Posted - 24-09-2018

#LoveMaps / Collections

A sea change for English hydrography

This ‘Year of the Sea’ blog highlights the initial bourgeoning of English hydrography, focusing on the work of Captain Collins, who also surveyed the Welsh coast.

In 1657 hydrographer and printer Joseph Moxon ventured into what had traditionally been the Dutch preserve of marine chart production with A Book of Sea Plats. These charts of European waters were nevertheless of Dutch origin.

John Seller envisaged an atlas containing charts surveyed, drawn, engraved, and printed at home. He was appointed Royal Hydrographer and remarkably secured a successful thirty-year order forbidding the import of Dutch ‘Waggoner’ charts (see Waghenaer’s ‘Spieghel’, our preceding maritime blog). Alas, Seller’s ambitions were beyond the means of an individual bookseller and instrument maker. Samuel Pepys later wrote that private individuals were incapable of such huge undertakings, and yet from 1671 Seller’s The English Pilot with its defects and partially refreshed old Dutch plates, progressively ousted ‘Waggoners’ from England.

In 1680 Captain Greenvile Collins began lobbying for a British survey. Collins, an experienced Royal Navy captain and skilled hydrographer was commissioned by King Charles II in 1676 to survey home waters and was promised significant assistance. Collins’s seven year survey began in 1681 and in 1693 his charts  were published in Great Britain’s Coasting Pilot.


The survey demanded rigorous coastal measurements and the precise coordinates of headlands. Progress was bedevilled by financial shortages and the waning interest of supporting bodies. Collins’s proposal to survey Ireland in its entirety was not realized.

Collins’s Pilot was the first systematic survey and first maritime atlas of British waters to be engraved and printed in London from original surveys and included forty-eight charts together with sailing directions, tide tables and coastal profiles. Despite inaccuracies and shortcomings the work was an immense advance for British navigation and validated Collins as one of history’s foremost hydrographers.

The Pilot, little altered, was issued between 1693 and 1792 and on at least twelve other occasions. Inevitably, by 1792, it was regarded as requiring considerable improvement.

The Library holds a 1779 copy of this atlas and several individual charts variously dated. Our illustrated charts of the western coasts of Wales and Milford Haven are dated 1693.


Gwilym Tawy,

Map Curator.

Posted - 21-09-2018

Collections / Digitisation

Revealing the Objects: Dictionaries and Grammars

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 series – ‘Revealing the Objects, some of the Library’s contributions will be disclosed on a thematic basis.

Here’s a selection of dictionaries and grammars that will be digitized as part of the project.


Gruffydd Robert – Dosparth byrr (1563)

Gruffydd Robert was a Roman Catholic scholar, a grammarian of the sixteenth century and a humanist of the Renaissance. It comes as no surprise therefore that Robert was concerned with the study of language and the Welsh language in particular. As a Catholic exile he had to contend with rigorous press censorship across Europe which made the process of publication a daunting task. Gruffydd Robert’s multi-volume Grammar ‘Dosbarth byrr’, the earliest grammar to appear in Welsh, was at least partly published in Milan from 1567, where the author had settled. Robert was a firm supporter of the art of translation and believed it was a vital component in the expansion and development of a language in the modern world. He put his ideas into practice in his grammar. In addition, he converted the Ciceronian style into a Welsh medium by including a select translation of Cicero’s De Senectute in his sixth volume of ‘Dosparth byrr’.

John Davies – Antiquae linguae Britannicae, nunc vulgo dictae Cambro-britannicae, a suis Cymraecae vel Cambricae, ab aliis Wallicae, et linguae Latinae, dictionarium duplex. Prius Britannico-Latinum, … posterius, Latino-Britannicum. Accesserunt adagia Britannica (1632)

‘Dictionarium Duplex’ was a Latin-Welsh, Welsh-Latin dictionary and the first of its kind. This publication showcased John Davies’s lifetime study of the Welsh language, from Old Welsh poetry dating from around the sixth century down to the seventeenth century. Davies was a Renaissance scholar and these humanistic values were evident is his ‘Dictionarium Duplex’. The preface to the volume presented an interesting statement on the uniqueness of the Welsh language, its history and its place within an international linguistic context. In addition, his familiarities with the ideas of influential humanistic scholars were evident within the publication. This dictionary was aimed at, and produced for, scholars or Latinists. It was certainly not a practical resource for the ordinary Welsh-man, nor the uneducated poet. The ‘Dictionarium Duplex’ came to the attention of some of Europe’s leading linguists in the seventeenth century and laid the foundations for many future Welsh linguists and scholars. It also had a great impact on lawyers and priests during that time. Its publication is considered as one of the most important events in the history of the Welsh language in the seventeenth century.

Thomas Jones – Y Gymraeg yn ei Disgleirdeb / The British language in its lustre (1688)

‘Y Gymraeg yn ei Disgleirdeb’ or ‘The British language in its lustre’ was the first Welsh-English dictionary to appear in published form. This volume, by the almanacer Thomas Jones, was pocket sized and relatively cheap. Jones used John Davies’s Welsh-Latin section in ‘Dictionarium Duplex’ as a starting point for his publication. However, this dictionary was not intended for the educated minority, like Davies’s Latin version, but rather the ordinary population. Jones wished to enhance the lower class’s ability to write and spell both in Welsh and English through ‘Y Gymraeg yn ei Disgleirdeb’.

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 - 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 - 17-09-2018


Aberystwyth at War: Experience, Impact, Legacy 1914-1919

Being a part of the Heritage Lottery Funded “Aberystwyth at War: Experience, Impact, Legacy 1914-1919” has been an exciting experience and has led to a re-evaluation of neglected items. In a large institution such as the National Library of Wales items are donated, duly processed and located, with their true significance not always understood. Described succinctly as “About 160 postcard-size photographs collected by a Welsh family, consisting mainly of wartime portraits of uniformed men and women” the prognosis for photo album 500 wasn’t promising. However, carefully turning the dog-eared and time-worn pages initially revealed numerous photographs of a well to do middle class family. Further on the tone of the album changes, more and more of the pictures are portraits of men in uniform, many identifiable from other sources as distinguished local servicemen.  Many more are in hospital blues, the distinctive uniform given to convalescing soldiers. These are often signed along with details of their regiment. Some are of Red Cross nurses. Perusing the few postcards that have been postally used it is apparent that the album was compiled by Miss Emily Evans of Tanyreithin, Baker Street, Aberystwyth. A quick check on the Red Cross WW1 website reveals that Emily Evans was a Red Cross Nurse at Aberystwyth Red Cross Auxiliary Hospital (now The Cambria), between June 1916 and November 1918 donating over 5000 hours of her time. Included in the album are the only photographs that have yet come to light of the interior of the hospital. To date all other photos connected with the hospital have been group photographs taken outside.





Will Troughton

Photographic Collection Curator

Posted - 14-09-2018

Collections / Digitisation

Revealing the Objects: Cookery and Lifestyle

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 series – ‘Revealing the Objects, some of the Library’s contributions will be disclosed on a thematic basis.

Here’s a selection of lifestyle and cookbooks that will be digitized as part of the project.

Augusta Hall – Good cookery illustrated. And recipes communicated by the Welsh hermit of the cell of St. Gover, with various remarks on many things past and present (1867)

Augusta Hall, or Lady Llanover was a prominent sponsor of Welsh folk culture. Her ‘Good Cookery Illustrated’ contained Welsh tales and recipes. It was structured around the conversations of a traveller to Llanover and the hermit of Llanover.

Thomas, Thomas – Llyfr Coginio a Chadw Tŷ (1880)

Thomas Thomas was a Wesleyan minister and miscellaneous writer. He was an active producer of popular books and his volume ‘Llyfr Coginio a Chadw Tŷ’ (‘Book of Cookery and Housekeeping’) was particularly successful. This work was aimed at the women of Wales. Its objective was to instruct its audience on how to cook delicious and nutritious meals. The volume was marketed as a text book for inexperienced cooks. In addition, it contained clear directions on how to arrange the household, in order to ensure a healthy and comfortable environment for the family unit. The author was convinced that such shortcomings in the arrangement of one’s household drove men to public houses.

Thomas, Thomas – Llyfr pawb ar bob-peth: sef, y ffordd oreu i gyflawni holl ddyledswyddau, ac i gyfarfod a holl amgylchiadau bywyd cyffredin (1880)

‘Llyfr pawb ar bob-peth’ was also among Thomas Thomas’s most successful works. This small volume of instructions was aimed at a wide and diverse audience; for ‘everyone and all’. For the young man, it contained instructions on reading and writing; outlined an acceptable code of conduct; instructions in dressing appropriately, and choosing a suitable companion. For the young women, the author gave clear instructions on how to keep a clean and tidy home, and the means in which clothing were to be kept. For the young couple the volume contained suggestions on how to choose, buy and build a suitable home, means of organisation and how to govern the family unity. For the young farmer it contained recommendations on breeding stock and outlined the most effective ways of securing high quality produce.

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 - 10-09-2018

Collections / Exhibitions / music

Morfydd Owen – a remarkable talent

A refined and beautiful talent: thoughts on the centenary of the death of Morfydd Owen (1891-1918) is the title of Dr Rhian Davies’s presentation at the Drwm on 11 September.  This is a significant date as it marks a hundred years since her burial at Oystermouth cemetery.  Morfydd Owen  composer, singer and pianist, died tragically young on 7 September 1918 aged twenty six. The presentation is one of many centenary events organised by Gŵyl Gregynog Festival to celebrate her life.  Dr Rhian Davies is the Festival’s Artistic Director and the chief authority on the composer who was also the subject of her thesis for her doctorate degree at Bangor University in 1999.

Morfydd Owen was born on 1 October 1891 in Treforest in a musical household.  She won a scholarship to study music at Cardiff University with Professor David Evans in 1909 and was awarded a Mus. Bac. degree in 1912.  Afterwards she studied composition at The Royal Academy of Music, London, 1912-1917, and won numerous awards, including the Charles Lucas Silver Medal for composing ‘Nocturne’, an orchestral work.  In 1918 she was elected an Associate of the Academy.

She was inducted into the Gorsedd at the National Eisteddfod at Wrexham in 1912 under her bardic name ‘Morfydd Llwyn-Owen’, an amalgamation of her name and her father’s home Plas Llwyn Owen, Bontdolgadfan, near Llanbrynmair.  A sensitive performance of her song ‘The lamb’ was given in the Blue Riband competition at the recent National Eisteddfod.

Morfydd Owen was very talented as she had a rich mezzo-soprano singing voice, was an accomplished pianist and could compose in a variety of styles ranging from hymn-tunes to orchestral pieces.  A scholarship was set up in her name at Cardiff University after her death and Grace Williams was the first to be awarded in 1923.  The manuscript scores and personal memorabilia of Morfydd Owen are housed at the Special Collections and Archives, Cardiff University.

A drama-documentary was shown in 1991 by S4C on the centenary of her birth and a film Morfydd will be premiered this Autumn on the channel.  It focuses on the relationship between Morfydd Owen and Dr Ernest Jones who she married in a Registry Office in London after a brief courtship.  The script is by Siwan Jones.  Rhian Blythe who plays ‘Morfydd’ spent some time at the Library researching for her role.

A small exhibition of items from the Library’s collections will be on display in the Summers Room on 11 September to complement the talk on Morfydd Owen.  Included are music manuscripts, letters in her hand, photographs, concert programmes and the two memorial editions of Morfydd Owen’s posthumously published works inscribed by Dr Ernest Jones to his father-in-law William Owen.

Ann Francis Evans


Posted - 07-09-2018

Collections / Digitisation

Revealing the Objects: Science and Mathematics

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 series – ‘Revealing the Objects, some of the Library’s contributions will be disclosed on a thematic basis.

Here’s a selection of scientific and mathematical publications. These will be digitized as part of the project.


Robert Recorde – The Whetstone of Witte: whiche is the seconde parte of arithmetike; containyng thextraction of rootes: the cossike practise, with the rule of equation: and the woorkes of surde nombers (1557)

The Whetstone of Witte’ was published in 1557 and written by the influential Welsh mathematician and teacher Robert Recorde. It is in this book that algebra and the equals sign (=) are first introduced in published form.

Robert Hooke – Micrographia (1665)

Robert Hooke worked at the Royal Society as Head of Experiments and his scientific interests varied. He made several influential and pioneering contributions to his field, for example, he invented the compound microscope. Through his microscope Hooke looked at insects, plants and bird’s feathers; detailed drawings of these are included in ‘Micrographia’. In addition, his publication presented a new way of conducting scientific exercises; through careful observation and the recording of results. Hooke’s concepts were highly influential and became common practices within the scientific field.

William Robert Grove – On the Correlation of Physical Forces: being the substance of a course of lectures delivered in the London Institution, in the year 1843 (1846)

William Robert Grove was a Welsh physical scientist, judge and lawyer. He was particularly devoted to his scientific work and gained considerable praise for his research projects within that field. His ‘On the Correlation of Physical Forces’, published in 1846, is considered a literary classic. In this volume Grove explains the principle of the conservation of energy. It is worth noting that his work was published a year prior to that of Herman von Helmholtz, a German physicist who also enunciated the above principle in his famous thesis ‘Über die Erhaltung der Kraft’ (“On the Conservation of Force”).

William Henry Preece – Telegraphy (1914)

For most of his professional career William Henry Preece was connected to the field of telegraphic engineering and its development. Educated at King’s College, London, he quickly progressed in the area and was appointed electrician to the General Post Office in 1877 and promoted to engineer-in-chief in 1892. This publication demonstrates his interest in the development of the field and is a general introduction to the science of Telegraphy.

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 - 31-08-2018

Collections / Digitisation

Revealing the Objects: Responses to the Blue Book Reports

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 series – ‘Revealing the Objects, some of the Library’s contributions will be disclosed on a thematic basis.

Here’s a selection of publications that directly responded to the Blue Book Reports. These will be digitized as part of the project.


R. R. W. Lingen, J. C. Symons and H. R. Vaughan Johnson – Report of the Commissioners of Inquiry into the State of Education in Wales (1847)

In 1846 William Williams, the Welsh Member of Parliament for Coventry, introduced a motion that would eventually lead to an inquiry into the state of education in Wales. In the eyes of Williams, and the British Government in general, the Welsh people were becoming an increasingly unruly and riotous population and therefore threatened the foundations of society. Government officials were convinced that these seditious events were coordinated and held in the Welsh language. Kay-Suttleworth, the Secretary of the Council of Education noted that the commission would hold “an inquiry into the state of education in Wales, especially into the means afforded to the labouring classes of acquiring a knowledge of the English language”, that is, the language of commerce, higher education, government and law. Three deputies were appointed as investigators; R.R. W. Lingen, J. C. Symons and H. V. Johnson; their conclusions were later published in report form. With regards to education, many aspects were criticized by all deputies, including the poor quality of education provided by unqualified teachers, schools’ unsuitable locations and lack of facilities. Due to the ignorance and prejudices of the deputies these faults were over exaggerated slightly, in fact, education of the lower classes in England did not fare any better. Their comments concerning the immorality of Welsh women were highly controversial. Only six pages of the reports were devoted to these criticisms; however such remarks were discussed extensively by the national press, particularly the London papers. The reports were also seen as an attack on the Welsh language due to the deputies’ comments regarding its inferior status and that its use restricted the masses in terms of social prospects.

Jane Williams (Ysgafell) – Artegall or, Remarks on the Reports of the Commissioners of Inquiry into the State of Education in Wales (1848)

Jane Williams was a London-born historian and miscellaneous writer. She spent many years of her life in Brecon, Wales and as a result developed a friendship with the famous cultural sponsor and supporter Augusta Hall, or Lady Llanover. Thereafter Williams took a great interest in Welsh literature and learnt the language. She published several important volumes, yet ‘Artegall or, Remarks on the Reports of the Commissioners of Inquiry into the State of Education in Wales’ was printed as an anonymous pamphlet. It examined the reliability of the witnesses called to give evidence for the Report of the Commissioners of Inquiry into the State of Education in Wales. Williams stressed her disapproval of the generalisations made by the deputies throughout their investigations, proving that individuals of Anglican dissent were prepared to defend the Welsh people after the reports were published.

Evan Jones (Ieuan Gwynedd) – Facts, figures, and statements, of illustration of the dissent and morality of Wales: an appeal to the English people (1849)

Evan Jones, also known by his pen-name Ieuan Gwynedd, was a poet and pamphleteer. He was an avid supporter of the temperance movement and a dedicated Nonconformist. He defended Welsh nonconformity against the attacks of clergymen, and, more specifically, against the numerous criticisms noted by the Education Commissioners of 1847. His arguments, always strongly presented, were based on a careful preliminary study of the facts; as seen in his pamphlet ‘Facts, Figures, and Statements in Illustration of the Dissent and Morality of Wales: an Appeal to the English People’.

Robert Jones (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, and it’s no surprise that they are accepted by the occupants of hell. During 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”.

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 - 27-08-2018

#LoveMaps / Collections

Waghenaer’s ‘Spieghel’

In Wales, 2018 has been designated the ‘Year of the Sea’ and this, our third maritime themed blog of the year, concerns the earliest chart of the Welsh coast in the Library’s collection. It dates from 1590 and displays the Bristol Channel compiled by Dutch hydrographer Lucas Janszoon Waghenaer (1534-1606). The Dutch were foremost European hydrographers and cartographers, with Leiden, Antwerp and later Amsterdam becoming centres of chart as well as map production.

Waghenaer was a navigating officer and later a collector of marine dues. His practical seafaring experiences and his contacts with seamen and harbour officials proved advantageous in compiling his pilot guide to European coastal waters. Waghenaer’s text was based on traditional 16th-century navigation publications, but his charts added an innovative component, making this the world’s first published pilot guide.


The success of the Teerste Deel vande Spieghel der Zeevaerdt (The First Part of the Sea Mirror) of 1584 emanated from Waghenaer’s pioneering chart compilations, their fine engraving and their practical, bound presentation in a single volume. The charts show coastal panoramas and illustrate cliffs and land profiles viewed from the sea signifying that the charts were initially prepared at sea, compass intersections being used to plot prominent coastal features.

Accuracy of coastal configuration was however often lamentable, there being a tendency to exaggerate significant features whilst extensive tracts of topography appear to have been imprecisely drawn from sight. It has been argued that these distortions were excusable since such charts were primarily intended for pilotage at the approaches to important harbours and not for general navigation. In this respect Waghenaer was simply continuing a long-standing chart making tradition.

The success of this first volume encouraged  Waghenaer to publish a second part in 1586 with Latin text. Other translations ensued. When the atlas was shown to Queen Elizabeth and her Privy Council, such was its impact that it was decided to translate the 1586 edition into English, a task  allotted to Anthony Ashley (1551-1628), Clerk to the Privy Council. In 1588 The Mariner’s Mirrour first appeared in its anglicized manifestation and this too proved instantly popular. The guides became known to the British as ‘Waggoners’, a generic moniker for sea atlases and charts which persisted long after  the obsolescence of The Mariner’s Mirrour and its replacement by new Dutch charts. Waghenaer subsequently issued smaller and more practical formats.



Gwilym Tawy

Map Curator

Posted - 24-08-2018

Collections / Digitisation

Revealing the Objects: Political 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 series – ‘Revealing the Objects, some of the Library’s contributions will be disclosed on a thematic basis.

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


Richard Price – A Discourse on the Love of our Country (1789)

Richard Price was a Nonconformist minister, philosopher and insurance accountant. He is mostly known for his sermon ‘A Discourse on the Love of our Country’ (1789), an enthusiastic expression of support to the French Revolution. His sermon inspired Edmund Burke’s famous ‘Reflections on the Revolution in France’ (1790), considered a classical statement and political pamphlet. An official mourning period was held in Paris following Richard Price’s death in 1791, an indication of the significance of his support to the Revolution.

David Williams – Letters on Political Liberty, and the principles of the English and Irish projects of reform (1789)

David Williams was a political pamphleteer. His publication, ‘Letters on Political Liberty’ defends and supports those American settlers that believed in radical political reform and reorganisation. Its content also refers to the author’s ideas on the role of political senators; they were to act as trustees and custodians of the rights of people. Williams made a name for himself in France. His volume ‘Letters on Political Liberty’ was widely circulated in the country after its translation and was particularly appreciated by the leaders of the French Revolution. Williams was awarded a French citizenship due to his support.

John Jones (Jac Glan-y-gors) – Seren tan gwmmwl, neu ychydig sylw ar frenhinoedd, escobion, arglwyddi, &c. a llywodraeth Lloegr yn gyffredin. Wedi ei ysgrifennu er mwyn y Cymru uniaith (1795)

Jac Glan-y-gors (John Jones) was a satirical writer and inn keeper. The author’s aim in this published pamphlet was to present Thomas Paine’s ideas to a wider Welsh speaking audience. Jones shared Paine’s values on war, monarchy, the Established Church and the rights of men. These values are demonstrated in ‘Seren tan Gwmwl’. He played a prominent role within the London-Welsh societies at the end of the eighteenth century and co-founded the Cymreigyddion Society.

Unofficial Reform Committee – The Miners’ Next Step: being a suggested scheme for the reorganization of the Federation (1912)

‘The Miners’ Next Step’ was a pamphlet-manifesto; formed by an Unofficial Reform Committee, brought together by the miner and Trade Union leader Noah Ablett, as well as A. J. Cook, William Henry Mainwaring and others. The syndicalist manifesto was highly publicised and argues for reformation in the ownership, control and organization of coal pits. It also contains a plea for a singular, large scale industrial union and advocates for an industry that is controlled and owned by its workers. ‘The Miners’ Next Step’ provoked intense discussion within the industrial field and is still noted today for its mixture of Syndicalism and Marxism.

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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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.

About the blog