Over the years the library has collected books with fine and unusual bindings, especially those of Welsh interest. A particularly rare example was added to the collection recently. The volume is a reprint of a French book, La Prose du Transsibérien by the painter Sonia Delaunay-Terk and the poet Blaise Cendrars, which was originally published in 1913. The poem describes a train journey through Russia during the first revolution in 1905. It is printed on four sheets glued together in concertina format.
For the 2019 reprint, 22 bookbinders were invited to create unique bindings. The copy purchased by the Library this year was bound by Julian Thomas, the Library’s former Head of Binding and Conservation. The case is covered in black calfskin coloured in fluorescent blue acrylic paint, with strips of calfskin inlaid, some gilded and others coloured with acrylics. The strips refer to the railway and the circle to the revolution and the wheels of the train.
This striking binding is a unique example of the work of one of the foremost bookbinders in the U.K. More bindings by Julian Thomas, his predecessors in the Library and other craftsmen can be seen in the Beautiful Books exhibition in the World of the Book on the ground floor of the Library until 9th December 2022.
The Library provides an exhibition each year for the St. David’s Day Prayer Breakfast in Cardiff. This special event is organised by a group of Christian members of the Senedd from different parties, and the guests include members of parliaments from across Europe, church and chapel leaders, and representatives of a number of Christian organisations.
The theme of this year’s Prayer Breakfast was “Revivals”. The earliest item in the exhibition was Llythyr ynghylch y ddyledswydd o gateceisio plant a phobl anwybodus (1749) by Griffith Jones, who was responsible for establishing thousands of circulating schools in order to teach people to read the Bible. There was a close connection between these schools and the efforts to persuade the SPCK to provide Bibles in Welsh.
Two letters, giving an account of a revival of religion in Wales by Thomas Charles of Bala were published in 1792. The time of spiritual awakening recounted by Charles led to the founding of the Bible Society, and the exhibition also included the first edition of the Welsh Bible published by the Society in 1807.
In order to reflect the international aspect of the theme, we showed Hanes llwyddiant diweddar yr Efengyl, a rhyfeddol waith Duw, ar eneidiau pobl yn North America (1766), a translation by William Williams, Pantycelyn of a pamphlet describing the spiritual awakening in America two years earlier. Also included in the exhibition were the autobiography of Ben Chidlaw (1890), a Welshman who emigrated to America but was also involved in the 1839 Revival on a visit to Wales, and The revival in the Khasia Hills (1907), the history of the Calvinistic Methodist foreign mission in India.
Two manuscripts from the 1858-9 Revival were shown: the diary of Dafydd Morgan, Ysbyty, and a letter from John Matthews of Aberystwyth. The item which attracted most interest was Evan Roberts’s Bible, which he had with him when working as a miner. The Bible was partially burnt in an explosion in 1897 which killed five of his colleagues. This led to his conversion, described in the diary of the Rev. Seth Joshua, which was displayed beside the Bible. Evan Roberts became the leading figure of the 1904-05 Revival.
It was a privilege to display these treasures from the Library’s collections in the foyer of the Senedd and discuss them with the guests. In creating the exhibition I sought to recount the work of God through a number of revivals in Wales, as well as revivals in other countries which have either had an influence in Wales or benefited from the contribution of Welsh missionaries.
The Library recently acquired the papers of W. Macqueen-Pope (Popie) which relate to ‘Ivor: The Story of an Achievement‘, his biography of Ivor Novello, published by W. H. Allen, 1951. This important group of papers gives and insight into the life and popularity of the Welsh actor and composer Ivor Novello (1893-1951) who became one of the most popular entertainers of the first half of the 20th century. The papers include correspondence between Ivor Novello and Macqueen-Pope, but mainly comprise eulogies and reminiscences, from actors, socialites and those working in the arts, following Ivor’s death in 1951. Evidence of Novello’s popularity can be found amongst the letters sent to by Macqueen-Pope of those expressing an interest in an ‘Ivor Novello Fellowship’.
Items on display in our current exhibition (2021) include correspondence (W. Macqueen-Pope file 1), financial papers (file 12/1) and signed programme (file 13); and a signed publicity photograph (NLW Ex 2980). The papers compliment other items relating to Ivor Novello and his mother, the singer, teacher and conductor Clara Novello Davies (1861-1943) in the Library’s collections.
Here is a list of the main collections of material relating to Ivor Novello at the National Library. Further information on our archives catalogue here https://archives.library.wales/
NLW MS 23204D.
Ivor Novello papers, 1932-1983. Papers relating to David Ivor Davies (Ivor Novello, 1893-1951), composer, actor and playwright, comprising an autograph extract from his play I Lived With You (London, 1932) (ff. 1-6); letters, 1979-1982, from associates of Ivor Novello, …. photographs of the Welsh National Opera’s production of ‘Dear Ivor’, 1983 (ff. 23-4); together with a copy of a memorial tribute to Ivor Novello and theatre programmes, 1933-45, of productions of his works.
NLW MS 23696E.
Ivor Novello letters, 1908-1955 (mostly 1938-1955) Seven letters and two telegrams, 1939-1950, from the composer, actor and playwright, Ivor Novello, to Dorothy and Evelyn Wright, containing mainly personal news (ff. 1-13); together with additional personal papers, 1908-1955, compiled by the Wrights, including twelve letters to them from Lloyd Williams, Novello’s secretary, [?1940]-[?1944] (ff. 5, 14-19 verso), actors Peter Graves, 1951-1955 (ff. 22-24 verso), Leslie Henson, 1942 (f. 25), and Barry Sinclair, 1943 (f. 26), and Neville Chamberlain, 1938 (ff. 20-21); also included are a memorial tribute to Ivor Novello, 1951 (ff. 27-28 verso), photographs of him and his associates, [1910s]-[1940s] (ff. 29-34), and press cuttings, 1939-1951 (ff. 39-46). The collection contains references to theatrical productions at Johannesburg, 1947 (f. 8), the Pavilion Theatre, Bournemouth,  (f. 14), the Palace Theatre, Manchester, [?1941] (f. 15), and the Adelphi Theatre, London, 1943 (f. 18).
NLW MS 24041D. Angus McBean, photographer Studio visitors book, 1949-1968, 1987 includes songwriter Ivor Novello (f. 11).
Dr Terence Rees Papers P3/4. Also P3/10 . Scrapbook, press cuttings, programmes and periodicals, 1925-1988, relating to the life and work of Ivor Novello. Also an obituary.
D. R. Davies Collection (Aberdare) of Drama . Scrap Books, 3/1, 52, 27/2 and 4/3 . Contains articles on Ivor Novello and his mother, Madame Clara Novello Davies.
Maxwell Fraser Papers, H/24. (and O/129). Volume of cuttings re Ivor Novello, 1944-70. And a paragraph on Ivor Novello.
Selwyn Jones Papers 2. Biographical material relating to Welsh musicians, including Ivor Novello .
NLW ex 2404. Papers relating to Ivor Novello, and his funeral 1951-2004.
NLW ex 2540. Madam Esther Cooper-Jones papers, 1911-2005, including certificates and concert programmes, biographical material, letters from Clara Novello Davies, her tutor, and newspaper cuttings relating to her son Ivor Novello.
Welsh National Opera Records, P1/29. And P2/47. ‘Dear Ivor’ production, 1982-1983.
Portraits: The portrait of Ivor Novello by Margaret Lindsay Williams 1888-1960 is displayed in our current exhibition Framed works of art collection MY20 and there is another Oil on canvas 1924 by Emile Vere Smith Framed works collection CD01.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: 020 8340 3340.
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.