and Lifestyle Books
  • Scientific and Mathematical Books
  • Dictionaries and Grammars
  • Newspapers, Magazines and Journals
  • Manuscripts

 

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 - 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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Posted - 16-04-2018

#LoveMaps / Collections / Digitisation / Uncategorized

Lewis Morris and his quest “to search carefully for those dangers, which all others endeavour as carefully to avoid”

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

Consequently this is an appropriate time to recall the life and labours of Lewis Morris, Wales’s most esteemed hydrographer.

Lewis Morris (1701-1765) was a member of the celebrated family known as the ‘Morrisiaid Môn’, or the ‘Morrises of Anglesey’ who are remembered for their cultural endeavours. Lewis Morris was a polymath, being not only a hydrographer, but also a land surveyor, customs officer, antiquary, literary scholar, philologist and mineralogist.

His work in land and marine surveying has received scant attention until recently. Morris’s marine survey of the Welsh coast, undertaken with very little official support, was a supreme pioneering achievement, especially for a self-taught hydrographer. It is for this survey that he is now recognized as one of the most eminent of British cartographers.

 

Morris was raised near Dulas Bay in Anglesey and living near the sea, he would have observed vessels engaged in coastal trade or on passage to and from Liverpool and witnessed or heard about shipwrecks around the region’s hazardous  coasts.

He became an estate surveyor and then a customs official on Anglesey and listened to  seamen bemoan the inadequacies of contemporary local charts. In the interests of safer navigation Morris decided to embark on the immense task of surveying the Welsh coast, despite never having been formally trained as a marine surveyor. Welsh chart making had been neglected and shipping casualties were frequent. The poor condition of Welsh roads meant that coastal sea transport was more common at this time.

In 1734 Morris unsuccessfully placed his proposals before the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, but both the Admiralty and the Customs Commissioners refused him a survey vessel and he was obliged to hire one, at his own expense.

Morris embarked on his venture at Beaumaris in July 1737. Further complications and setbacks ensued and only in 1748, with an economic upturn following the war with France together with  Admiralty encouragement were his charts published. Morris’s large general  chart showed the coast from Llandudno to Milford Haven and  twenty-five of his harbour plans were published in Plans of harbours, bars, bays and roads in St. George’s Channel, a small volume which sold well. All of his charts were a significant improvement on earlier ones and provided a wealth of information on local conditions and hazards. These works preceded improved charts from Admiralty surveys by about seventy years.

Morris’s son William revised and extended the general chart in 1800 to show the coast from Liverpool to Cardiff  and his enhanced volume published in 1801 contained additional plans of harbours which had often increased in importance during the intervening years, such as Liverpool, Amlwch, Aberaeron, New Quay, Carmarthen Bay harbours, Burry, Swansea and Dublin.

 

Gwilym Tawy

Map Curator

 

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 450th 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 2017) 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

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 - 23-10-2017

Collections / Digitisation / Exhibitions / Reader Services

King Arthur and the Welsh print collection

With the Library’s current exhibition Arthur and Welsh Mythology looking at Wales’ rich tradition of myths, legends and folklore, including the Welsh Arthurian tradition, now is perhaps an opportune moment to note that amongst the Library’s Welsh Print Collection is one of Wales’ largest collections of Arthurian literature and works on the Arthurian legend.

 

With its roots in early Welsh poems such as Y Gododdin, early Welsh tales such as Culhwch ac Olwen and Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Brittania, the Arthurian legend encompasses a variety of literary forms, including the chronicle, the romance, poetry and the novel, and a number of other artistic forms such as opera and film. The Arthurian legend and its mythos also give us an example of a truly Trans-European literary tradition (or transatlantic tradition if we include the Connecticut Arthur). Starting from its roots in Welsh poetry and folklore, Arthurian literature and legend spread across Europe, with English, French, Italian, German and Nordic influences, amongst others transforming, cross-fertilising and enriching the genre.

 

The Arthurian legend has also proved to be an especially durable and enduring literary tradition, from early Welsh poems and folk-tales through to the chivalrous romances of the medieval period, the Arthurian revival in the nineteenth century and the fantasy novels and historical fictions of the twentieth and twenty-first century. During this time the Arthurian legend has also been used for a variety of political and ideological purposes with the uses made of the legend to support both Welsh and Norman claims to the island of Britain during the medieval period just one example of how Arthur was used in this way.

 

The Library’s collection of printed works related to the Arthurian legend is as varied as its history. Comprising over 1,500 titles, the collection, dating from the early nineteenth century onwards, reflects its trans-European nature including works in Welsh, English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German and Norwegian. It also reflects the variety of literary forms with works ranging from early Welsh poems and tales, the chivalric poems and tales of the medieval period through to the novels of John Steinbeck, T. H. White, Bernard Cornwell and Rosemary Sutcliffe alongside the Monty Python and the Holy Grail screenplay. The collection also includes a large number of academic works on the Arthurian legend and Arthurian Literature.

 

So if you have an interest in Arthurian literature, Arthurian legend or the mythology of ancient Britain or are visiting the exhibition and want to learn more, why not take a moment to explore the collection through the Library catalogue.

 

Dr Douglas Jones

Published Collections Projects Manager

Posted - 03-10-2017

Collections / Digitisation / Events / News and Events

William Salesbury’s 1567 New Testament

In 1567 the first translation of the New Testament into Welsh was published in London.  A law had been passed in 1563 instructing the bishops of the Welsh dioceses and the bishop of Hereford to arrange for the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer to be translated into Welsh by 1st March 1567.  Most of the New Testament and the whole of the Prayer Book were the work of one translator, William Salesbury.  Salesbury was a native of Llansannan in north Wales, who converted to Protestantism while studying at Oxford, and was responsible – as either author or translator – for most of the books printed in Welsh up to 1588.

Although Salesbury’s New Testament was superseded in 1588 by Bishop William Morgan’s more readable version, which included the Old Testament, his translation is an important milestone in the history of Welsh publishing and in the history of providing the people of Wales with the Scriptures in their own language.  To mark the 450th anniversary of its publication, the Library has digitised the most complete copy of the 1567 New Testament in its collections.  This copy, which is still in its 16th-century binding, was amongst the 200 volumes purchased by Sir John Williams, Bt. from the Earl of Macclesfield and donated to the National Library of Wales at its foundation.

 

Timothy Cutts

Rare Books Librarian

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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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