Posted - 27-06-2018

Collections / Digitisation / News / News and Events / Research

Welsh Portrait Collection

4800 Welsh portraits added to Wikimedia Commons and Wikidata

Over the last 4 years the National Library of Wales has worked with Wikimedia to provide open access to more than 10,000 public domain images. These include the Welsh Landscape Collection, photographs, maps and manuscripts.


This partnership has led to more than 455 million views of Wikipedia articles containing National Library images to date.



Now the Library is pleased to announce that nearly 5000 portrait prints, photographs and paintings have been placed in the public domain on Wikimedia Commons.


Along with the images, the Library’s National Wikimedian has also shared rich metedata for every image as linked open data on Wikidata.


The Library’s main goal in releasing such content is to increase access to our collections and to contribute to the creation and sharing of knowledge about Wales and its people.


It is now hopped that the Wikimedia community will begin to use these images to illustrate Wikipedia articles. The National Library also plans to run a project to increase engagement with this collection, and hopes that volunteers will be encouraged to create Wikipedia articles about the Welsh sitters, artists, printers and photographers involved in the collection.


Because all these images are freely downloadable and in the public domain, we also encourage others to reuse them for any purpose they see fit, from education to the creative industries this is a free resource for everybody.


The creation of linked data for the collection also offers interesting opportunities for researchers and academics. For the first time we can properly disambiguate (untangle) the names of the artists and sitters in order to better understand the makeup of the collection. For example 12 different individuals named John Jones have been identified in the collection, and we now know who they all are, and many are now connected via Wikidata to Wikipedia articles or Dictionary of Welsh Biography entries.


We can query and visualize the data in a number of ways using a Sparql query service. For example, we can analyze which engravers copied works by specific artists, and we can see the most frequently depicted types of people (clerics, by a country mile) and features, such as coats of arms, and border decoration.

visualisation of the data showing which printers copied work by certain artists
Visualization of the most frequently depicted things in the collection

We can easily visualize the sitters who appear most in the images using Wikidata’s ‘Main subject’ property. General Thomas Picton, a Welsh born war hero is depicted most often, with 32 portraits. Interestingly his Wikipedia article reveals he was not such a great hero after all, having been convicted of abusing women.

Visualization of the most frequently depicted sitters

We can also explore the collection chronologically and a first look reveals a clear correlation between the popularity of certain types of portrait and historical events. For example the number of images of preachers and clergymen increase dramatically at times of Religious revival.

A timeline of the most frequently depicted things in the collection over time


Wikidata is a multilingual platform, so it also allows us to utilize the multilingual nature of Wikidata’s descriptive labels to view our data in dozens of languages. The Metadata held by the library for this collection was only available in English, however, by converting it to Wikidata 83% of the 40,000 data items were automatically available in Welsh, thanks to the work of Wikidata volunteers, who have added Welsh language labels to many Wikidata items. We hope to engage with Welsh speaking volunteers in order to make 100% of the data available in Welsh.


Linking our heritage

Another advantage of sharing our data on a public platform like Wikidata is that many other institutions have done the same, and this means that we can begin to build an extensive network of connected data. The data allows us to connect our own collections together, so for example we can see which publishers have published works in both the Welsh Portrait Collection but also the Welsh Landscape Collection. We have also been able to quickly identify over 400 portraits of people featured in the dictionary of Welsh Biography, and we are now connecting those portraits to the Welsh Biography Website.

All images by one publisher. Blue denotes images in the Welsh Portrait Collection and yellow shows images published by the same publisher which now form part of the Welsh Landscape Collection

Beyond our own institution, we can see which of our sitters also have portraits at the National Portrait Gallery, and we can identify the artists and sitters in our collection who have an Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry. In this way the worlds cultural heritage can be connected together to provide the public with easy access, in one place, to a rich and diverse range of sources.


Jason Evans, National Wikimedian

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Posted - 26-06-2018

Collections / Digitisation / Research

Welsh Newspapers Online- Writing ‘Notorious’

This is a guest post by one of our users, Anthony Rhys.

You are welcome to submit posts for our consideration in Welsh or English. All posts must be in relation to either the Library’s work or collections, the Welsh Language or Wales. We will keep full editorial control over any posts published. Please send your posts through the Enquiries Service.

Two years ago I began researching writing the history of two streets in Cardiff called Charlotte Street and Whitmore Lane, an area notorious for brothels, beerhouses and lodging houses. It started out as an art project that quickly grew into a full length book called ‘Notorious’ that follows the lives of thirty people over thirty year period on these two streets.

Without being able to search for names and places on Welsh Newspapers Online over such a vast timescale this book would not have existed. I’d estimate 60% of the sources I’ve used for the book have come from the website.

Telling the life stories of the people in my book would have been impossible without Welsh Newspapers Online. Searching manually through microfiche records would have taken six months working 9 till 5. With a daytime job that time commitment is impossible. Also crucial was the ability to return back to the sources time and time again to research new names and new leads as they came up. Without constant access to Welsh Newspapers Online I would not have been able to tell these people’s stories.

Anthony Rhys

Anthony Rhys’ blog: Two Notorious Cardiff Streets: Charlotte Street and Whitmore Lane 1841-1870

Posted - 25-06-2018

Collections / Digitisation / Events / News and Events

Remembering “The 1818 Welsh”

At the beginning of summer in 1818, a group of enterprising emigrants from the Cilcennin area in Ceredigion were about to complete an extremely long and troublesome journey. Before embarking on this trip, it is unlikely that any of them had roamed any further than their own county, but the desire to seek a better life had driven them to travel over three thousand miles from their homeland to North America.


Their intention was to join the Welsh settlers who had already established a community in Paddy’s Run in western Ohio – and who could blame them? Life in rural Ohio was a far cry from rural Wales. There were flat and fertile lands in the Paddy’s Run area and plenty of opportunities for industrious emigrants. Communities in Wales were suffering oppression and poverty due to an increase in population, high taxes and rents and a series of poor harvests in 1815 and 1816. It is no wonder that John Jones Tirbach, the innkeeper of “The Ship” in the village of Pennant, managed to persuade six extended families to leave their native land and sail America.


On 1 April 1818, a group of around 36 emigrants left Aberaeron harbour bound for Liverpool and from there they ventured across the Atlantic. After a voyage of almost two months – and the loss of a little girl at sea – the pioneers landed in Chesapeake Bay. They then proceeded in wagons to Pittsburgh and down the Ohio River on flat boats. Their ambitious journey and some of their first experiences in the new country have been documented by Virgil H Evans, in The Family Tree of John Jones Tirbach.


Landing in the town of Gallipolis in southeast Ohio was a significant turning point in the story these courageous Welsh pioneers. It was at that point that they decided to stay put rather than continue on their journey to Paddy’s Run. They later became known as “The 1818 Welsh” and the founders of the famous Welsh community in the counties of Jackson and Gallia in southeast Ohio.


Only a few Welsh emigrants followed them during the years that followed. However, the emigration from Ceredigion started anew in the thirties when families began packing their bags to join their former neighbours in Jackson and Gallia.  By 1850 around 3,000 “Cardis” (inhabitants of Cardiganshire or Ceredigion) had crossed the Atlantic to start a new life in areas such as Tyn Rhos, Moriah, Nebo, Centerville, Peniel, Oak Hill and Horeb. They took their culture, traditions and religion with them and Jackson and Gallia became known as “Little Cardiganshire”!

Two centuries later, the story of “The 1818 Welsh” is still alive on both sides of the Atlantic and the links between southeast Ohio and Ceredigion continue to flourish. Thanks to the efforts of the Madog Center at the University of Rio Grande, benefactors such as Evan and Bet Davis and the organizers of the Cymru-Ohio 2018 celebrations in the Aberaeron area, the relationship between Wales and Ohio is still being nurtured. The history of the emigration has also been documented for future generations of genealogists, researchers and historians thanks to the generosity and vision of Evan and Bet Davis. In partnership with the National Library of Wales, the Wales-Ohio Website was created to chronicle the experiences of the Welsh settlers in Ohio through digital images and interpretative text and to strengthen the bonds that exist between Wales, Ohio and the United States of America.


Menna Morgan,

Digital Access

Posted - 22-06-2018

Collections / Digitisation / News

Revealing the Objects: Religious Publications

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

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


Gruffydd Robert – Y Drych Cristianogawl, 1585

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

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

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

John Bunyan – Taith neu Siwrnai y Pererin, 1688

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

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

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

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 - 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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