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.
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!
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.
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.
Legal Deposit, Electronic and Acquisitions Librarian
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!
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.
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 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, https://www.dpconline.org/news/dpa2022-winners.
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 https://archives.wales/staff-toolkit/saving-the-bits-programme/.
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 https://archives.wales/records-at-risk/.
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.
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.
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:
33 Ystrad Marchell charters have also been made available and can be accessed via the catalogue.
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:
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.
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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.
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:
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:
Every year, the Digital Preservation Coalition holds a World Digital Preservation Day with the aim of drawing attention to the complex strategic, cultural and technological issues involved in ensuring sustained access to digital content. This year has brought into particular focus the global reliance on digital information, infrastructure and connectivity and the theme this year: Digits: for Good, reflects the positive impact of preserving and providing access to trustworthy digital content. This theme aligns perfectly with the Library’s innovative approaches in traditional conservation, digitisation and digital preservation which integrate to ensure that the Boston Manuscript of the Laws of Hywel Dda are accessible now and in the future.
The Boston Manuscript was purchased in 2012 by the Library with assistance from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Friends of the National Libraries and the Welsh Government. The manuscript, written in Welsh, dates from around 1350 and records the native Welsh laws, which were thought to have been codified by Hywel Dda. It is a key text in the history of Welsh law and provides insights into Welsh identity and cultural life. It was used as a working text, being annotated by a Judge in South Wales, who carried it around in his pocket. By the 19th century, the manuscript had reached America and was in the custody of the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston, having probably been taken there by an emigrant.
A conservation assessment revealed that the manuscript was very fragile, with many tears and splits, meaning that it could not be handled without the risk of further damage. The decision was taken to dis-bind the volume and digitise the content, which would enable the re-binding of the original, the creation of facsimile copies and digital access.
End to end workflow
A complex workflow has been developed to manage the digitisation process from selection to access and storage. A Benchmarking exercise ensured that the manuscript was digitised according to the standards and methodologies established for digitising manuscript materials. The protocols for scanning were specified, including the essential information to capture, such as file name attribution, conversion process and the file formats specification for master and derivative files.
Digitising the manuscript
The scanning process was facilitated through the dis-binding, enabling each folio to be captured in entirety, without the need to de-warp. This assisted with the process of digitally extending the outside edges of the parchment. Each flattened folio could be scanned through the use of a line scanning system, rather than the usual method of using a single-shot camera and cradle. Through the use of this method, the images could be captured at a higher resolution than usual practice allowed and there was greater consistency in lighting and enhanced colour accuracy.
The scanning process generated TIFF master files, with the JP2 derivatives being generated on ingest to Fedora, the Digital Asset Management System. The METS files, which included descriptive and structural metadata were also generated on ingest. The master TIFF files were stored in the Digital Archive. Preservation actions, including checksum verification, fixity monitoring and preservation planning ensure the preservation of the digital content.
Creating the facsimiles
Another benefit of the disbanding and scanning process was the ability for the Library to demonstrate its pioneering techniques in creating facsimiles, which are almost indistinguishable from the originals. Printed copies of the scanned leaves, on high quality archival paper, were joined together and pasted back to back to form folios and gatherings. This back to back format ensured that the facsimile would be the same thickness as the original manuscript. The innovative technique of emulating parchment through manually stretching the paper unevenly, whilst the leaves were still damp, resulted in an authentic cockled appearance.
The facsimiles were bound in the same way as the original and have been used for teaching and outreach purposes, allowing extended access to the manuscript, whilst safeguarding the original.
Spot the difference!
The digitised manuscript can be viewed on the Library’s website. The images are served up through a IIIF manifest, linked to the derivative files held in Fedora, which supplies the Universal Viewer. The images can be manipulated, with the ability to zoom in on parts of the manuscript, turn the pages and have a variety of views. The descriptive metadata is available with the images to provide contextual information.
Through its integrated approach to preserving and extending access to one of Wales’s most significant treasures, the Library has certainly used its digits, both figuratively and literally, for good and for all.
Sally McInnes, Head of Unique Collections and Collections Care
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.