Blog - Digitisation

Named Entity Recognition for Placenames in Welsh Language Texts

Collections / Digitisation / News / Research - Posted 07-03-2023

Using Wikidata to structure Welsh placename data

The text we read when we view a web page, a blog or a journal article is full of rich and valuable information. Our brains are very good at processing and making sense of words in the context in which they are presented. We can tell when a word is a placename because we understand the sentence around it, and are expecting to see a place name. Also, we often already know the name of the place and could describe it in further detail from memory.

If computers could understand text as we do then they could be super useful in helping us find and understand information better. Technology such as Named Entity Recognition (NER), where machines are trained to recognise things like people, places and organizations by analyzing a whole text, is increasingly being used to turn plain text into a structured network of ‘things’, and this means machines can make a more complex analysis of text, much as we do.

As part of our ongoing Welsh Place Names project, which is funded by the Welsh Government, we were keen to explore how these new technologies and methodologies might be applied to Welsh language texts and to our own collections. With millions of pages of journals, newspapers and books already digitised, how might this technology help us improve our services for better research, discovery and interpretation?

Named Entity Recognition

The Dictionary of Welsh Biography was chosen for this experiment, as a (fairly) manageable corpus of about 5000 articles, packed with information about people and places. Most placenames have actually already been tagged as such in the mark-up for each page, which gives us a good benchmark for NER models to aim for, and a big corpus of place names for further analysis.

Identifying which words are placenames is the first step in this process. Those names then need to be reconciled against a database of names, which can give us access to a deeper, multilingual understanding of the place.

English language NER tools struggle to identify places in Welsh text for a number of reasons. Firstly they are not trained to understand grammatical mutations present in the Welsh language. For example, ‘Tregaron’ is the name of a town, in English and Welsh, however, if the text reads ‘yn Nhregaron’ it will not recognise the name due to the mutation (treiglo) of the first letter. Secondly, many placenames are different in Welsh (e.g. Cardiff is Caerdydd) and so models trained on English text simply won’t have the word in their vocabulary. Several English models were tested and many either didn’t recognise names, or assumed they were names of people.

We therefore experimented with ‘Cymrie’, part of the Welsh Government funded Welsh Natural Language Toolkit.


Extracting named entities from digital text using ‘Cymrie’

This was able to extract a number of Welsh placenames, including many with mutations. The text of 5 articles was analyzed in detail. On average the tool was able to extract approximately 67% of placenames. Of those place names identified, only 2% were not in fact places.

Some of the placenames it was unable to recognise were tagged as people or organizations, though this was at a lower rate than the English language model.

Reconciling the Data

Knowing what words are names of people or places is useful only to a point, because we still know nothing more than ‘it’s a place’. For the data to be really useful we need access to more information about each place, such as its name in other languages, its location on a map and the county, country or continent it is part of. We can then apply a unique identifier to each place and they become unique data entities.

To do this we need to take our long list of place names and attempt to reconcile them against a database which holds more information about them. In our case we are using Wikidata, which is home to one of the largest corpus of Welsh place names available. Wikidata is free for anyone to reuse and is structured as linked data.

The Dictionary of Welsh Biography contains around 80,000 instances of place names. Due to the practicalities of working with such a large dataset, I opted to work with the first 46,000 tagged places.

The tags in the Welsh Biography code often contained more than just the placename. They commonly included a Grid reference, the type of place (city, village etc) and the relation to that place being discussed in the article.

Obviously having all this information to hand makes the reconciliation process far more likely to succeed. As NER technology improves, it should be able to imply much of this information, by understanding the wider context in which the place name appears, but for now, we must accept that without this additional information, this process would have a far lower success rate.

Using Open Refine’s reconciliation tool we were able to compare our list of placenames to Wikidata. The software’s algorithm looks for similarities in spelling but also considers the likelihood of a match based on the popularity of its content. By transforming the grid references from our data into coordinates we were also able to instruct Open Refine to score matches based on their proximity. Places with matching names and proximity of less than a kilometre were mostly matched automatically. Our data on the type of place was also used to help the software make a judgement.

In order to give the reconciliation process the best chance of success some initial cleaning was done to remove mutations from the text. Much of this could be done using a series of transformations such as;

  • Nghaer – Caer
  • Nhre – Tre

Others require knowledge of the language and human input in order to avoid the corruption of other names. For example ‘Lan’ cannot be automatically changed to ‘Llan’ without corrupting other names such as ‘Lanishan’.

Other issues included the use of English language names in the Welsh text;

  • New England (Lloegr Newydd)
  • Bristol (Bryste)
  • Saint Brides (Sant y Brid)

There were also a number of placenames which had suggested matches, but had a high chance of also being the name of a property. For example;

  • Trawscoed (house, estate and community)
  • Cilgwyn (village in Powys, Gwynedd, Carmarthenshire AND a gentry house)
  • Ty-coch (area near Swansea and common house name)

short of reading each article in order to make a decision, there is currently no way to match such places with any certainty. However, such a manual process could be easily gamified as a crowd-sourcing task. Undertaking such tasks would also create training data for improving NER in the future.


Reconciling the data to Wikidata using OpenRefine

The result was an initial match of 25,000 names, to which a further 2000 were quickly added following a human review of high-scoring match suggestions. These matches include 2208 unique place names. Beyond this, an increasing amount of time would be required to match entries manually.


Matching placenames to unique identifiers allows us to examine the frequency of specific places in the text with greater accuracy

Utilizing the enriched data

Now that we have aligned our placenames to Wikidata entries for those places, we have access to a wealth of additional information. This extra information can be summarized in several categories;

  • Persistent ID – Being able to assign a unique Qid to each placename means we can treat each one as a unique entity, even if there are examples of multiple places with the same name.
  • External ID’s – Wikidata collects persistent Id’s from other institutions which hold information about the subject. This helps align and enrich data across multiple datasets.
  • Contextual information – This includes links to Wikipedia articles, openly licenced images and references to other authoritative works.
  • Structured Data – Wikidata contains a linked, structured ontology about its items, So places are linked to their administrative hierarchy and every other item in the dataset with a statement about that place.


This allows us to better understand the connections between people and place. In the example below a computer is able to understand that two people are connected to several common places through reference to these places in their Welsh Biography articles. The colour and thickness of the connecting strands also indicate the frequency of these references within each article.



When this approach is scaled up to the whole corpus we can see a hugely complex web of interconnections between people and places.



And since we now have access to coordinates for all our places, we can visualize these connections on a map. Below we see visualisations for an individual and for the whole collection using people’s birthplace as a starting point, connected to all other places mentioned in their articles.



Using the contextual information in place name tags we can make more granular queries, such as links between the place of birth and places of education mentioned in their articles. This highlights clear correlations to major centres of learning and further demonstrates the research potential of the data.



In conclusion, existing technology can accurately identify around 60-70% of Welsh place names in digital text. Training more advanced A.I. algorithms using larger place name vocabularies and a bigger corpus of training data may help to increase this percentage even further. Undertaking this process at scale would allow for further research and reconciliation work to take place and would also help to improve search and discovery functionality, but it does not identify unique places, only the instance of a place name.

In order to create notable benefits, the data must be reconciled against a database with data about specific places. With many duplications in place names in Wales and around the world this step is vital in creating connections to the correct places. It would seem that we don’t yet have the technology to automate this, in any language, with a high level of certainty. Several examples of pipelines being developed in order to identify entities in text and reconcile directly against Wikidata or other large datasets do exist, including a project by a colleague here at the National Library (link). However, they have faced the same kind of challenges.

Where additional supporting data already exists, like our Dictionary of Welsh Biography example it is possible to automate this to some degree but there is still a significant margin for error without human input.

Whilst accurate and complete identification of entities from a text is not yet possible, these processes offer value, as a stand alone activity or as part of a multidisciplinary approach, as a way of improving understanding of a text and improving search and discovery services for users.

Importantly, the ability to undertake this work on Welsh language texts is only possible with the continued development, adaptation and improvement of new technologies, and the availability of Open Access data sources such as Wikidata and Open Street Map as well as large corpora of Welsh language text for training machine learning algorithms.


Jason Evans, Open Data Manager

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Wales in the World Cup

Digitisation / Reader Services - Posted 19-12-2022

After 64 long years, the Welsh football team finally managed to qualify for their second World Cup tournament, this time held in Qatar. Now that the tournament has ended, I thought that I’d look back at their exploits via the Library’s updated Newsbank subscription, which now includes full image versions for certain titles. To access Newsbank, it is necessary to be an online member in Wales of the Library. See here for more information and here to register. Online members can access Newsbank and the other external resources through the Library’s A-Z of external resource page. They can do so by either being in the Library building or by logging in with their reader’s ticket.

Excitement and expectations were understandably high after such a long absence from the biggest competition in football. Having beaten Ukraine in the play-off finals, Welsh fans could finally look forward to seeing their team perform at the highest stage. In the lead up to the tournament, Dafydd Iwan’s iconic song “Yma o Hyd” was adopted as Wales’ World Cup anthem, and The Guardian interviewed him and other fans to discuss how everyone felt before the tournament.



USA 1 – Wales 1

Here it was, our first World Cup game since 1958! Thousands of Welsh fans had made the trip to be part of the Red Wall, and they and the fans here in Wales were raring for the game to start. However, it looked like the occasion got to the team, and the Americans took a deserved lead midway through the first half. A change was clearly needed in the second half, and the introduction of Kiefer Moore helped get Wales back into the game. With 10 minutes to go, Wales won a penalty after Gareth Bale was clumsily fouled. Bale calmly converted, and Welsh fans went wild. The game ended in a draw, and we had our first point!



Wales 0 – Iran 2

After Iran conceded 6 goals in their opening game, Wales fans were quietly confident that they could get a result in this game. With excitement levels growing, the game was shown in schools and workplaces across Wales, due to the 10am kick off. Unfortunately, Iran had other ideas. They were clearly the better side, and they were only denied a goal by a combination of the woodwork and VAR. The situation got worse for Wales after Wayne Hennessey was sent off for clattering into Taremi, suffering the indignity of being the first player of the tournament to receive a red card. It was now a matter of damage limitation, and hanging on for a draw. Wales almost succeeded, but Iran scored 2 quickfire goals at the death to break Welsh hearts.



England 3 – Wales 0

Having progressed from the group stages in the last 2 European Championships, the chances of doing so in Qatar were hanging by a thread. Any hopes of progressing to the knockout stages were dashed by their English neighbours, and just like that, it was over. Although things didn’t go to plan, this group of players will always be remembered as the team that finally got us back to where all Welsh football fans wanted to be. Diolch bois.




Paul Jackson

Legal Deposit, Electronic and Acquisitions Librarian

Literature and History of Medicine Research Centre

Collections / Digitisation / Events / Research - Posted 07-11-2022

Aberystwyth University, in partnership with the National Library, is launching a new research centre on Friday, 11 November, the Literature and History of Medicine Research Centre. The centre will make use of the research sources in the Library’s medicine collections as a foundation for new academic research in the field. A one-day conference has been arranged for the launch on 11 November. It’s free and you can book a ticket to the event here. The conference will be held in person and online.

The Library’s medicine-related collection is extensive, and includes print material, archival material, manuscript material, architectural material, drawings and photographs. As a result of the Library’s Medicine and Health in Wales before the NHS project, the medicine-related material that is part of the Welsh and Celtic Print Collection is now available on the online catalogue in its entirety, with the items that are out of copyright also digitized and available remotely. The print collection includes a number of important research sources, including the reports of the Medical Officer of Health for the rural and urban district councils across Wales, hospital reports and psychiatric hospital reports.

The psychiatric hospital reports offer a good example of the type of information and data that is included in these print sources. If we look at the example of the annual reports of psychiatric hospitals, in this case the reports of the Joint Counties Asylum at Carmarthen (see above for the embedded digital version or click here to see it on the Library’s digital viewer), we can see the feast of core data that the reports offer to researchers. The reports contain data on a large number of aspects of the life of the hospital and its patients including statistics regarding where patients came from, their work, the nature of their illnesses, mortality rates, the patients’ diet, the patients’ ages, readmission levels, the patients’ relationship status, and the institution’s financial statistics.

Such data is fundamental to research in this field, and it is hoped that establishing the Centre in partnership with Aberystwyth University will be a means of strengthening the relationship between the Library, our collections and the research community. If you want to learn more about the partnership, or if you’re interested in the latest research in the field of literature and the history of medicine, book a ticket to the conference!

Dr Douglas Jones,

Published Collections Projects Manager.

New digital resources

Collections / Digitisation - Posted 29-09-2022

Our digitisation work has continued behind the scenes and a number of new items and collections are now available to view from home on the Library’s website and/or the catalogue. Find out what’s new in our blog.


Peniarth collection

Peniarth MS 32: Y Llyfr Teg
Peniarth MS 106: Interliwd Troilus a Cresida
Peniarth MS 416 iv: A diary and a letter book
Peniarth MS 416 v: A diary and a letter book
Peniarth MS 416 vi: A diary and a letter book
Peniarth MS 416 viii: A diary and a letter book
Peniarth MS 416 ix: A diary and a letter book
Peniarth MS 487: Records relating to Wales
Peniarth MS 491: Pedigrees
Peniarth MS 492: Pedigrees
Peniarth MS 521 i: Diaries and notebooks
Peniarth MS 521 iii: Diaries and notebooks
Peniarth MS 521 iv: Diaries and notebooks
Peniarth MS 521 x: Diaries and notebooks
Peniarth MS 521 xvi: Diaries and notebooks
Peniarth MS 526: The Gregorian calendar
Peniarth MS 528: A prayer book
Peniarth MS 529 i: A Welsh grammar
Peniarth MS 529 iv: A Welsh grammar
Peniarth MS 538: A catalogue of Hengwrt manuscripts
Peniarth MS 539: A translation of Peniarth MS 538
Peniarth MS 545: The five royal tribes of Cambria
Peniarth MS 556: Historical notes from Welsh records


Minor Deposit 150B: Collection of Welsh Airs compiled and arranged by ‘Orpheus’ for the Llangollen Eisteddfod 1858, 1888 a collection of unpublished airs submitted by James James to a competition at the Llangollen Eisteddfod in 1858 under the pseudonym ‘Orpheus’, which includes the second appearance of our anthem (on f. 23), under the title ‘Glanrhondda’.
NLW MS 331D: Llewelyn Alaw’s Collection of Unpublished Welsh Airs a collection of airs submitted by Thomas D. Llewelyn (Llewelyn Alaw), Aberdâr, to the Llangollen Eisteddfod, which includes the tune ‘Glan Rhondda’.


Acrefair Papers

Various letters relating to the migration of William and Hannah Morgan and family to Ohio (1852-59): 2623, 2647, 3096, 5152, 5153, 5154, 3499



Dr J. Lloyd Williams Music MSS and Papers, AH2/13 (Ifor Ceri Manuscripts):
Music manuscript books containing transcripts by J. Lloyd Williams of the manuscripts of Ifor Ceri [1815-1825]
Music manuscript book 1
Music manuscript book 2
Music manuscript book 3
Music manuscript book 4
Music manuscript book 5

Cottesmore Deeds and Documents: Irish deeds/22 Court Book of the corporation of Askeaton, giving the names of free-men and officers of the borough, 1692-1724.


‘The Chain’ Meteorological registers

The work on digitising a series of meteorological registers of thermometer, barometer and rain gauge readings in ‘The Chain’ has been completed. They will be available on ‘Torf’ in due course:
C 2/6: Meteorological register. Including enclosures C 2/6/1-40, 1901, Jan. 1-1906, July 7
C 2/7: Meteorological register. Including enclosures C 2/7/1-73, 1906, July 1-1911, July 1
C 2/10: Meteorological register. Including enclosures C 2/10/1-9, 1918, Dec. 29-1923, Feb. 3
C 2/11: Meteorological register. Including enclosures C 2/11/1-6, 1923, Feb. 4-1927, Feb. 12
C 2/12: Meteorological register. Including enclosures C 2/12/1-13, 1927, Feb. 13-1931, Feb. 21
C 2/13: Meteorological register. Including enclosures C 2/13/1-69, 1931, Feb. 22-1935, March 2
C 2/14: Meteorological register. Including enclosures C 2/14/1-32, 1935, March 3-1939, March 11
C 2/15: Meteorological register. Including enclosures C 2/15/1-26, 1939, March 12-1943, March 20
C 2/16: Meteorological register. Including enclosures C 2/16/1-78. The meteorological readings continue to 29 Dec. 1945 only, 1943, March 21-1947, Feb. 8

The following manuscripts were ingested so that users can access them through the viewer:
NLW 3B: Sermons
NLW MS 73A: Sermons
NLW MS 3265D: Llythyrau at S.R.
NLW MS 9521A: Llyfr nodiadau Iorthryn Gwynedd
NLW MS 14111D: Llythyrau teuluol Edward Peate
NLW MS 21578E: A register of Welsh Pioneers of the Mahoning Valley, 1898-1922
NLW MS 20995E: Jack Edwards Letters
NLW MS 21577E: Minute book of Welsh Pioneers Society of Trumbull and Mahoning counties, Ohio
NLW Misc. Records 35: Ezekiel Hughes Apprenticeship Deed
CMA – File 22331: Letter from John M. Jones, Saron, Welsh Hills, Newark, Ohio
Rees Jenkin Jones Family Papers: FR2/1: Letter from Humphrey Bromley to the Rev. John James, Gellionnen



392 items from the print collection have been made available through Primo, including works such as:

Ymadrodd newydd ar glefydau potatws: ac yn fwy neillduol i ddangos achosion o’r cyrl yn nalennau potatws; gida chlefydau eraill (1784)
David Samwell, Détails nouveaux et circonstanciés sur la mort du Capitaine Cook traduits de l’anglois (1786)
Marie de Médicis Queen, Lettre de la Royne au Parlement de Bretagne (1614)
A. O. Exquemelin, Historie der boecaniers, of vrybuyters van America van haar eerste beginzelen tot deze tegenwoordige tyd toe: met figuuren (1700)


David Worthington, Cofiant y Parch. Daniel Rowland, Llangeitho (1905);
Byr gofiant i Miss Brythonig Roberts ail ferch William (Ap Meurig) a Jane Roberts, Brynawel, Aberangell, Meirionydd ganwyd Medi 6ed, 1887. Bu farw Hyd. 11eg, 1904 (1905);
Alfred Russel Wallace, My life: a record of events and opinions (Vol.1), (Vol.2) (1905);
Edward Fideli Kennard, The remarkable career of a well-known athlete (1913?);
W. M. Myddelton, Pedigree of the family of Myddelton of Gwaynynog (1910);
Edward Robins, Twelve great actresses (1900);
Rees Jones, Crwth Dyffryn Clettwr: sef gweithiau barddonol y diweddar Rees Jones (Ammon), Pwllffein, Llandyssul, Ceredigion (1906);
William Hopkyn Rees, Byr-hanes y cenhadwr Cymreig y Parch. Griffith John, D.D., China (1906);
Cybi, “Ardal y cewri”: enwogion plwyf Llangybi a’r cylch: ynghydag enwau lleoedd: eu hystyr a’u traddodiadau (1907);
David Griffiths, Auto-biography of David Griffiths, Ffrwdywhiad, near Lampeter (1907);
Ellen Owen, Merched enwog Cymru: neu, Cymruesau gwiwgof – hen a diweddar (1908?);
W. H. Davies, The autobiography of a super-tramp (1908?)


Arthurian collection

We have continued to scan printed works relating to King Arthur and the following 141 volumes are now available:
Thomas Malory, [Le Morte Darthur] (1529);
Thomas Malory, The most ancient and famous history of the renowned Prince Arthur and the knights of the round table (Vol.1), (Vol.2), (Vol.3) (1816);
Thomas Malory, The history of the renowned Prince Arthur, King of Britain (1816);
Thomas Malory, The byrth, lyf, and actes of Kyng Arthur: of his noble knyghtes of the rounde table, they’r merveyllous enquestes and aduentures …: and in the end, Le Morte Darthur, with the dolourous deth and departyng out of thys worlde of them al (Vol.1), (Vol.2) (1817);
Thomas Malory, Morte DArthur (1883);
Thomas Malory, Morte Darthur: Sir Thomas Malory’s book of King Arthur and of his noble knights of the round table … revised for modern use (1886);
Thomas Malory, Le Morte Darthur (Vol.1, part 1), (Vol.1, part 2), (Vol.1, part 3), (Vol.2), (Vol.3) (1889);
Le morte Darthur Sir Thomas Malory’s book of King Arthur and of his noble knights of the Round Table (1891);
Thomas Malory, Le morte Darthur Sir Thomas Malory’s book of King Arthur and of his noble knights of the Round Table (1893);
Thomas Malory, La mort d’Arthure: the history of King Arthur and of the knights of the Round Table (1893);

Thomas Malory, The birth life and acts of King Arthur of his noble Knights of the Round Table their marvellous enquests and adventures the achieving of the San Greal and in the end Le Morte Darthur with the dolourous death and departing out of this world of them all (1893-1894);
Thomas Malory, The noble and joyous history of King Arthur (1894);
Thomas Malory, The book of marvellous adventures, & other books of the Morte d’Arthur (1894);
Thomas Malory, The story of Sir Galahad (1908?);
Thomas Malory, The romance of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table (1917);
Ernest Muret, Eilhart d’Oberg et sa source française (1887);
Ernst Brugger, Alain de Gomeret: ein Beitrag zur arthurischen Namenforschung (1905);
Wolfram von Eschenbach, Wolfram’s von Eschenbach Parzival und Titurel (Vol.1), (Vol.2), (Vol.3) (1870-71);
Wolfram von Eschenbach, Parzival: a knightly epic (Vol.1), (Vol.2) (1894);
John Bourchier Berners, The history of the valiant knight Arthur of Little Britain: a romance of chivalry (1814);
Paulin Paris, Les romans de la Table ronde, mis en nouveau langage et accompagnés de recherches sur l’origine et le caractère de ces grandes compositions (Vol.1), (Vol.2), (Vol.3), (Vol.4), (Vol.5) (1868-77);
John S. Stuart-Glennie, Arthurian localities: their historical origin, chief country and Fingalian relations (1869);
Chrétien de Troyes, Perceval le Gallois: ou le Conte du Graal (1846);
Chrétien de Troyes, Perceval le Gallois: ou le Conte du Graal (Vol.1), (Vol.2), (Vol.3), (Vol.4), (Vol.5), (Vol.6), (1867-1871);
Chrétien de Troyes, The high history of the Holy Graal (Vol.1), (Vol.2) (1898);
Chrétien de Troyes, The high history of the Holy Graal (Vol.1), (Vol.2) (1898);
Chrétien de Troyes, Cligés: textausgabe mit variantenauswahl, einleitung, anmerkungen und vollständigem glossar (1910);
William Henry Babcock, The two lost centuries of Britain (1890);
James Knowles, The Legends of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table (1869);
Albert Richter, Iwein und Parzival: zwei Rittersagen des Mittelalters, erzählt und erläutert (1876);
Adolf Birch-Hirschfeld, Die Sage von Gral (1877);
Constant Philippe Serrure, Le Livre de Baudoyn, Conte de Flandre (1836);
Gauthier Map, Le roman de la charrette (1850);
Thomas Chestre, Launfal: an ancient metrical romance (1891);
Richard Blackmore, Prince Arthur: An heroick poem (1696);
Richard Blackmore, Prince Arthur: An heroick poem (1697);
Théodore Hersart La Villemarqué, Contes populaires des anciens Bretons: précédés d’un essai, L’origine des épopées chevaleresques de la table-ronde (Vol.1), (Vol.2) (1842);
Théodore Hersart La Villemarqué, Les romans de la Table Ronde et les contes des anciens Bretons (1860);
Théodore Hersart La Villemarqué, Les romans de la table ronde: et les contes des anciens Bretons (1861);
G. de. La Rue, Recherches sur les ouvrages des bardes de la Bretagne, Armoricane dans le moyen age (1815);
Tresplaisante recreative hystoire du trespreulx et vaillant Cheuallier Perceval le galloys (1530);
Arthur of Brytayn: the hystory of the moost noble and valyaunt knyght Arthur of lytell brytayne (1560);
Albert Schulz, An essay on the influence of Welsh tradition upon the literature of Germany, France, and Scandinavia (1841);
H. Oskar Sommer, The vulgate version of the Arthurian romances (Vol.1), (Vol.2), (Vol.3), (Vol.4), (Vol.5), (Vol.6), (Vol.7) (1908-16);
H. Oskar Sommer, Die abenteuer Gawains Ywains und le Morholts mit den drei Jungfrauen (1913);
Walter W. Skeat, Lancelot of the laik: a Scottish metrical romance … (1870);
Thomas Bullfinch, The age of chivalry (1859);
Heinrich Zimmer, Nennius vindicatus: Über Entstehung, Geschichte und Quellen der Historia Brittonum (1893);
Godeford Kurth, Histoire poétique des Mérovingiens (1893);
Sir John Rhŷs, Studies in the Arthurian legend (1891);
John Rhys, Notes on the hunting of Twrch Trwyth (1896?);
Eilrert Løseth, Bibliothèque de l’École des Hautes Études. (1890);
Guiot de Provins, Des Guiot von Provins bis Jetzt Bekannte dichtungen (1861);
Alfred Delvau, Collection des romans de chevalerie (Vol.1), (Vol.2), (Vol.3), (Vol.4) (1869);
Robert de Boron, Le saint-graal: ou Le Joseph d’Arimathie (Vol.1), (Vol.2), (Vol.3 part 1), (Vol.3 part 2) (1875);
Hermann zur Jacobsmühlen, Zur Charakteristik des König Artus im altfranzösischen Kunstepos … (1888);
Charlotte Guest, The Mabinogion: from the Llyfr Coch o Hergest and other ancient Welsh manuscripts (Vol.1), (Vol.2), (Vol.3) (1849);
Charlotte Guest, The Mabinogion (1906);
Layamon, Layamons brut: or chronicle of Britain (Vol.1), (Vol.2), (Vol.3) (1847);
Wace, Le roman de Brut (Vol.1), (Vol.2) (1838);
E. Edwardson, The courteous Knight: and other tales (1899);
Thomas Percy, The old ballad of The boy and the mantle (1900);
Alfred Trübner Nutt, Studies on the legend of the Holy Grail (1888);
Geoffrey of Monmouth, Britannie vtriusq[ue] regu[m] et principum origo & gesta insignia (1517);
Geoffrey of Monmouth, Historia regum Britanniae (1854);
Alfred Tennyson, Gareth and Lynette, etc. (1872);
Alfred Tennyson, Idylls of the king (1904);
Joseph Loth, Le mabinogi de Kulhwch & Olwen (1888);
Félix Bellamy, La forêt de Bréchéliant, la fontaine de Bérenton (1896);
Georg Friedrich Benecke, Wörterbuch zu Hartmannes Iwein (1901);
Mark Twain, A Yankee at the Court of King Arthur (1897);
Arthur Charles Lewis Brown, The bleeding lance (1910);
Richard Edens, Erec-Geraint: Der Chrétien’sche Versroman und das wälsche Mabinogi (1910);
Gustav Engel, Die Enflüsse der Arthurromane auf die Chansons de Geste (1910);
Feodor Kittelmann, Einige Mischhandschriften von Wolframs Parzival (1910);
William Wells Newell, King Arthur and the Table Round: tales chiefly after the old French of Crestien of Troyes (Vol.1), (Vol.2) (1905);
Jessie L. Weston, King Arthur and his knights: a survey of Arthurian romance (1906);
Jessie L. Weston, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: a Middle-English Arthurian romance (1907);
Meta E. Williams, Tales from the Mabinogion (1907);
Emily Underdown, Knights of the Grail: Lohengrin, Galahad (1907);
Hans Herrig, Elaine. Dichtung in drei aufzugen (1908);
The Arthurian Episode in the Pageant of Gwent (1913);
Leopold Hansen, Die Ausdrucksformen der Affekte im Tristan Gottfrieds von Stassburg (1908);
J. Douglas Bruce, Historia Meriadoci and De ortu Waluuanii (1913);
John Harrington Cox, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (1913)
Howard Pyle, The story of Sir Launcelot and his companions (1907);
Lizette Andrews Fisher, The mystic vision in the Grail legend and in the Divine comedy (1917);
Franz Finsterbusch, Der Versbau der Mittelenglischen Dichtungen Sir Perceval of Gales and Sir Degrevant (1918);
The Story of Enid and Geraint: retold from the Mabinogion and Lord Tennyson’s “Idylls of the King” (1909);
Sebastian Evans, The high history of the Holy Graal (1910);
Franz Settegast, Hartmanns Iwein, verglichen mit seiner Altfranzösischen Quelle (1873);
Arthur Edward Waite, The hidden Church of the Holy Graal (1909);
Pio Rajna, Le origini dell’epopea francese (1884);
Dwy gân o Brophwydoliaethau Myrddin: a gymmerwyd allan o ‘Lyfr y Daroganau’; hefyd, Hanes o’r modd y daeth Myrddin i fod yn adnabyddus i’r Brenin Gwrtheyrn, mab-y’nghyfraith Hengyst (1810);
Edmund Brock, Morte Arthure: or The Death of Arthur (1871);
Richard Morris, Sir Gawayne and the green knight: an alliterative romance-poem (1865);
Eugen Kölbing, Arthour and Merlin nach der Auchinleck-Hs (1890);
Albert Wilhelm Nolte, Der Eingang des Parzival: ein Interpretationsversuch (1900);
Gottfried von Strassburg, Tristan und Isolt (1843);
Fridrich Pfaff, Tristant und Isalde: Prosaroman des fünfzehnten Jarhunderts (1881);
Robert Huntington Fletcher, The Arthurian material in the chronicles especially those of Great Britain and France (1906)



An album containing 44 photographs of the people and communities of Fiji, accompanied by a text and published as ‘A Trip To The Highlands of Viti Levu‘ by G Ansdell, London (1882).

Framed works

The following works were digitised and published on Primo before being exhibited at the Collecting exhibition (Gregynog Gallery, 14.02.22 – 08.10.22):
Ebb and flow by Patricia Anne Aithie
These Four Walls by Guto Llŷr Morgan
Eisteddfod, Rhondda by Pearl Binder
Golgotha by Karel Lek
Ystradgynlais by Catrin Williams
Self-portrait by Charles Burton
Thin partitions iii by Ken Elias
Math o ganu / Kind of singing by Nicholas Evans
Creirwy by Seren Morgan Jones
Ceridwen by Seren Morgan Jones
Self portrait in blue by Sarah Carvell
Olwen by Teresa Jenellen
I ‘Used’ to Hurt Myself by Jasmine Sheckleford
Chwilio am Ffigwr Cyfoes IV by Tomos Sparnon
Black Puck by Neale Howells
Chwiorydd Davies by Meinir Mathias
Flora, fluff, flow by Zena Blackwell
Painting about the land by Ernest Zobole
Way down to Easter Bay by Ray Howard Jones
Cegin/Kitchen by Kim James-Williams
Dancing at Dusk on Midsummer’s Night at Fontygary by Gerda Roper
Arfogi Lleu by Margaret D. Jones



16 new articles have been added to the website:
BATCHELOR, JOHN (1820 – 1883), businessman and politician
BOOTH, FLORENCE ELEANOR (1861 – 1957), Salvationist and social reformer
CAMPBELL, RACHEL ELIZABETH (1934 – 2017), teacher and community activist
DANIELS, ELEANOR (1886 – 1994), actress
DAVIES, RHYS (1795 – 1838), engineer and industrialist
GIVVONS, ALEXANDER (1913 – 2002), rugby player
GWINNETT, BUTTON (1735 – 1777), merchant, landowner and politician
JENKINS, EVAN (1794 – 1849), cleric and schoolmaster
JONES, DAVID JOHN (1906 – 1978), opera singer
JONES, GWILYM THOMAS (1908 – 1956), solicitor and administrator
PARRY, EDGAR WILLIAMS (1919 – 2011), surgeon
ROBERTS, ARTHUR RHYS (1872 – 1920), solicitor
ROGERS, OWEN (c.1532 – c.1570), printer and bookseller
THOMAS, BENJAMIN BOWEN (1899 – 1977), adult educator and civil servant
THOMAS, HELEN WYN (1966 – 1989), peace activist
WILLIAMS, ROBERT (1848 – 1918), architect, author and social reformer

The Digital Preservation Awards

Digitisation - Posted

The Digital Preservation Awards are presented by the Digital Preservation Coalition every two years to celebrate the most significant achievements by individuals and organisations in ensuring the sustainability of digital content. Following a rigorous assessment process, the winners were announced at a glittering presentation ceremony in Glasgow, attended by a organisations and practitioners of digital preservation from around the world. The Library was delighted to win the Dutch Digital Heritage Network Award for Teaching and Communications for its project: Learning through doing: building digital preservation skills in Wales,


Learning through doing was a programme of interactive training delivered by Library staff on the Teams platform to extend digital preservation skills and increase capacity for staff working in organisations across Wales. Resources to support the training are available on the Archives Wales website at

The Library also contributed to winning another prestigious award. The Archives and Records Assocation’s award for the New Professional of the Year was won by Gemma Evans. Gemma was employed by the Library to lead the Records at Risk project for the Archives and Records Council Wales. The project was funded by The National Archives Covid-19 Archives Fund, which was established to support archives to secure records which were in danger of being lost as a result of the economic impact of the pandemic which threatened the continuing operation of businesses, charities and organisations, acrossWales. Gemma developed a Records at Risk Toolkit to enable the identification and preservation of at risk records, which is available for download on the Archives Wales website at

Thomas Jones the Almanacist

Collections / Digitisation / Uncategorized - Posted 27-12-2021

Another new year is on the horizon! Let us reflect on the Library’s collection of almanacs and how they were used in the past. These almanacs included dates of fairs and agricultural shows which would be of interest to country folk when planning their year.



Thomas Jones (1648?-1713) was one of the most prominent figures responsible for publishing and writing almanacs. He was born in Merionethshire, the son of a tailor. After moving to London as a young man to start his training there, he changed his career and became a printer and publisher. By 1693, he had moved to Shrewsbury and had established the first Welsh printing press. The main work of the press was to publish books, but it became famous throughout Wales for publishing almanacs. Thomas Jones won a royal patent for the press in 1679 to publish yearly Welsh almanacs, and he did so from 1680 to the year of his death in 1713. The almanacs were very popular in much the same way as we use calendars and year planners today.

In the example shown of Thomas Jones’s almanac, as well as a calendar, we have a short description of typical weather on each day of every month. Thomas Jones, it appears, wanted to warn, and entertain his readers at the same time. Some of the days in January are described as windy, others as frosty, others as rainy. Obviously, these are fruits of the imagination rather than a scientific analysis of the climate! But Thomas Jones also included cloudy prophecies in the almanacs with references to complex conditions he himself suffered (he was said to be a hypochondriac!).

His readers were delighted to read the almanacs for practical purposes, but the contents also proved to be a welcome escape from the harsh reality of their lives.


Hywel Lloyd

Assistant Librarian.

Another Black Book

Collections / Digitisation - Posted 20-09-2021

This year marks the centenary of the publication by J. Gwenogvryn Evans of his monochrome facsimile of the contents of the Black Book of Chirk (notwithstanding the 1909 imprinted on the title-page!). Through the generosity of a patron, and to mark the occasion, the National Library has published new digital images of the manuscript on our website.

This manuscript – Peniarth 29 – was once believed to be the earliest written in Welsh. Today, it is regarded as among the earliest, sharing a birthdate, as it were, with another Black Book, the rather more famous one from Carmarthen. Both were produced in the mid-thirteenth century, one in the South, and the other in North Wales.

The Chirk manuscript was written in Welsh, on parchment, by six scribes, in regular and professional style, although their familiarity with written Welsh may not have been fluent.

The volume contains legal texts relating to the king and his court, according to the ‘Venedotian’ or ‘Iorwerth’ code, associated with Gwynedd. The ‘king’ is a native ruler, one such as the young Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, known as ‘the last native Prince of Wales’, whose influence was becoming apparent at the time when the manuscript was written. Following the Law of the Court (reminiscent of those fine images in Peniarth 28, a contemporary Latin law manuscript), the scribes record laws that were relevant to ordinary inhabitants, including elements such as the values of wild and tame animals. A summary, text and translation is available on the Cyfraith Hywel website.

The manuscript also contains non-legal additions, such as proverbs, and Dafydd Benfras’s elegy on the death of Llywelyn ab Iorwerth (Llywelyn the Great) in 1240, harking back perhaps to the ‘golden age’ of native law in the Gwynedd tradition.

But why is the volume associated with Chirk, in Denbighshire? The contents suggest affiliation with medieval North Wales, and by 1615, it was owned by John Edwards of Plas Newydd, Chirk, a scholar and recusant who lost many belongings by sequestration before his death in 1625. Llanstephan MS 68 is a copy of the manuscript, made by Francis Tate whilst the Black Book was owned by Edwards. Subsequently, probably via John Jones of Gellilyfdy, it became part of Robert Vaughan’s library at Hengwrt, and on the upper part of page 114 is part of his ornate inscription identifying the work as ‘Y llyfr du or Waun’ (the Black Book of Chirk).

The original black covers are long gone, but the remains of the binding leaves survive at the end of the manuscript.

Having already digitised the Black Book of Carmarthen (Peniarth 1) and the Black Book of Basingwerk (NLW MS 7006D), how many more black books remain to be discovered?


Maredudd ap Huw
Curator of Manuscripts

New Digital Resources for the Summer

Collections / Digitisation - Posted 29-07-2021

Since the beginning of the year work has continued on digitising our collections and the following items and collections are now available to view from home on the Library’s website and/or the catalogue:

Archives and Manuscripts

Peniarth and Llanstephan collections

Sir John Herbert Lewis Papers

33 diaries from the Sir John Herbert Lewis Papers from the period 1888-1924 are now available:

Seals and Ystrad Marchell Charters


A selection of documents and medieval seals from the Pitchford Hall Papers and the Estate Records of Penrice and Margam, Chirk Castle, Bronwydd and Wigfair, have been made available, for example:

33 Ystrad Marchell charters have also been made available and can be accessed via the catalogue.

Printed Material

Arthurian collection


A selection of volumes relating to King Arthur were selected for digitization in 2019. The following 13 volumes are already available and the work of digitizing the remaining items will continue over the coming months:

Biographies (1809-1889)


A further 913 biographies have been made available on the catalogue, including works such as:

Other printed works


203 other printed works have also been made available, including:

Maps and Graphic Material

D C Harries photographs


102 photographs taken around 1890-1936 by D C Harries of the scenery, buildings and people of the Llandovery, Llandeilo and Carmarthen area have been added to the catalogue. The selection includes photographs such as: Staff standing outside Lipton’s shop, Caerfyrddin, Staff standing outside Star Supply Stores, Llandeilo and Men in cars outside Crown garage – T. Roberts & Sons, Llanymddyfri

Archive of Historical Posters


Over 2,630 posters from NLW’s Historical Poster Archive are now accessible to users through the Universal Viewer. This fascinating collection includes a wide variety of items including emigration posters from Aberystwyth and Liverpool to America, ballads and songs, posters advertising local markets and auctions, concerts and ‘eisteddfodau’. The collection also includes a number of posters announcing news of crimes and murders, such as: the theft of John Philip’s mare (1818), the confession of John Griffiths after murdering his wife (1811) and ‘Murder’ (1796).

Dictionary of Welsh Biography


20 new articles have been added to the website:

Don’t forget to follow the Dictionary of Welsh Biography’s Twitter account: @WelshBiography

A Rose at Midsummer: The significance of Midsummer Day in the Margam Abbey charters

Collections / Digitisation - Posted 21-06-2021

As much of medieval life was centered around religious belief, the daily services of the church (Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline) helped to mark the passing of time, particularly for those in holy orders. Consequently, one of the most common types of manuscript to be found in medieval homes were those that allowed the laity to observe these services – known as the ‘books of hours’.

For those who could afford them, books of hours were often richly illustrated, and could serve just as much of a decorative purpose as a religious one. But for the average lay person, life was more concerned with the farming year and the passing of the seasons. Many books of hours included illustrations of agricultural tasks which were carried out at various times of the year, such as sowing crops, harvest time, or tree felling, often associated with the various feast days across the year.

/* wordpress fix */

The De Grey Hours: [mid. 15th cent.]. A task for midsummer – an illustration of scything in June, with the symbol of the zodiac denoting Cancer, the crab (f. 6r)

In a legal sense, these holy and saints’ days were also commonly used in medieval charters to record the date. Hundreds of examples of this practice can be seen in the collection of the charters of Margam Abbey, Glamorgan, part of the Penrice and Margam Estate Records at NLW.

Margam Abbey was founded in 1147 as a daughter-house of the Cistercian order at Clairvaux and was endowed with a large amount of land by Robert, earl of Gloucester (charter 1). By the late 13th century, Margam was Wales’ richest monastery, owning land and granges in both Wales and England, and Gerald of Wales wrote of Margam in his Itinerarium Cambriae (c.1191) that it was ‘by far the most renowned for alms and charity’. As a result, the Margam Abbey charters, including those of the Penrice and Mansel families, comprise one of the largest and most complete monastic collections in Britain. The majority of its records consist of sealed land grants to and from many of the ruling families of Glamorgan, ranging from the 12th to the 16th centuries. As well as being a source of local history for Glamorgan, Margam’s charters also help to place it in a wider European context – not only containing royal charters and letters patent, but also a number of 13th-century papal bulls (charters 82-84, 141, 171, 173-4, 185, 245) confirming the importance of Margam to the Cistercian order.

Typically, each charter records the day upon which it was signed or sealed, usually given as a feast day or saints’ day, and the year of the reigning monarch. Midsummer Day or Canol Haf – usually celebrated on 21st June but also known as Gŵyl Ifan due to the feast day of St John the Baptist falling on the 24th June – was a significant date in the farming year as it marked the longest day and the turning of seasons as the days shortened and harvest time was nearing. In Margam’s charters, Midsummer is used as a dating clause in several instances. A quit-claim by a William de Marle to Margam Abbey (charter 227, 1354) is dated Midsummer Day, while charters 193 (1312) and 228 (1357), also quit-claims to the Abbey, are dated at Margam ‘the Sunday after Midsummer’ and ‘the Saturday after Midsummer’ respectively. It is not only within land grants that this dating occurs. Charter 233 (1366), which detailed assizes recovering the Abbot of Margam’s salmon fishery from one Res [Rhys] and one Howel, stated that for their piscine thievery each were fined threepence in damages on ‘the Monday before Midsummer Day’.

This theme of agriculture is abundant when looking at the rent requirements in some of Margam’s charters, which stipulate what is given in exchange for each piece of land. Rents could include livestock, crops, or spices, as well as money, and could stipulate a nominal amount in order to make a legal exchange. Charter 302 (1315) asks for just ‘a rose at Midsummer’ in exchange for the rent of half an acre of land; a rose is also given in charter 329 (1383) for a burgage. Charter 306 (1315) more generously specifies a garland of roses to be given annually at Midsummer in exchange for six and three-quarter acres. Symbolically, the only time roses are stipulated to be given is at Midsummer, and they do not appear as an exchange at any other date in Margam’s charters.

Of course, these dates were not always reliable. Margam may have been the wealthiest Abbey in Wales but news in the medieval period travelled more slowly than today and could be hampered by events of the time. Charter 336, for example, issued during the Wars of the Roses, was dated at Oxwich, Gower, on 4th April, yet supplies the year (1461) as the reign of Henry VI, rather than that of Edward IV whose accession had been on the 4th of March previously. Evidently the announcement of Edward’s accession had not yet reached Gower at the time.

Margam Abbey was a prominent landmark in south Wales for nearly four centuries, but it did not survive Henry VIII’s dissolution. In 1540 the Abbey and its lands, including its church, bell-tower, fisheries, cemetery, water-mill, and a large number of its granges were sold to the Mansel family for £938, six shillings and eightpence (charter 359). Incidentally, the charter granting Margam’s dissolution was dated at Westminster on 22nd June. It appears that the Abbey saw its final day at Midsummer.

View catalogue:

Lucie Hobson
Assistant Archivist


Further reading:

  • Gerald of Wales, The Journey Through Wales and The Description of Wales, translated by Lewis Thorpe (London: Penguin, 1978)
  • The scriptorium of Margam Abbey and the scribes of early Angevin Glamorgan: secretarial administration in a Welsh marcher barony, c.1150-c.1225, Robert B. Patterson (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2002)




Tags: , ,

New Digital Resources

Collections / Digitisation - Posted 09-02-2021

Although our building is closed at the moment a great deal of work has continued behind the scenes and since June the following items and collections have been made available to view from home on the Library’s website and/or the catalogue:

Archives and Manuscripts

Peniarth Collection

Wynn (of Gwydir) Papers: (1515-[c. 1684])

Almost 10,000 images of personal papers and papers relating to the public offices of members of the Wynn family of Gwydir, Caernarfonshire have been made available. 2,786 items from the Sir John Williams Group, 1519-1683 (NLW MSS 463-470) and the Panton Group, 1515- [c. 1699] (NLW MSS 9051-9069) can be found in the catalogue.

Sir John Herbert Lewis Papers

8 diaries in the Sir John Herbert Lewis Papers from the period 1925-1933 are now available:

Gareth Vaughan Jones Papers

Passport of Gareth Vaughan Jones, 1930-1934 (B5/3)

Printed Material

Early Welsh Books Collection

2,470 volumes are available on the catalogue, including the notable works of William Salesbury A dictionary in Englyshe and Welshe, [1547], Kynniver llith a ban [1551] a The descripcion of the sphere or frame of the worlde [ca. 1553]), the first part of Gruffydd Robert’s grammar, Dosparth byrr ar y rhann gyntaf i ramadeg cymraeg (1567), Drych y Prif Oesoedd [1716] and Cyd-gordiad egwyddorawl o’r Scrythurau [1730].


900 biographies are now available through the catalogue, including titles such as:

More biographies will be released over the coming months.

First World War

A selection of printed materials relating to the First World War have been released:

Maps and Graphic Material

Map collection

Idris Mathias’s manuscript map of the lower Teifi valley.

Portrait Collection

A further 970 items from the Portrait collection have been made available, including images of individuals such as: Cranogwen; “Old Ellen Lloyd”; Edward Ellis y Gof, Blaenau Ffestiniog inventor of the ‘car gwyllt’; Elizabeth Lloyd, ‘Beti Bwt’ and John Ballinger, S. K. Greenslade, Evan Davies Jones and Sir John Williams with the American Ambassador, the Hon. Whitelaw Reid at the National Library of Wales site, 1 November 1912.

Dictionary of Welsh Biography

16 new articles have been added to the website:


Morfudd Nia Jones (Digital Content Officer)

← Older Posts




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