Posted - 21-06-2018

#LoveMaps / Collections / News and Events

#LoveMaps – Mary-Ann Constantine

Mary-Ann Constantine is Reader at the University of Wales Centre for Welsh and Celtic Studies. She works on C18th Welsh literature and is currently leading the AHRC-funded project, Curious Travellers: Thomas Pennant and the Welsh and Scottish Tour 1760-1820.

John Evans (Llwyn-y-Groes), Map of North Wales 1795 & 1797

In the first volume of his Tour in Wales, published in 1778, Thomas Pennant thanks a Mr John Evans of Llwyn y Groes for identifying the ‘vast ditch’ buttressing Basingwerk Abbey in Holywell as Wat’s Dyke, rather than Offa’s. A footnote to his observation states:

This gentleman is now engaged in an actual survey of North Wales, and of publishing a large map of that part of the principality: a work extremely worthy of public encouragement. A further account of the plan will be published in the last page of this volume.

At the end of the book we do indeed find ‘Proposals for publishing by Subscription from an Actual Survey a large six-sheet, and also a smaller Map, of the Six Counties of North Wales by John Evans’. At the bottom of the page, presumably to encourage the subscribers, appears the line: ‘N.B.: the Work is now under the Engraver’s Hands’.
Few of us have not promised to meet unfeasible deadlines, and John Evans had set himself a huge and complex task. But that map was a long time coming by any standards. As Paul Evans has shown, by 1792 Pennant found himself compelled to draft a letter to a local newspaper on behalf of the by now rather irate ‘North Wales Subscribers’, making it clear that unless something happened soon they were considering ‘entering into new arrangements’. In the event the map, twenty years late, was still not published for another three years. In 1795, when it appeared, its creator died. Two years later his son, another John Evans, published the promised ‘smaller Map’, which his father had also prepared.

Most cartographers agree that John Evans’s 1795 work, which was eventually published in nine large sheets, impressively raised the standard of Welsh mapping. Engraved by Evans’ neighbour, Robert Baugh, it has a wonderful clarity of lettering and detail, and comes close to the style of the Ordnance Survey, who would begin their work in Wales in 1810. An informative article by Derek Williams tells us more about the man himself and the circumstances of the map’s creation. Llwyn-y-Groes (now a Grade II listed building), near Llanymynech, is very close to the Shropshire border, and Evans was a landowner with artistic and antiquarian interests. Born in the same year as Thomas Pennant, the two clearly had much in common, and Pennant writes warmly of a visit to the ‘public-spirited’ Mr Evans in his Welsh Tour. Evans also provided information on local sites.

One nice coincidence is that the mysterious Wat’s Dyke noted by Pennant on his ‘home patch’ at Basingwerk near Downing runs a diagonal forty miles down to Maesbury Marsh, only a couple of miles from Evans’s own house. It is marked as a confident black line on the section of the map reproduced here, running in parallel for a few miles at the bottom of the image with Offa’s Dyke, which disappears at Caergwrle just below Mold. A fascination with these border areas runs throughout Pennant’s writings on this eastern edge of Wales, and he draws on the testimony of place-names and (often inscrutable) archaeological monuments to evoke earlier periods of political flux and border warfare.

Twenty years is a long time for any work-in-progress, and one cannot help feeling sympathy for Evans in his attempts to map a landscape undergoing so much change. Turnpike trusts meant new roads were being built; mines were exploited, cotton factories established, and smelting houses blossomed along the coast of the Dee; over in the north-west, Richard Pennant (Thomas’s distant kinsman) ploughed the profits from slavery into a rapidly-growing slate industry. In 1796 Pennant himself would map the distances travelled, rather poignantly, in his History of the Parishes of Whiteford and Holywell: revisiting the little wooded Greenfield valley, whose stream runs from St Winefred’s Well to Basingwerk Abbey, he describes a place now crowded with copper and cotton mills (‘by those behemoths of commerce, our little Jordan was soon drunk up’). Yet this, he insists, is progress, and he is proud of the contribution made by the busy stream, and its local investors, to the greater British economy. Zooming in to the Evans map around Holywell it is hard to tell quite what stage of industrial development is being represented here. The mills may be those little black dots along the stream; there is a ‘coal pit’ on the coast above Bagillt, and a ‘smelting works’ just under the castle at Flint. More clearly marked than the signs of rapid industrialization, however, are the houses and halls of the North Wales gentry, including Pennant’s seat at Downing.

The other big change over those two crucial decades was of course the sheer number of tourists coming in to North Wales, many of them primed by Pennant’s own Tours. As the irate letter from 1792 pointed out:

Of late years the tour of North Wales has become very fashionable, but the crowds who favour us with their company are clamorous after such a director to the picturesque Beauties of our country.
When Evans’s map did eventually become available—and particularly after his son issued the smaller version in 1797—it was welcomed by many. My final blog will look at the reception of the Evans map in the 1790s and 1800s, and explore some of the ways it was used by our curious travellers.

Derek Williams ‘John Evans’ Map of North Wales 1797’, Ystrad Alun 11 (Nadolig, 2010).
R. Paul Evans, ‘Thomas Pennant’s Writing on North Wales’ (unpub M.A Dissertation, University of Wales, 1985).

Posted - 18-06-2018

Collections / Research

The Gladstone Pamphlets at the National Library of Wales

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


Tracts and pamphlets are the orphans of the Victorian print revolution, and the poor relations of William Gladstone‘s justly famous library.  Despite the fact that Gladstone read and collected thousands of shorter publications, marked them, organized them for reference, sent them to colleagues, used them routinely in developing policies, and employed them as evidence in his own books and articles, they have been seldom mentioned and never systematically examined in the study of Gladstone’s thought or politics.  The technological and educational revolution of the early nineteenth century may have made it into the age of the book, but as one recent study of the period has observed, if we count “what was produced” instead of what has survived, the Victorians might properly be considered “people of the tract”. More than 5,000 tracts once owned or associated with Gladstone are now housed in the National Library of Wales and are an invaluable source for scholars of the Victorian era. Added to the inherent value of the tracts themselves, annotations in a significant percentage of them provide scholars with kinds of evidence not generally found in correspondence, memoranda, and public papers. Working with Gary Butler at Gladstone’s Library, we have begun to unravel the complicated history of the pamphlets after Gladstone’s death.


The Gladstone Pamphlets housed at the National Library of Wales are rich as sources of Gladstone’s thought and policy development. Most of the pivotal moments in his career involved public exchanges involving some combination of articles, speeches, and tracts.  While his family, friends, and colleagues often urged more private methods of proceeding, Gladstone almost always chose to make use of the public forum, routinely reading and responding to the tract and periodical press. Whether engaging the nuances of Tractarian Church reform in the 1830s and 1840s, battling the Vatican or the Ottoman Empire in the 1870s, or attempting to bring justice to Ireland and the Empire in the 1880s and 1890s, he played politics with an eye toward the public.  Gladstone’s unique political gifts are too often represented as being almost exclusively rooted in principle, oratory and the public sphere.  But when he marked pamphlets in the first flush of new revelations or ideas, he often left posterity with a very personal glimpse of his feelings, which only later would be refined and mixed into a speech, policy, or pamphlet.


One example will suffice to suggest the kinds of insights afforded by the Gladstone pamphlets at the NLW. On 8 March 1846 Gladstone read E. B. Pusey’s Entire Absolution of the Penitent. He had long admired Pusey, having worked with him on High Church reforms pre-dating the Oxford Movement. By the mid-1840s, however, Gladstone had begun to doubt his elder colleague’s judgment as they each tried to preserve Catholic traditions in the Church of England. Upon reading Pusey’s cautionary footnote “to the young” regarding mortification— “See Mr. Newman’s valuable Sermon, ‘Dangers to the Penitent’”


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


John Powell

Professor of History

Oklahoma Baptist University


Posted - 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 - 14-06-2018

#LoveMaps / Collections / News and Events

#LoveMaps – Mary-Ann Constantine

Mary-Ann Constantine is Reader at the University of Wales Centre for Welsh and Celtic Studies. She works on C18th Welsh literature and is currently leading the AHRC-funded project, Curious Travellers: Thomas Pennant and the Welsh and Scottish Tour 1760-1820.

A Map of Wales according to the Antient Divisions of GWYNEDD, POWYS and DINEFAWR; with their respective CANTREVS, subdivided into COMOTS. By Wm Owen (1788)

This is a map of the Welsh past, viewed from the vantage point of the late eighteenth century. It was created at a period when the past, and especially the medieval past, was an object of passionate enquiry amongst an industrious and dynamic group of writers and scholars, many of them based in London.

It’s a complicated, intriguing, map, crowded with evocative names and hidden stories. It first appeared in the second edition of the Rev. William Warrington’s History of Wales (1788), and was designed and drawn by William Owen (1759-1835). Owen, who took the name William Owen Pughe after receiving an inheritance in 1806, was born in Meirionydd but had been living in London since 1776. He joined the Gwyneddigion Society around 1783, and by the time he designed this map (published with an accompanying map showing modern county divisions) he was already deeply involved in various projects aimed at recovering Welsh medieval texts, including the first ever edition of the poems of Dafydd ap Gwilym (1789). That work brought him into contact with, amongst others, Iolo Morganwg, who appears to have played some part in putting him in touch with Warrington.

Who was William Warrington? We know that he came from a family in Wrexham, and that he spent most of his life in orders in the south of England, eventually becoming vicar of Old Windsor. He writes in his preface that his position as an ‘Englishman’ absolves him from accusations of partisanship in his History of Wales, which is full of admiration for the Welsh as defenders of their national liberties against their oppressors over the centuries. An anonymous manuscript and a couple of letters held here in the National Library tell us more about him than was previously known, and help to explain how this much reprinted history came into being in the first place.

It’s a complicated story, involving subtleties of class, precedence and authorship worthy of Jane Austen, but it looks as though Warrington had originally planned to publish an ‘Antiquarian Tour’ of north Wales in the late 1770s. He was revising his manuscript for that purpose when he heard of Thomas Pennant’s impending publication, the Tours in Wales (1778) and realized that they would be, almost literally, treading the same ground. Warrington seems to have backed down and changed his mode of exploring the Welsh past from one which reads the past in situ, on a journey through the landscape, to a more academic, chronological narrative. The success of Pennant’s Tours, and, ten years later, his own History, suggests that he made the right call.

In an excellent article Iolo and Menai Roberts have analysed William Owen’s map from a cartographical point of view. This was the first attempt ever made to visualise the divisions of Wales right down to the level of commotes: to give shape and form, in other words, to the places evoked in the medieval texts. The main source for these names, they show, was a list collated by the scholar Sir John Price (?1502-1555) which had appeared in David Powel’s Historie of Cambria (1584), also an important source for Warrington. Though disparaged by early twentieth-century scholars, who associated William Owen Pughe with his later eccentric spelling reforms (and, worse still, with Iolo Morganwg), the Roberts’s article shows what an achievement this 1788 map really was.

Besides the names themselves, which have an attraction all their own (Perfeddwlad, Anhunog, Yr Ardd Ganol) there are other curiosities to note here. Both Cantre’r Gwaelod and Llys Helig—the drowned territories of Welsh legend—are marked on the map with brief explanatory notes ( ‘This Tract was overflowed about the end of the Sixth Century’); Watts Dyke, not Offa’s Dyke, forms the border with England, and Bristol (Caerodornant), Gloucester (Caerloyw) and Worcester (Caerwrangon) only appear under their Welsh names. ‘Druidical ruins’ appear on the slopes north of Barmouth, and Beddau Gwŷr Ardudwy (The Graves of the Men of Ardudwy) are marked just above Harlech. This is a landscape of stories, or rather hints of stories, to be pieced together further from clues and allusions in the slowly-forming canon of early poetry and prose.

The map also marks innumerable battle-sites and castles: not just the usual Edwardian suspects, but scores of others, all testifying to the fact that these ‘Divisions’ were often indeed real divisions, and that medieval Wales was not a settled or peaceful place. The shifting allegiances, the alliances and hostilities of the Welsh kingdoms with each other, and with different factions of Saxons, Normans and English are all evoked in this patchwork-quilt of territories. The constant strife of the middle ages is a recurring theme in later tourist narratives. In 1813 Richard Ayton noted of the peninsulas of Gower and Pembrokeshire that: ‘as both were inhabited by the same people, engaged continually in the same kind of warfare, their general history is necessarily very much alike, and in both of them castles are as multitudinous as milestones.’ Many, like William Warrington himself, felt obliged to conclude that, admirable as that Welsh fighting spirit may have been, they were better off exchanging their ‘wild and precarious liberty’ for a different kind of ‘freedom secured by equal and fixed laws’, through ‘uniting in interests, and mingling in friendship with their conquerors’. Warrington’s conclusion has, inevitably, coloured assessments of him as a historian. But, as William Owen’s beautiful and intriguing map suggests, this does not really do justice to his deep engagement with Wales. There is still much to discover about the intellectual connections between Wales and England at what was a fascinating and significant period for both cultures.

Iolo and Menai Roberts, ‘William Owen (Pughe), y Mapiwr’, National Library of Wales Journal, Vol. XXX, no. 3 (Summer, 1998) 295-322
William Warrington’s ‘Antiquarian Tour’ and his letters to Thomas Pennant will be published on the Curious Travellers website

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 -

#LoveArt / Collections / Exhibitions / Kyffin Blog

Kyffin 100: Celebrating a centenary with the next generation

As part of the Kyffin Williams centenary celebrations, the Library’s Education Service has been delivering many activities for schools, colleges and families, based on one of Wales’s most recognised and popular artists.

During the year free workshops will be delivered to primary and secondary school pupils to coincide with the Library’s main exhibition Kyffin Williams: Behind the Frame, and a bilingual booklet focusing on Kyffin’s life and work is being distributed free of charge to all who take part in the workshops.

So far this year schools from all over Wales have been visiting the National Library to learn more about the artist from Anglesey, like the pupils of Ysgol Trimsaran and Ysgol Mynydd y Garreg, Carmarthenshire. After taking part in the Kids in Museums Takeover Day in January, they returned in May to enjoy the Kyffin exhibition and workshop.

In April a selection of original paintings and drawings by Kyffin Williams were transported from the Library’s storage facilities to Penygroes, Gwynedd, as part of the Class Art project. Workshops on Kyffin’s style and painting technique were led by two leading Welsh artists in two schools; Catrin Williams studied some of Kyffin’s landscapes with the Year 4 pupils of Ysgol Bro Lleu, and Eleri Jones delivered a session on Kyffin’s portraits for Year 12 students at Ysgol Dyffryn Nantlle, to support them with their A Level course work.

Kyffin Williams was also the theme of The National Library of Wales’ stand at this year’s Urdd Eisteddfod in Llanelwedd. Throughout the week a small exhibition about Kyffin’s life and career provided a backdrop to art activities where young visitors were given an opportunity to emulate the artist by reproducing sections of one of his landscapes in acrylic paint on canvas. During a workshop on the Tuesday, under the guidance of artist Catrin Williams, children were shown how to produce pastel drawings in the style of Kyffin Williams. Some of the work produced during these sessions will be exhibited in the Library’s Education Room until September.

Kyffin Williams: Behind the Frame runs until the 1st of September in the Library’s Gregynog Gallery, and the exhibition includes tasks for visiting families – why not have a go at our ‘Kyffin Quiz’ and create your own masterpiece.

For further information on the Library’s free workshops, you are welcome to contact the Education Service on:
01970 632988
01970 632431

Posted - 07-06-2018

#LoveMaps / Collections

#LoveMaps – Mary-Ann Constantine

Thomas Kitchin’s Accurate Map of North Wales, Divided Into Its Counties…(1764)

Mary-Ann Constantine is Reader at the University of Wales Centre for Welsh and Celtic Studies. She works on C18th Welsh literature and is currently leading the AHRC-funded project, Curious Travellers: Thomas Pennant and the Welsh and Scottish Tour 1760-1820.

I recently gave a talk at a conference in Gregynog on an extraordinary journey made by Iolo Morganwg, on foot, from London to Glamorgan in May-June 1802. It is extraordinary for several reasons – for a start, the route ‘home’ is not remotely direct, but takes him via Birmingham and Shrewsbury over to Meifod, and thence down through the border counties back to Flimstone. Extraordinary because he often walked over 30 miles a day. Extraordinary too for the eclectic range of thoughts, observations and feelings the journey provoked, and which Iolo jotted down in pencil in a fragile little notebook held here in NLW. To get into the spirit, I got off the train at Caersws and walked the last seven miles to Gregynog, with a small rucksack containing a water-bottle, bar of chocolate—and a map (the OS Explorer 1:25 000 for Newtown; aka the Orange One).

It wasn’t even a particularly tricky route (footpaths are infinitely better signposted in Powys than in Ceredigion, it seems) but I must have looked at that map a hundred times. At every stile or gate I got it out and tried to work out how the invisible line of that all-important right-of-way might cut across this field or that valley. And it struck me that this is not at all how Iolo would have done it. For one thing, he would often have been on main roads, checking off the milestones (unthinkable today, as the cars tear by); for another, he would have constantly met other people and asked the way, as he does with a group of ‘strangely ignorant Rustics’ near Wolverhampton, mercilessly mimicking their accents. I saw no-one, and spoke to no-one. The map told me everything I needed to know.

On the Curious Travellers project we have been transcribing and editing various early tours in Wales (including Iolo’s). Not everyone walks, of course. Coaches, post-chaises, horseback, the occasional ferry, all help in getting people to the inns and castles, the druidic monuments and the fine prospects they have come looking for. Only a few of these writers mention maps, but those that do are interesting. My blog posts over the next four weeks will be looking at four C18th maps, produced for different purposes and with different audiences in mind, and thinking about how they might relate to the various ways people perceived and described Wales in their tour narratives.

First up is this map from 1764 by the prolific Thomas Kitchin (or Kitchen), a London-based engraver who became Hydrographer to George III. Kitchin, the son of a hat-dyer (presumably now a lost art…) was born in what is now Bermondsey just south of London Bridge – at the time it was considered a place of ‘Aliens or Strangers and poor People’. By the age of 13, however, he was indentured to Emanuel Bowen, one of the most important cartographers of his age. Bowen (whose family came from Tal-y-Llychau /Talley), was a prominent Baptist, and Kitchin went on to marry his daughter Sarah and become a key figure in local Baptist networks himself. His output, as Laurence Worms has noted, was ‘prodigious’, and included not only maps but a vast range of other engraved material, including shop-bills, decorative prints, portraits and even political satires. His ‘Accurate Map of North Wales’ was reprinted several times and shows how Kitchin’s depictions of place, like those of his master, Bowen, delight in bringing different types of information together onto the page. This map is very busy.

Floating off the coast of Wales and down the English border are quite sizeable chunks of text. In twenty or so different interventions they provide the reader with useful information about the counties and their major towns (‘the County of Flint is about 115 miles in circumference Contains about 120,000 Acres & is Divided into 5 Hundreds’), along with the types of crops and minerals they produce. But we are also told that North Wales was formerly inhabited by the Ordovices, that Flintshire air ‘is Good and Pleasant’, that the Constable of Flint Castle is ‘commonly Mayor of the Town’, that Llyn Tegid is the largest lake in Wales, and that the Welsh call Anglesey ‘Mam Cymru, that is the Mother or Nurse of Wales’ (though here, apparently, the Air, ‘at certain times by reason of the mists and fogs prevailing from the Irish Sea, is Agueish’). History, topography and economics jostle, a trifle randomly, for attention, much as they do in tour narratives. Apart from that brief reference to ‘Mam Cymru’, however, one crucial element is missing: language. Wales in this map is as comfortably knowable, as measurable, as statistically computable as any county in England; yet this was emphatically not the case for many travellers in the period, who quite often found themselves (to their irritation, curiosity, bafflement or delight) in situations where English simply did not operate.

While you would not wish this map on anyone actually trying to make their way around north Wales (and in particular the sadly deformed Llŷn peninsula), it is clear that Kitchin had an eye for a developing tourist market. Indeed, by 1783, a far sparser, more practical Kitchin map appeared in a volume explicitly aimed at travellers from London to various parts of Britain, including Wales. The Traveller’s Guide Through England and Wales, printed for Charles Dilly, offers the reader tables of distances between towns and cities, and includes some information on ‘Mansions, Castles and other remarkable Objects’ to be seen along the way. It opens with a map in which dark lines of roads branch and spread out like arteries from London. It is, claims the blurb ‘The Largest, most Accurate, and Compleat Map of Roads through England and Wales ever prepared.’ The era of tourist travel has begun.

Reference: Laurence Worms, “Thomas Kitchin’s ‘journey of life’: hydrographer to George III, mapmaker, and engraver’. The Map Collector, 62-63 (Spring/Summer 1993): Part I, 2-8; Part II, 14-20.

Posted - 04-06-2018


We Love Thee Newfoundland

60 years ago, the Dominion of Newfoundland had just held the first of two referenda that would eventually see it join with Canada. Having been granted self-governing Dominion status in 1907, its government had encountered significant financial problems and in 1933 the Newfoundland Parliament dissolved itself and a commission of 7 persons to run the dominion was appointed by the British Government. Newfoundland is therefore one of a very small group of countries that has voluntarily given up their self-government. But by the end of the Second World War Newfoundland’s economic picture was much improved and pressure grew for a return to what was called Responsible Government. A commission was appointed to determine the way forward and the result was a referendum on June 3rd 1948 in which none of the three options, self-government, confederation with Canada or continuation of the appointed commission achieved more than 50% of the vote. A controversial second referendum was held a few weeks later on July 22nd with only the two most popular choices (self-government or confederation with Canada) on the ballot paper. Newfoundlanders chose confederation by a tiny majority.

So what does this have to do with the National Library of Wales?

Well, at the time all this was going on, a Welsh-speaking former Labour MP was the Governor of Newfoundland, and his fascinating archive was recently acquired by the Welsh Political Archive at the National Library of Wales. His name was Gordon MacDonald, he was from Flintshire and served as MP for Ince, before resigning his seat to act as Controller of Fuel and Power for North Wales and the North West of England. While his name still provokes a strong reaction in Newfoundland, today he isn’t so well known in Wales.

When he was appointed as Governor of Newfoundland in January 1946, the future status of the Dominion was at the top of his agenda. The archives contain a variety of material related to his time in Newfoundland, including the visitors books to the Governor’s House, his diaries, speeches (published under the title We Love Thee Newfoundland, correspondence and photographs. The topics covered range from general administration, including strikes on the Newfoundland Railway to files related to the terms of confederation with Canada. The confederation was very controversial and MacDonald was faced with very stiff opposition from those who had favoured returning to self-government. In files marked ‘Top Secret’ we can see the various discussions between MacDonald and Ottowa which led to the eventual terms of confederation as well as warnings from local officials of possible violent protest as a result of referendum.

Following the confederation in 1949, MacDonald returned to the UK, was appointed as Paymaster General and elevated to the peerage as Baron MacDonald of Gwaenysgor. Further files in his archive relate to his later career, including his role as a delegate to the UN General Assembly, chairman of the Broadcasting Council for Wales and election campaigns including another ‘Top Secret’ letter from Prime Minister Clement Attlee warning him that a General Election would be called in October 1951.

Newfoundland has now been part of Canada for 59 years, but there is still plenty of controversy in how that came about. Questions were asked as to the role of the British Government and the local administration, whether the referenda were fair, and even whether the votes were properly counted. The Lord MacDonald of Gwaenysgor papers will no doubt provide a new seam of information to be mined in the study of the history of Canada and Newfoundland but whether it will settle any of the old arguments or open up new discussions remains to be seen.

Rob Phillips

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Posted - 28-05-2018


The Old Stile Press

Rare books are not necessarily old books.  Amongst the National Library’s rare book collections is a wealth of private-press publications: modern books produced using the traditional manual printing methods that were normal until the early nineteenth century.

Notable amongst private presses operating in Wales today is the Old Stile Press near Tintern in Monmouthshire.  Founded in London in 1979, the press moved to its present home in 1986, where all the work is done by the owners Nicolas and Frances McDowall.  The press typically publishes a couple of books each year, printed by hand in limited editions with original artwork.  The Library buys a copy of each new publication from the press.

The first two books published by the Old Stile Press this year are both in editions of just 26 copies.  Hunt’s Bay is a poem by Vernon Watkins inspired by the Gower peninsula, and was first published in Cypress and Acacia in 1959.  Nicolas McDowall has illustrated this edition with black and white images derived from digitally manipulated photographs and printed by hand from relief blocks.


The Corpus Christi Carol is a text by an unknown author, believed to have been written around 1504.  The Old Stile Press edition of the poem is illustrated with images printed from woodcut blocks and hand-coloured by the artist, Angela Lemaire.

Members of the Aberystwyth Bibliographical Group will be visiting the Old Stile Press this summer, and will have the opportunity to see many of the books and be shown how they were created.


Timothy Cutts

Rare Books Librarian

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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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