Tag Archives: Digitisation

Posted - 15-06-2018

Collections / Digitisation

Revealing the Objects: Prose and Novels

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

Here’s a selection of novels and prosaic works that will be digitized as part of the project.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daniel Owen – Profedigaethau Enoc Hughes, 1891

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

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

Elen Hâf Jones – Digital Access Projects Officer

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

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Posted - 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 - 04-02-2016

Collections / News and Events

A year as Wikipedian in Residence at the National Library of Wales

Hundreds of new articles created, thousands of images shared and millions of hits on Wikipedia


It’s been a year now since I began my journey into the world of Wikipedia. My brief was simple enough  – get people editing, engage the community and embed an open access ethos at the National Library of Wales.

With 18 billion page views a month it seems that Wikipedia is most peoples’ one stop shop for information of any kind, and across the world top cultural institutions have been teaming up with the giant encyclopaedia in order to share their knowledge and their growing digital collections. The Nations Library’s goal is to provide knowledge for all, and Wikipedia is just one avenue being used to share that knowledge.


Making Wikipedia better

Wikipedia has not been without its critics, and its policy of inviting anyone and everyone to contribute means that some articles have certain shortcomings. To help remedy this and to better represent Wales on Wikipedia, a number of community events, or ‘Edit-a-thons’, have been organised to train new Wikipedia editors on a number of subjects from Medieval Law to the Rugby World Cup.

Over 100 people have volunteered to have a go at editing during organised events, and Wikipedia’s introduction of the new ‘Visual Editor’ has made contributing even easier.

A volunteer improving Wikipedia articles relating to WWI at a Public Edit-a-thon event

A volunteer improving Wikipedia articles relating to WWI at a Public Edit-a-thon event

Staff and members of the Library’s enthusiastic volunteer team have also been busy working on Wikipedia related projects, and with 6.5 million printed books in the Library vaults there is no shortage of information to be added.

Through the course of the year it has also become apparent that Edit-a-thons act as a gateway for community engagement. They help engage the public with the library, its collections and with Welsh heritage in a flexible, inspiring and subtle way.



The Library began digitising its collections nearly 20 years ago and has now amassed hundreds of thousands of digital items representing all aspects of Wales cultural heritage. More recently a major shift in policy meant that they no longer lay claim to copyright of digital images, if copyright in the original works has expired.

This open access policy has led the library to start sharing parts of its digital collections on Flickr, and social media. During the residency the library have taken the next step towards openness by sharing nearly 8000 images with Wikipedia’s sister project Wikimedia Commons, where they are freely available to all without any restrictions.

Already, National Library of Wales images have been added to over a thousand Wikipedia articles in more the 70 languages and since those images were added, these articles have been viewed nearly 33 million times, highlighting the incredible exposure Wikipedia can facilitate.

Statistics highlighting the impact of sharing images via Wikimedia Commons

Statistics highlighting the impact of sharing images via Wikimedia Commons



Improving content and sharing collections are both crucial aspects of the residency but it is equally important that the benefits of activities are clearly recorded and shared with others.

Demonstrating impact certainly made it easier for the Library to extend the residency, and one of the library’s major partners, People’s Collection Wales have taken big steps toward open access and a sustainable relationship with Wikipedia.

One of the first things I did as a Wikipedian was to delve into the world of Twitter as a way of networking and sharing news about the residency, and this has led to great exposure both for the Library and for Wikipedia in Wales. Community events and digital content shared with Wikimedia Commons has caught the eye of news agencies, magazines and bloggers alike.

Infographic highlighting advocacy work during the first year of the residency

Infographic highlighting advocacy work during the first year of the residency


What next?

Together the Library and Wikimedia UK were able to extend the residency beyond the initial 12 months and the post is now funded until August 30th 2016.

Work on improving Wikipedia content will continue in English and in Welsh and thousand more images will be made available via Wiki Commons.

Images from the National Library of Wales in Wikimedia Commons. (left to right) Powis Castle 1794, 'Boy destroying Piano by Philip Jones Griffiths, The siege of Jerusalem from the medeival 'Vaux Passional' manuscript.

Images from the National Library of Wales on Wikimedia Commons. (left to right) Powis Castle 1794, ‘Boy destroying Piano by Philip Jones Griffiths, The siege of Jerusalem from the medeival ‘Vaux Passional’ manuscript.


Existing partnerships will be built upon, but I also want to reach out to other Welsh cultural institutions and encourage them to get involved in any way they can.

One of the biggest challenges between now and August will be finding ways to get Wikipedia into  the education sector – to encourage young people and their teachers not to ignore the enormous globe shaped elephant in the room, but to engage with it responsibly.

Finally, all credit to the National Library who have embraced Wikipedia. With their open access, knowledge for all, ethos and my residency has been supported at every turn. Steps are now being taken to ensure that the legacy of the Wikipedian will be long and fruitful, helping ensure that Wales, its people and culture are well represented on the world’s biggest ever encyclopaedia.


Jason Evans, Wikipedian in Residence

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Posted - 23-11-2015

Collections / News and Events

The Vaux Passional

To celebrate #LoveDigital week the National Library of Wales has released high quality digital images of one of its most important and finely decorated medieval manuscripts, The Vaux Passional, into the public domain via Wikimedia Commons. Many of these images illustrate an account of the Passion of Christ and they also include, perhaps the earliest known portrait of Henry Tudor, later Henry VIII.

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Posted - 19-08-2015

Collections / News and Events

Sharing thousands of Welsh landscapes with Wikipedia

Several years ago the National Library of Wales digitised around five thousand paintings, sketches, engravings and prints of Welsh landscapes mostly dating from 1750-1850.

Many of these are accurate topographical representations which are of huge value to historians, conservationists and archaeologists, whilst others are romanticised artistic works which simply capture the beauty of the Welsh landscape and aspect of Welsh life in a time before the invention of the camera.

As Wikipedian in Residence, making this collection available to Wikipedians was one of my first priorities, and now the entire collection is being released into the public domain and uploaded to Wikimedia Commons.

Already these fantastic images of castles, high streets, churches, ruins, and more, are being added to Wikipedia articles.

Events will soon be held to make more use of these images on Wikipedia, enriching the history of Wales on the world’s most used encyclopaedia.

Browse through the images here and please let us know if you are interested in helping us by adding these images to Wikipedia articles.


A plan of a first bridge to be constructed between Anglesey and mainland Wales. 1820

Aberystwyth Harbour, c.1850

Aberystwyth Harbour, c.1850

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Posted - 02-07-2015

Collections / News and Events

Uncovering the past with the new Welsh Newspapers Online website

Historical newspapers; column after column of minute and unimposing text interspersed with what, presumably, were meant to be images. Until recent times searching old news for something specific was like searching for a proverbial needle in a hay stack. In Wales that all changed in 2013 when the National Library of Wales launched a beta version of its free Welsh Newspapers Online website. Using the latest technology the text of hundreds of newspaper titles were thrust into the digital sphere. Long forgotten tit-bits and obituaries, headlines and controversies were made fully searchable, unlocking a vast vault of knowledge.

Now the National Library has replaced the beta version with a slick new interface with plenty of new features and an additional 400,000 pages, bringing the total to over 1 million. To test the power of this immense archive I performed a simple search for one of my Victorian ancestors. The little I knew about him came from my Grandmother who recalls childhood stories of her great grandfather, the son of an Irish immigrant, a watchman on Barry Docks who whistled whilst he worked, and a man she claimed hung himself on the back of his bedroom door, because he thought God had forgotten him. What could all this technology tell me about dear old Tom Foley?

The new interface for the Welsh Newspapers website

The new interface for the Welsh Newspapers website

I searched for ‘Thomas Foley’ and limited my search to Glamorgan papers and found myself with hundreds of possible hits. Some were not relevant but I had definitely found my Great Great Great Grandfather. Working through the results chronologically the earliest record I found was 1890. He was a rigger living in Penarth, and a member of the Cardiff Riggers and Boatman Union. In a letter to the Western Mail he bemoaned that a recent meeting was ‘more like a bedlam than a meeting of sane men’


But quarrelsome men were soon the least of Foley’s problems. On April 3rd 1891 the Barry Dock news reported a ‘Serious accident to a rigger at Barry Dock’. Some months later Foley gave his own account of the accident;


‘On the day after Good Friday I was working on the SS. Emilie in Barry Dock, when I accidentally fell from a ventilator backwards down the empty bunker hatch, from the top to the bottom…When I recovered consciousness I found myself on the deck with a number of men around me’


A panoramic view of Barry Docks 1901.

A panoramic view of Barry Docks 1901. NLW tir03330

Foley had survived his fall but would never work as a rigger again. He was taken at once to Cardiff infirmary where he was diagnosed with a fractured hip. Then, he complains;


‘I lay there for a fortnight without any further examination, or even a lotion or liniment, or anything whatever to alleviate my pain, although I was complaining daily’.


The poor man was then discharged and lay bed-bound for several months with one of his legs ‘two inches longer than the other’. Thankfully for us, his affliction gave him even more time to write, as his letters to the Barry Dock News come thick and fast. Following the horrors he faced at the Cardiff Infirmary he began to campaign for a local hospital to serve the busy and dangerous docks.


He wrote to thank the manager of the SS. Emile who presented him with £25 to start him in some kind of business. But instead he found work as a Watchman, just like my Grandmother recalled. I figure he spent the money on books, as he soon begins quoting Greek history and Shakespeare in his prolific contributions to the local press. He even donated antique books to Barry Library – all diligently reported in the local papers. In December 1891 he even composed a poem following news that a collection had been raised to support the widows of two friends lost at sea.

A poem written by Thomas Foley in 1891.

A poem written by Thomas Foley in 1891.


In 1895 a report on the ‘Grand Eisteddfod at Barry’ describes the occasion that Foley won a ‘special prize’ in the short hand competition, having taught himself just two months earlier. ‘Mr Foley was enthusiastically greeted as he ascended the platform….and the president remarked that Mr Foley had….emulated some of the most famous scholars of Greece and Rome (Cheers)’. He certainly possessed the Greeks passion for politics. Following his attendance of a political debate Foley lambasted the politicians in a lively open letter. ‘If I am to judge from the observations of the three speakers the conservatives are a most contemptible class, and the liberal unionists is the lowest animal in the scale of creation’ He goes on, in as plain a tongue as you could imagine, to describe the Tories as ‘a very naughty lot of people’.


My search revealed so much material that I could probably write a small book about the trials and tribulations of Mr Foley, and it pains me to omit so much, but every story must have its ending. Everything points to a passionate and driven man. I see him, through my rose tinted specs, as a working class hero, a self-educated immigrant breaking down long established social barriers. So would such a man have taken his own life? Did he really hang from his bedroom door?


In fact, he did not, but the truth is sadly very near to the mark. On Boxing Day 1910, reports the Barry Dock News, Foley hanged himself from his bedpost with a handkerchief. But that is not all. His son, my Great Great Grandfather found his body, and fearing the shame a suicide would bring on the family, cut him down and, with his friend, put him to bed and suggested his father’s ‘weak heart’ was to blame for his demise. The very words spoken in the inquest are recorded in the paper, and the Coroner warned the son that his ‘foolish behavior’ could well see him stand trial for murder. Thankfully though he was eventually cleared and went on to become the Dock Master for Great Western Railways at Barry Docks – another story for another day.


I recon there must be tens if not hundreds of thousands of stories waiting to be discovered amongst metadata and algorithms of one of Wales’ richest and most diverse digital archives. Search for your story today at Newspapers.library.wales


Jason Evans

Wikipedian in Residence, National Library of Wales

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Posted - 12-09-2013

Digitisation / Exhibitions / News and Events

The Wales window, Birmingham, Alabama

Fifty years ago on the 15th of September 1963, the Ku Klux Klan planted a bomb at the 16th Street Baptist Church, Birmingham, Alabama, that killed four black girls attending Sunday school.

John Petts' final design for the 'Alabama Window'

John Petts’ final design for the ‘Alabama Window’

The Church was one of the primary institutions in the black community and became the organising centre for the local civil rights movement. The protest marches and sit-ins they organized in April 1963 produced retaliation and brutality from the police, and many residents disagreed with the settlement reached in May. Governor George Wallace told the New York Times that in order to stop integration Alabama needed a “few first-class funerals”, and the church became an obvious target. On the 15 September, a fortnight after Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a Dream‘ speech, members of a splinter group of the Ku Klux Klan planted a bomb at the church that killed the four girls, Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Denise McNair, injured several others, and wrecked the building, smashing the stained-glass windows. Mass violence broke out across the city, and the National Guard was called in to restore order.

The callous murder of innocent lives brought widespread condemnation and sympathy, and forced city leaders to deal with the racism. A $52,000 reward was offered for the arrest of the bombers, and Governor George Wallace offered an additional $5,000. Martin Luther King sent him a telegram stating that “the blood of four little children … is on your hands. Your irresponsible and misguided actions have created … the atmosphere that has induced continued violence and now murder.”

The bombing marked a turning point in the American Civil Rights Movement, having the opposite effect of what was intended, ensuring the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965. However justice for the victims took much longer – although four individuals were immediately suspected, their prosecution stretched out over four decades.

John Petts, Self portrait, 1937

John Petts, Self portrait, 1937

News of the tragedy stirred John Petts, a stained glass artist, at his home in Llansteffan: “the news on the radio … left me sick at heart … as a father … I was horrified by the death of the children; as an artist-craftsman, hearing that the stained-glass windows of the church had been destroyed, I was appalled … and I thought to myself … what can we do about this?” “Could not some of us … join together in a positive gesture of Christian sympathy in the face of destructive evil, and, as a token, put back at least one of those windows.” He contacted David Cole, the Western Mail’s editor, who enthusiastically took up the idea and the next day the Western Mail launched a campaign with the headline: ‘Alabama: Chance for Wales to Show the Way”. It was agreed that individual donations would not exceed half a crown (12½ p). “We don’t want some rich man … paying for the whole window. We want it to be given by the people of Wales.” Money flooded in, the £500 target reached within days and the fund closed at £900.

A telegram was sent to the Rev. John Cross: ‘The people of Wales offer to recreate and erect a stained glass window to replace the one shattered in the bombing of your church. They do this as a gesture of comfort and support.’ A reply accepting the offer was received stating that ‘Wales was the only country to offer such direct and material assistance’.

Study for the head

Study for the head

John Petts was commissioned to make the window. “I agreed on condition that the work on the design would be my gift, the money collected going to the cost of making the window and transporting it to the United States.” He travelled to Alabama to discuss possible designs, but struggled “to create something truly worthy of … the simple issue of what one man does to another during his short spell in this shrinking world” “… it was clear that the window in its context of violence must make a statement and an impact both simple and strong – as positive and simple as Christ’s message”. “Eventually one idea grew in strength: the figure of a negro, yet of Christ too, a suffering figure in a crucified gesture, with one hand flung wide in protest, the other in acceptance … remembering the sight of a negro figure twisting under the assault of fire-hoses, his arms up-flung. The jets of water transfixing the figure became the bar of a Cross symbolising all violence.” As the Reverend Arthur Price explains, the representation of Christ as a black man was controversial “for many people in the white community during that time, to say that Jesus Christ was black and of African descent would be blasphemous”. Patterned across the base of the design are Christ’s words “You do it to Me”, spelling out the Christian message of brotherly love. Below are the words “Given by the people of Wales, UK MCMLXIV”.

Dedication service of the Wales windom, 6 June 1965

Dedication service of the Wales window, 6 June 1965

John Petts used deep blues and purples that glow in the strong light, the figure outlined in an abstract cross of light coloured glass. A rainbow crowns the figure’s head, promising the end of the storm and symbolising racial diversity and unity. The design was approved, and the completed window displayed in Cardiff before being shipped to America. John Petts, David Cole and the Mayor of Cardiff sent a telegram to the dedication service on Sunday 6th June 1965: “The thoughts of the people of Wales will be with you during your dedication service. May the Wales Window symbolise the reaffirmation of Christian love and unity”. At the service pastor John Cross said that: “it might serve as a constant reminder that there are persons in the world whose hearts are filled with love and brotherly kindness.” Click here to see a photograph of the window.

The church has become an important historical landmark, attracting thousands of visitors, and the window is regarded as one of the key icons of the American Civil Rights Movement, a powerful protest against intolerance and injustice.

John Petts’ designs for the Wales Window were donated to the National Library of Wales in 1970. They are being digitised at present, and will be displayed on the Library’s Digital Mirror.

Morfudd Nia Jones


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Posted - 27-11-2012


The Titanic

While watching a news story build up I tend to use Twitter, the BBC News website and so on. Back in 1912 when the Titanic struck an iceberg it was the newspapers which gave the news. The Daily newspapers were especially good, as the details of one story could build up over several days as the news developed.

While creating metadata for the Cambria Daily Leader I came across this page from Monday the 15th of April 1912 details that a disaster had befallen the Titanic, it had struck an iceberg. However it goes on to say that “All aboard taken off safely” it details the various stories floating around from wireless messages stating that most passengers had been put into lifeboats and were safe, to a message from White Star officials detailing how the “Virgina standing by” and there was “No danger to loss of life.”

However as we all know the loss of life was phenomenal. The Titanic being one of the worst maritime disasters of all time (during peacetime), and perhaps the most famous. Even today less than a year after the sinking of the Costa Concordia off the western coast of Italy, while a disaster on a much smaller scale, it is the sinking of the Titanic over a century ago now that everyone remembers.

But as I said the newspapers were phenomenal with the information they gave out, the sinking of the Titanic may have resulted in no loss of life according to the news given out of the 15th of April, however by the 16th it was all change. The Cambria Daily Leader reported an “Unprecedented Catastrophe,” the “feared loss of 1,500 lives.” It notes that 868 are safe “mostly women and children” however it is still too soon for any real details as the ships are outside the wireless zones. There is also some hope that the Virginian and Parisian will be in touch with news that they as well as the Carpathian would have passengers on board.


The next day more news again about the sinking of the Titanic and the next and the next. In fact more and more news filters in over the next few days including the news that the Carpathian is the only vessel carrying survivors. How the number of survivors on board the Carpathia was less than previously thought at 705 and the beginnings of the recovery of dead bodies. The Cambria Daily News of April 18th 1912 details the whole story on the first, fifth and eighth page of the newspaper.







Nia Williams

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Posted - 17-02-2010


Quadriga sound system arrives

Quadrega sound system

Staff being trained on the Quadriga Sound system

NSSAW has recently acquired a Quadriga professional sound  solution to help with the task of migrating recordings from their original sound carriers into a digital form.

Quadriga is one of a number of sound solutions developed by Cube-Tec.

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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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