As Library Lovers’ Month comes to a close, we’d love to hear more about you. What are your favourite childhood memories or the places you’ve lived and visited over the years? What are you working on at the moment? What are your hobbies and interests? And what are the things that you feel most passionate about? Having heard what you’d like to share, we could then tell you even more about The National Library of Wales.
This place is like a goldmine. Yes, it’s home to many of the nation’s treasures – the Black Book of Carmarthen, Salem and Yn y Lhyvvyr Hwnn to name only a few.
These items are undoubtedly part of the nation’s memory. They’re stored here safely so that both we and generations to come can know the foundations on which Wales’s present and future are built.
You can learn more about some of these treasures, and the Library’s role as home to the nation’s memory, in our Story of Wales blog series.
But there are also items here that contain information that would be gold to you – perhaps only to you. They are pieces of your story waiting to be discovered.
These could give your story a new meaning or direction. It could be part of your family’s past. The personal stories of our ancestors have the power to shape our sense of self.
It could be the story of your home, village or area which would allow you to see familiar surroundings in an entirely new light.
It may be an item or subject that sparks your curiosity or about which you already have firm opinions. Finding further information about it could change your understanding completely and alter your perspective on the world.
Here at The National Library of Wales, we work to bring our collections to people of all ages and backgrounds. We work with schools and communities, we attend family history and student fairs, and we deliver information sessions, practical workshops and volunteering opportunities. We support users in our Reading Rooms and we digitize collections so that they can be discovered online. As a librarian, few things compare with seeing the joy and wonder that these collections can create.
This Library, like many other libraries around the world, is in the process of transformation. How you consume, create and share knowledge has changed, and our activities and services are changing with you.
Sharing your story with us – your experience and knowledge – helps us to improve the services we provide to you. Surveys, enquiries, feedback forms, user testing, focus groups, interviews and statistical analysis are some of the methods we use to capture this information. And soon we will begin consultation on our new strategy; your response will contribute towards shaping the Library’s future.
So please tell us more about yourself, and we can show you that The National Library of Wales truly is a place to discover.
Exactly 50 years ago on July 1st 1969, Prince Charles was invested as Prince of Wales in Caernarfon Castle. The investiture was controversial and led to widespread protests. Conversely, it was also widely supported and championed by the Secretary of State for Wales, George Thomas.
Rhodri Evans, who has been researching the radical response to the investiture as part of a PhD at Aberystwyth University has curated a small exhibition on the subject in the Library’s Summers Room.
The exhibition will run until Friday July 5th, and will include material from the Library’s print, archival and screen and sound collections.
Rob Phillips National Assembly for Wales Archive and the Welsh Political Archive
This post is a part of the Story of Wales series, which looks at different aspects of Welsh history, and how today’s Wales remembers, and shapes it. Subscribe to the blog on the right to ensure you don’t miss any posts.
Wales is often described as the country of song. But where did our musical tradition begin, and how did it develop?
Our new exhibition Record: Folk, Protest and Pop’ explores the musical tradition of Wales throughout the centuries – from the crwth to Catatonia – using various items from The Welsh Music Archive and Screen and Sound Archive.
Nia Mai Daniel from the Welsh Music Archive tells us more …
Although Wales is known as ‘The Land of Song’, we don’t have a great memory of early musical works. The folk tradition is an oral tradition, with harpists and balladeers travelling around the country, entertaining people in markets and public houses, and committing the melodies to memory.
By the eighteenth century folk melodies were recorded on paper, and many notable collectors compiled these at a later date; it is thanks to the tireless work of individuals such as Nansi Richards, J Lloyd Williams and Meredydd Evans that our folk tradition was saved and protected.
The establishment of the Welsh Folk Song Society in 1906 and the revival in the folk tradition in the 1970s, when folk singing coexisted with popular music, have also contributed to preserving the tradition.
One of the main figures in the evolution of music in Wales was Meredydd Evans, or Merêd, who spent his life contributing to Welsh life and culture as a collector, historian, musician, editor, nationalist and passionate campaigner for the Welsh language.
Merêd and his wife Phyllis Kinney collected songs which had been in danger of disappearing, and believed that the tradition could not grow and adapt without giving life to these songs which he discovered in old manuscripts and musical scores.
As well as his work as a collector, Merêd was also a gifted performer, recording an important collection of songs for the Folkway Records label in New York in 1954. For a decade from 1963 he was head of BBC Wales’ light entertainment, where he worked tirelessly to create popular Welsh light entertainment programmes.
“It’s about time we have more extreme singing in Wales today, more screams and wild drums…” were the words of a member of the first Welsh rock band, Y Blew, which formed in 1967.
The Wales of the 60s and 70s was a country that saw political agitation as well as musical ferment. Folk and pop music became tremendously popular, and the first Welsh language record label, Sain, was established in 1969. But what pushed Welsh music onwards was the ‘protest’ song. Rather than composing love songs, these young Welsh artists would take their guitars to the local pub and sing satirical and political songs.
By the 1980s a new group of bands and record labels emerged, ones that created a very different sound compared to the pop music usually heard from the country’s stages and radio waves. Groups such as Anhrefn, Datblygu, Llwybr Llaethog and Y Cyrff were experimental and revolutionary.
During the 1990s many Welsh language groups and individuals started to produce work in English as well as in Welsh such as Catatonia, Super Furry Animals and Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci. The breakthrough into the English language music scene led to a growing interest in Welsh language culture and music across the world.
By the late 1990s and early twenty-first century the Welsh language was expressed through a variety of styles, from hip hop, reggae and ska, and returning back to its traditional folk roots.
Today, the music scene in Wales is alive and well, with an abundance of talented artists writing, recording and performing in Welsh, and more independent record labels than ever before working to release Welsh records.
This post is a part of the Story of Wales series, which looks at different aspects of Welsh history, and how today’s Wales remembers, and shapes it. Subscribe to the blog on the right to ensure you don’t miss any posts.
The National Library of Wales is home to an important collection of contemporary Welsh art. On display in the Library’s recently launched ‘Collecting Contemporary’ exhibition (6.4.19 – 21.3.20) are examples of works recently acquired by the Library, which vary from Paul Peter Piech’s dynamic linocut, to Charles Byrd’s cubist work.
An important gift which recently came into the Library’s possession was the Roese Collection, a valuable and comprehensive collection of contemporary Welsh art. This is one of the most important collections of contemporary art to enter the Library’s collections, and a number of the works by artists such as Charles Byrd, Ernest Zobole, Ceri Richards, Mary Lloyd Jones, Ivor Davies, Glenys Cour, Charles Byrd and Iwan Bala can be viewed within this exhibition.
This year we were also fortunate to acquire nine iconic works by the Glyn Neath based pop artist Ken Elias into our collections.
The Library prides itself in collecting works from artists who are currently attracting attention in this field, such as the London based artist Seren Morgan Jones, and the locally based artist Teresa Jenellen in Machynlleth. The theme of women is central to their works. Another local artist whose work is exhibited here is Valériane Le Blond, and her imaginative paintings portray a Welsh countryside which is familiar to us all, whilst Sarah Carvell’s expressionistic landscapes and Lisa Eurgain Taylor and Elfyn Lewis’ abstract works show the eternal inspiration of the Welsh landscape.
Our collection is increasing in strength with ongoing purchases and donations from generous benefactors.
January 19th sees the opening of the Library’s latest exhibition: Inventor of Britain – The Life and Legacy of Humphrey Llwyd. This exhibition is the latest in a series of events to mark the 450th anniversary of the death of Humphrey Llwyd, the author of the first published map of Wales. Last August to coincide with the actual anniversary a smaller exhibition was held for two weeks, but this larger exhibition will be on for the next six months.
While Llwyd is probably most famous for his map of Wales, in addition to being the father of Welsh cartography he is also considered to be the father of Welsh history as a result of his Cronica Walliae the first history of Wales in English based on the ancient Welsh chronicle the Brut y Tywysogion.
This would be enough of a contribution in itself to ensure the legacy of most people, however in addition to this Llwyd was also responsible for helping to steer the Bill for the Translation of the Bible into Welsh through Parliament, thus leading to the Welsh Bible which was a major factor in helping Welsh to survive as a language.
But Llwyd’s influence goes beyond the borders of Wales; his works were also used to help justify the British Empire (a phrase he is credited with coining) and the English reformation. Part of his extensive library was purchased by the Crown and now forms part of the collections of the British Library.
This new exhibition is being held in association with the AHRC funded project Inventor of Britain: the complete works of Humphrey Llwyd. A number of lectures will be given over the coming months by members of the project team and this year’s Carto-Cymru – the Wales Map Symposium will also be on the theme of Humphrey Llwyd.
The exhibition runs until the 29th June and further details of the associated events can be found on the Library’s website.
A refined and beautiful talent: thoughts on the centenary of the death of Morfydd Owen (1891-1918) is the title of Dr Rhian Davies’s presentation at the Drwm on 11 September. This is a significant date as it marks a hundred years since her burial at Oystermouth cemetery. Morfydd Owen composer, singer and pianist, died tragically young on 7 September 1918 aged twenty six. The presentation is one of many centenary events organised by G?yl Gregynog Festival to celebrate her life. Dr Rhian Davies is the Festival’s Artistic Director and the chief authority on the composer who was also the subject of her thesis for her doctorate degree at Bangor University in 1999.
Morfydd Owen was born on 1 October 1891 in Treforest in a musical household. She won a scholarship to study music at Cardiff University with Professor David Evans in 1909 and was awarded a Mus. Bac. degree in 1912. Afterwards she studied composition at The Royal Academy of Music, London, 1912-1917, and won numerous awards, including the Charles Lucas Silver Medal for composing ‘Nocturne’, an orchestral work. In 1918 she was elected an Associate of the Academy.
She was inducted into the Gorsedd at the National Eisteddfod at Wrexham in 1912 under her bardic name ‘Morfydd Llwyn-Owen’, an amalgamation of her name and her father’s home Plas Llwyn Owen, Bontdolgadfan, near Llanbrynmair. A sensitive performance of her song ‘The lamb’ was given in the Blue Riband competition at the recent National Eisteddfod.
Morfydd Owen was very talented as she had a rich mezzo-soprano singing voice, was an accomplished pianist and could compose in a variety of styles ranging from hymn-tunes to orchestral pieces. A scholarship was set up in her name at Cardiff University after her death and Grace Williams was the first to be awarded in 1923. The manuscript scores and personal memorabilia of Morfydd Owen are housed at the Special Collections and Archives, Cardiff University.
A drama-documentary was shown in 1991 by S4C on the centenary of her birth and a film Morfydd will be premiered this Autumn on the channel. It focuses on the relationship between Morfydd Owen and Dr Ernest Jones who she married in a Registry Office in London after a brief courtship. The script is by Siwan Jones. Rhian Blythe who plays ‘Morfydd’ spent some time at the Library researching for her role.
A small exhibition of items from the Library’s collections will be on display in the Summers Room on 11 September to complement the talk on Morfydd Owen. Included are music manuscripts, letters in her hand, photographs, concert programmes and the two memorial editions of Morfydd Owen’s posthumously published works inscribed by Dr Ernest Jones to his father-in-law William Owen.
Kyffin joined Highgate School in north London in September 1944. Much of the School had previously been evacuated to Westward Ho! in Devon but art had not been on the wartime curriculum so a teacher was needed on return to the capital. After working full-time (six days a week) for the first two years, Headmaster Geoffrey Bell suggested that Kyffin should find a colleague to share the job so that he could do more of his own painting and so the elusive William Cole, a friend from the Slade days, took over half of his timetable. Cole only lasted a couple of years though. Kyffin soldiered on alone for a further twelve months but his epilepsy wasn’t under control, so on the advice of his doctor and with the agreement of the School Governors he was awarded a sabbatical from the summer of 1949. This provided an opportunity to start travelling and in 1950 he visited Italy, the first of many trips abroad during the ensuing decade. His replacement was another acquaintance from the Slade, Antony Kerr, whose wife was the artist Elizabeth Rendell. On his return to Highgate Kyffin taught alongside Antony for nine years. Tom Griffiths, mentioned in ‘A Wider Sky’ and yet another Slade graduate, was tempted into teaching for a year, as subsequently was CF Ware. Then stability returned as Kyffin’s former pupil Anthony Green (1951-56) joined the Art Department in 1961 at the age of twenty-one. He was the last of the ‘Slade brigade’ to help Kyffin out – A Dear and JL Lowe from the Royal Academy Schools were his ‘other halves’ from 1968 until his retirement in 1973. Patrick Procktor, who had also studied under Kyffin from 1948-52 chose not to enter the profession. By the time Kyffin returned to Anglesey in 1974 a full-time Director of Art, Gordon Tweedale, had been appointed in his place.
Of course Kyffin had enjoyed another six months off in 1968-9 to travel to Welsh Patagonia on a Churchill Fellowship, an event that was probably responsible for his being nominated to be an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1969 and elected the following year, following an unsuccessful first attempt in 1961.
His becoming a full Academician four years later was proof, if any was needed, that he could finally make a living as an artist. Kyffin had first been accepted at an RA Summer Exhibition as early as 1946, though it wasn’t until 1959 that his work became an annual feature for almost forty years. His first show in a commercial gallery was at Colnaghi’s in 1948 and the Leicester Galleries were soon representing him too. It wasn’t until after he had left Highgate that the Thackeray became his main promoter in London.
Kyffin lived in or close to Highgate for his first twelve years in London, most famously as a tenant of Miss Mary Josling on Bisham Gardens in Highgate Village, a period that is vividly described in ‘Across the Straits’. During that time he recorded many local scenes and personalities, such as the former School cricket coach and groundsman Albert Knight. Albert, in his seventies when Kyffin painted his portrait, had played for England in the 1903-4 Ashes series in Australia, which was won by the visiting side. Brief residencies in Hampstead followed, including a stay with Fred and Diana Uhlman on Downshire Hill, before he spent a few years further west in Holland Park. When his artist friend David Smith moved from Finchley with his wife Elizabeth Hawes, Kyffin occupied one of the flats that they had created in their house for a year before learning that 22 Bolton Studios near the Fulham Road was vacant from Jane Richards, and old acquaintance from North Wales. The eight years he spent on Gilston Road, his last London address, also received a colourful rendering in his first volume of autobiography.
To mark Kyffin’s centenary and celebrate his ‘London years’ to some extent, two exhibitions under the banner ‘Kyffin Williams: Paper to Palette Knife’ are planned in Highgate in the autumn – one at the Highgate School Museum on Southwood Lane and a second in the Gallery of the Highgate Literary and Scientific Institution (HLSI) on Pond Square. The former will feature the School’s collection of oils alongside paintings borrowed from private collectors and small loans from the National Library of Wales and Oriel Môn on Anglesey; while the HLSI will be displaying a substantial loan of (mostly) works on paper from the NLW. Together the two exhibitions will possibly constitute the largest ever retrospective of Kyffin’s work to be shown in England. They will run concurrently from 14th September to 7th October with opening times: Tuesday to Friday 1-5pm, Saturday 11am-4pm and Sunday 11am-5pm. On Monday 10th September at 7 pm I will be giving a lecture about Kyffin’s London years at the School. Tickets can be booked online nearer the time here: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/highgateschool Then on Friday 21st September at 8 pm Rian Evans, co-author of ‘Kyffin Williams: The Light and The Dark’, will be giving a talk at the HLSI. Tickets can be booked by e-mail: email@example.com or by phone: 020 8340 3340.
Kyffin Williams’ emotive seascapes which are on display in the artist’s centenary exhibition here at the National Library, should be celebrated in their own right and stand apart from the artist’s other more well-known works. Kyffin’s highly expressionistic style within these monochrome works manages to convey the movement and the violence of a storm at sea in in a tremendously effective manner, reflecting the artist’s own hidden inner turmoil.
Kyffin’s connection to Trearddur Bay, which is located on the west coast of Holy Island off the coast of Anglesey where many of these seascapes were based can be traced back to the artist’s childhood. As a young boy of six years old who would turn 7 the following week he was sent to Trearddur Bay Boarding School in May 1925. He stated in his memoir ‘Across the Straits’: ‘It did not take me long to fall under the spell of the island’s mood. The storms, the sea mists, the wrecks, the wailing sirens, and in summer the peculiar haze that hung over the island, all made Trearddur Bay a very special place’.
The expressionistic impasto technique used in such works as ‘Stormy Sea’ was explained by the artist in the book ‘The Land and the Sea’, 1998: ‘These great storms have always excited me and I seem to be stimulated by the noise and energy of the waves – to such an extent that, when I transfer my frenzied scribbles onto canvas, my own energy attacks the canvas…These paintings are not easy to control for often they try to take over and I lose my tones in a confusion of white wave and spray… My personal chemistry demands the excitement of a storm at sea.’
As the authors Rian Evans and Nicolas Sinclair stated in the recently published work, ‘The Light and the Dark’ on Kyffin’s life, the artist who had suffered with the afflictions of epilepsy and depression throughout his life acknowledged that he expressed his most turbulent feelings through his seascapes. In an interview in 2000, the artist stated that it was due to his battle with epilepsy that he felt a need to apply strongly contrasting colours down onto the canvas, as can be seen in these seascapes. He stated: ‘It might be part of the epilepsy, the excitement – the epileptic shock of dark against light, it’s very exciting you see. Van Gogh was an epileptic and he had the same love of contrast’. Inspired by other notable palette knife users such Gustave Courbet and Van Gogh, Evans and Sinclair also saw a parallel within Kyffin’s seascapes to other iconic works such as Hokusai’s ‘The Wave’ and August Strindberg’s dramatic seascapes. The artist would return to paint the subject throughout his life.
As part of the Seeing Euclid network of exhibitions throughout the UK, the National Library of Wales will display an example of their valuable Euclid collection of books from 7 July to 27 August. The project aims to highlight the legacy of Euclid’s Elements in the early modern period in Britain and Ireland, with displays of books and artefacts from the period. It is curated by the research project Reading Euclid, based at the University of Oxford and funded by the AHRC. The exhibition is a collaboration between nearly thirty institutions across Britain and Ireland.
He compiled the thirteen books of The Elements while working in Alexandria in the third century B.C. His work describes the foundations of Mathematics and dominated the subject for over two thousand years. He developed the concept of logical proof, in which theorems are proved, directly or indirectly, from axioms.
The Library has a large collection of books authored by Euclid. It consists of 270 editions of Euclid’s work which were published from 1484 to 1800. The original collection of 39 volumes was given to the Library by Sir Charles Thomas-Stanford in 1927 and an addition of 11 volumes in 1928. Since then the Library has continued to add to the collection.
The full title of the volume which the Library will put on display is The Elements of the Geometrie of the most auncient Philosopher Euclide. It is a handsome volume with fold-out diagrams of polyhedra and intersecting planes. It is a translation published in 1570 and interestingly contains a preface by John Dee, who was of Welsh parentage. He is said to have had the largest library in Britain and the fact that he was chosen for the task indicates the esteem in which he was held. He was a brilliant and rather strange man – mathematician, astronomer, adviser to Queen Elizabeth the First but also interested in magic and astrology. Mathematics was not as well developed in Britain at the time as it was in Europe and was seen as only necessary for the study of fields such as astrology and alchemy. However, Dee helped to show that it was applicable to a range of useful applications such as hydraulics and engineering. He was quoted as saying “And for these, and suchlike marvelous arts and feats naturally, mathematically and mechanically wrought and contrived, ought any student and modest Christian philosopher be counted and called a conjurer?”
As part of the Kyffin Williams centenary celebrations, the Library’s Education Service has been delivering many activities for schools, colleges and families, based on one of Wales’s most recognised and popular artists.
During the year free workshops will be delivered to primary and secondary school pupils to coincide with the Library’s main exhibition Kyffin Williams: Behind the Frame, and a bilingual booklet focusing on Kyffin’s life and work is being distributed free of charge to all who take part in the workshops.
So far this year schools from all over Wales have been visiting the National Library to learn more about the artist from Anglesey, like the pupils of Ysgol Trimsaran and Ysgol Mynydd y Garreg, Carmarthenshire. After taking part in the Kids in Museums Takeover Day in January, they returned in May to enjoy the Kyffin exhibition and workshop.
In April a selection of original paintings and drawings by Kyffin Williams were transported from the Library’s storage facilities to Penygroes, Gwynedd, as part of the Class Art project. Workshops on Kyffin’s style and painting technique were led by two leading Welsh artists in two schools; Catrin Williams studied some of Kyffin’s landscapes with the Year 4 pupils of Ysgol Bro Lleu, and Eleri Jones delivered a session on Kyffin’s portraits for Year 12 students at Ysgol Dyffryn Nantlle, to support them with their A Level course work.
Kyffin Williams was also the theme of The National Library of Wales’ stand at this year’s Urdd Eisteddfod in Llanelwedd. Throughout the week a small exhibition about Kyffin’s life and career provided a backdrop to art activities where young visitors were given an opportunity to emulate the artist by reproducing sections of one of his landscapes in acrylic paint on canvas. During a workshop on the Tuesday, under the guidance of artist Catrin Williams, children were shown how to produce pastel drawings in the style of Kyffin Williams. Some of the work produced during these sessions will be exhibited in the Library’s Education Room until September.
Kyffin Williams: Behind the Frame runs until the 1st of September in the Library’s Gregynog Gallery, and the exhibition includes tasks for visiting families – why not have a go at our ‘Kyffin Quiz’ and create your own masterpiece.
For further information on the Library’s free workshops, you are welcome to contact the Education Service on:
01970 632431 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.