Blog - News and Events

Spineless Wonders

Collections / News and Events - Posted 11-12-2023

 

The first book from the Gregynog Press was published a century ago in 1923, but the first item to come from the press was a Christmas card for 1922. It includes a verse in Welsh and English about the importance of reading – appropriate for a new printing press – and a wood engraving of Gregynog Hall, the press’s home near Newtown.

 

 

I had the pleasure of presenting some items from the Library’s collection of private-press publications at the ‘Spineless Wonders’ hybrid event held recently in the Drwm and online. The term “private presses” refers to contemporary presses which use traditional hand-printing methods to create beautiful publications in limited editions. Given the theme of the conference I concentrated on more ephemeral publications, such as the peace message from the children of the Principality of Wales to the children of the world printed in May 1923; similar messages were published every year from 1930 to 1939.

 

 

Amongst other private presses in Wales are the Old Stile Press in Llandogo, Monmouthshire, and the Gwydir Press in Gwydir Castle, Llanrwst. Lesser known is the press of Huw Ceiriog Jones, a former member of staff at the National Library, which has gone under various names including Gwasg Llety Gwyn, Gwasg yr Arad Goch and Gwasg Y Wern. I showed a number of items printed by Huw, such as Christmas cards and a selection of the poetry of Dr. Daniel Huws, former Keeper of Manuscripts and Records at the Library, of which just three copies were printed.

 

 

Works by Welsh authors have inspired private presses outside Wales. Items shown included works by R.S. Thomas printed by the Celandine Press in Warwickshire and the Babel Press in Denklingen in Germany, an edition of Dylan Thomas’s Fern Hill by the Waseley Hill Press in Worcestershire, and an edition of Llywarch Hen by the Tern Press in Shropshire. In about 1920 the Cuala Press in Dublin printed the Gorsedd Prayer and Welsh verses by W.J. Gruffydd and Eifion Wyn.

 

 

The audience was delighted to view these small items which nevertheless display the exceptional skills of their creators. The Library continues to collect private-press items of Welsh interest, both new publications and older ones of which we do not already hold copies.

Timothy Cutts

Rare Books Librarian

Diseases of the Hip, Knee and Ankle Joint

Collections / News and Events - Posted 07-07-2023

Last week the National Health Service celebrated its 75th anniversary. It is interesting to note that a rare first edition of the book ‘Diseases of the Hip, Knee and Ankle Joint and their treatment by a new and efficient method’ authored by the surgeon Hugh Owen Thomas and published in 1875, was bought by the Library last year. The book was published by T. Dobb of Liverpool and bears the author’s signature on the title page.

 

 

Hugh Owen Thomas was born in Anglesey in 1834. He first trained as a surgeon with his uncle, Dr Owen Roberts at St. Asaph in North Wales for four years, then studied medicine at Edinburgh and University College, London. He developed into a successful orthopaedic surgeon and brace-maker in Liverpool and wrote widely on the treatment of fractures using the pioneering methods that he developed. This is one of Thomas’s earliest publications, most of which were printed in very small numbers for the purpose of presentation to his friends. He made no effort to promote or publicise the book and it is believed that he destroyed all undistributed copies.

At least three of the basic scientific precepts of fracture therapy are due to Thomas. First is the importance of enforced and uninterrupted rest for the patient. Secondly is the adverse effect of forcing a contracted joint and thirdly is the importance of stimulating the circulation within the immobilized limb during the healing period.

The surgical methods described in the book are still used today and this has enabled many more patients to be treated successfully, avoiding defective healing of limbs after fractures, and succeeding in significantly reducing the number of amputations.

 

 

This book was published seventy-three years before the founding of the NHS. It offers a glimpse to the availability of medical care to the general population before state provision. There are regular references to the cost of treatments and that their availability depends on the wealth of the patient.

It is interesting to note that Thomas reports treatment methods used by surgeons throughout the world. He evaluates these different approaches critically and seeks to improve on them when devising his own techniques. He also includes a number of case studies which shows that he carefully considers the successes and failures of his techniques when educating other surgeons.

Hugh Owen Thomas certainly made a significant contribution to the advancement of surgical methods over many decades.

 

Hywel Lloyd,

Assistant Librarian.

Pronouns: why they’re important

News and Events - Posted 20-07-2022

The first meeting of the Library’s Gender and LGBTQ+ Forum was held recently as part of our commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion. This commitment is a core aim of the Library’s Strategic Plan for 2021-2026 and supports the Welsh Government’s well-being objectives. The Library exists for the benefit of all.

We look forward to sharing more of the Forum’s work in the future. Thanks to Llinos Evans of the Education Service for sharing their experience of working recently at the Urdd National Eisteddfod and the importance of pronouns.

 

I’m non-binary, which means that I don’t identify with the sex I was assigned at birth. Because my gender identity doesn’t relate to the traditional binary choice of ‘man’ or ‘woman’, I use the pronouns ‘they’ and ‘them’. If you identify with the sex assigned to you at birth, you are cisgender.

The culture now that everyone – cisgender and trans people – includes pronouns on, for example, emails or badges is becoming increasingly common and is to be applauded. In doing so, it normalises discussions about gender, and ensures that trans and non-binary communities are in safe spaces.

 

 

The Education Service attended the Urdd Eisteddfod this year but, for the first time, with badges stating which pronouns we prefer using when referring to ourselves (he/him, she/her, they/them). This is something simple and important that demonstrates our attempts to create a workplace, and a society more generally, that is more inclusive. A workplace that says no to transphobia.

From personal experience, it makes a difference knowing that I can be open about who I am in all aspects of my life. Whether you believe that pronouns are significant or not – remember, they are important and do make a difference.

 

Terms

  • Sex: people are assigned a sex based on the basic characteristics of sex
  • Gender: different to sex, gender is assigned through culture
  • Non-binary: people who do not see themselves fitting in to the choice of ‘man’ and ‘woman’
  • Trans: an umbrella term that represents people whose gender does not match the sex they were assigned at birth (non-binary/genderqueer/transgender).

WiciPics

Collections / Conservation / Digitisation / Events / News and Events - Posted 20-10-2020

A new crowdsourcing project aimed at documenting the built heritage of Wales through photography and Wikipedia articles.

The National Library of Wales is once again teaming up with Menter Iaith Môn, with funding from the Welsh Government language unit, to deliver this exciting new project.

Wales has thousands of important listed buildings, from great castles built by the Welsh princes to churches, stately homes and terraced houses. In Wales there were once more seats in chapels than there were people to sit on them and now those chapels are disappearing fast. We also have more modern buildings which need documenting, such as hospitals and health centres, schools, libraries and sports facilities.

 

For this project we are asking you to check out what needs photographing in your area. If you are out walking the dog, running, cycling or just stretching your legs after that Sunday roast just take your phone or camera and snap a few shots for us along the way.

 

These images will form a new collection at the National Library of Wales and will be made freely available for reuse on Wikimedia Commons, so that they can be used to improve Wikipedia articles. Wikipedia is a fantastic platform for us to collaboratively record and share our local history and recent studies have shown that having good quality Wikipedia articles can help to significantly boost tourism.

 

We are not looking for professional quality photographs, or fancy stylized shots. Just simple documentary images which you can snap on anything from a DSLR to your mobile phone, so everyone can get involved, from Grandma to the Grand kids.

As part of the project we are even planning on working directly (remotely) with schools to get kids snapping buildings in their area and then we will teach them how to use those images to improve relevant Wikipedia articles.

 

Contributing to the project is easy. An interactive map will show you all the places that need photographs in your area, and our video tutorial will talk you through the simple upload process. So please, check out what needs photographing in your area, and register today to ensure that your images are included in our new digital archive.

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What’s Your Story? – Library Lovers’ Month

Collections / Exhibitions / News and Events / View & Listen - Posted 27-02-2020

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.

Wikipedia Translate-a-thon

Events / News / News and Events / Research - Posted 11-10-2019

To celebrate Libraries Week the National Library hosted a Welsh language Translate-a-thon for students at Aberystwyth University hoping to pursue a career as translators. The goal was to translate existing English Wikipedia articles about famous writers into Welsh. The event was part of a wider WiciLlên project, funded by the Welsh Government and aimed at improving online access to Welsh language information and data about literature and the Welsh bibliography.

The National Library of Wales’ National Wikimedian helps the library support and contribute to Wikipedia. The Welsh language Wikipedia has been the focus of this work since collaboration began in 2015. The Library and its main funder, the Welsh Government have recognised the importance of this hub of Welsh language knowledge in building a sustainable and thriving future for the Welsh language – Welsh Wicipedia is already the most viewed Welsh website and now has over 100,000 articles. However there is still lots of work to do in order to give access to ‘all knowledge’ in Welsh.

The Library has been working with the Professional Translation Studies course at Aberystwyth University for several years, building on the idea that using Wicipedia’s content translation tool for perfecting translation means students can actively contribute to the improvement of freely available Welsh language content whilst studying, giving real value to their assignments.

Coarse leader Mandi Morse says: “We are delighted to be able to take advantage of the Wikipedia platform while teaching the postgraduate Professional Translation Studies course. It gives our students great experiences as they develop their translation skills, giving them the opportunity to practice translating all kinds of subjects and contexts. Wikipedia is certainly extremely useful and enriches our provision”

12 students attended the event at the National Library, and 9 new articles were created. In many cases, making information about these people available in Welsh for the first time. New articles include German novelist Gerhart Hauptmann, who won the Nobel prize for literature in 1912 and English Children’s author Joan Aiken. You can find a full list of articles created are available on Wikimedia.

We hope to facilitate similar events in the future in order to support the improvement of Welsh language content online and to encourage Welsh Universities to think about how they can do the same.

Jason Evans

National Wikimedian

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The WiciLlên project

Collections / Events / News / News and Events / Research - Posted 10-09-2019

Sharing data and information about Welsh literature with the world

The National Library of Wales working in partnership with Menter Iaith Môn for a second time has secured a grant from the Welsh Government for the WiciLlên project, in order to deliver an ambitious project focused on openly sharing information about Welsh literature on the Wikimedia projects.

The project will consist of two main strands. Firstly the National Library will begin sharing a huge dataset of all books of Welsh interest ever published in Wales. This dataset contains information about nearly half a million books, their authors and publishers.

As part of the WiciLlên project the first 50,000 of those records will be enriched and shared as linked open data on Wikidata. The data will be searchable and reusable in dozens of languages, including Welsh. This will improve access to this important dataset, help improve citations on Wikipedia and provide opportunities for developers and researchers wishing to re-use the data.

The second strand of the project will focus on improving content on the Welsh Wikipedia. The National Library will deliver a Hackathon event and a series of Wikipedia editathons, whilst Menter Môn’s Wikipedian in Residence will deliver events for school children of different ages.

Nia Wyn Thomas, who heads Menter Iaith Môn said: “It’s a privilege, as always, to work with Wikimedia UK and the National Library to enrich open content in Welsh through the skilled hands of Anglesey’s children. Over the period of the collaboration, we are proud of the work that has been achieved, and the impact of the work around developing children’s digital competency through the medium of Welsh, be it their first, or second language. The influence of the work on the development of the Welsh language is also great, in a field where the language is not always seen as progressive”

The project has already started and will run until March 2020.

Jason Evans

National Wikimedian

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The Peniarth Manuscripts: a bountiful harvest

Collections / Digitisation / Events / News / News and Events / Research - Posted 15-10-2018

Back in March, the Library published the first group of Peniarth Manuscripts to have been digitised as part of an ambitious plan to present the contents of the entire collection online.

This week, as the Library celebrates items and collections which have been inscribed on UNESCO’s UK Memory of the World Register, we announce that images of a further 25 manuscripts from the Peniarth Collection have appeared on our website. They are presented here according to dates of creation:

From the 14th century, we welcome 190, a Welsh manuscript containing religious texts such as Lucidar and Ymborth yr Enaid, together with 328 and 329, two legal manuscripts in Norman-French, with the latter containing the text of Magna Carta.

From the beginning of the 15th century, we welcome the Latin and English religious texts of 334, and from the middle of that century, the work of Petrarch in a Latin manuscript produced at Oxford (336), and the Welsh text of Gwassanaeth Meir (191). An abundant crop from the second half of the century includes Welsh Law (175), a calendar in the hand of Gutun Owain (186), and poems written by Huw Cae Llwyd (189).

A dearth of sources from the first half of the 16th century is followed by an abundant crop from 1550 onwards, including the manuscripts of Roger Morris of Coed-y-talwrn (169), Thomas Evans of Hendreforfudd (187), lexicographer Thomas Wiliems (188), Simwnt Fychan (189), and another version of Gwassanaeth Meir (192).  Pedigrees are represented in 193, and medical tracts in 184, 206 and 207.

Robert Vaughan did not neglect contemporary manuscripts, and 17th century examples include a collection of Welsh poetry (184), grammars and vocabularies written by John Jones of Gellilyfdy (295, 296, 302, 304 and 305), and volumes written by Robert Vaughan himself (180 and 185).

Finally, one lonely manuscript of Welsh sermons (324) from the 18th century, possibly the product of Montgomeryshire.

For a complete list of all Peniarth Manuscripts available digitally, consult the dedicated Peniarth Collection page on our website. Meanwhile, our diligent digitizers continue to work through the collection!

Maredudd ap Huw
Curator of Manuscripts

Humphrey Llwyd the man who put Wales on the map

#LoveMaps / Collections / News and Events - Posted 16-08-2018

The 21st of August 2018 marks the 450th anniversary of the death of one of the most important figures of the Welsh renaissance, Humphrey Llwyd of Denbigh. To commemorate this event the National Library of Wales will be holding an exhibition about Llwyd and his work.

Humphrey Llwyd was born in about 1527 in Denbigh. He studied at Oxford obtaining his M.A. in 1551. In 1553 he entered the service of the Earl of Arundel and remained in his retinue for the rest of his life.

One of Llwyd’s functions seems to have been to collect books for Arundel’s library as well as for the Library of Arundel’s son-in-law Lord Lumley, whose sister Llwyd married. These combined Libraries including some of Llwyd’s own books, eventually became part of the Royal Collection now at the British Library.

Returning to Denbigh, Llwyd was elected M.P. for the Denbigh Boroughs in 1563 and subsequently helped to steer the Bill for translating the Bible into Welsh through the Commons.
In 1566 he accompanied Arundel on a trip to the Continent where he was introduced to Abraham Ortelius and a firm friendship blossomed between the two. After returning home Llwyd wrote to Ortelius on at least two occasions providing information relating to Wales which were published after his death by Ortelius in his atlas Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, including the map of Wales Cambriae Typus, the work for which he is now best known. In addition to his maps Llwyd produced a number of works about Welsh history which were also not published until after his death.

The letter shown here is his final letter to Ortelius, written from his deathbed sending one of his texts along with the maps he had made. He apologises that is works are not in better order and regrets that his impending death did not leave him time to improve them, he died 18 days later. The letter is a poignant testimony to the esteem in which this great Welsh polymath was held, kept by Ortelius, who became one of his greatest proponents.

During his life he was described as “the most famous antiquarius of all our country” and his biographer Anthony Wood described him as “a person of great eloquence, an excellent rhetorician, a sound philosopher, and a most noted antiquary, and a person of great skill and knowledge in British affairs.”

Llwyd’s reputation as one of the leading lights of the Welsh renaissance and indeed as one of the creators of modern Welsh national identity has been neglected in the years since his death. Saunders Lewis described him as “one of the most important of Welsh humanists and a key figure in the history of the Renaissance in Wales”.

In recent years, however, there has been a new appreciation of Llwyd’s contribution, there is an ongoing AHRC funded project based around his work “Humphrey Llwyd – Inventor of Britain”, and next year the results of this project will be shown alongside a major exhibition about Llwyd here at the National Library.

The current exhibition runs from the 20th to the 31st August in the Summers Room, come along and find out more about the man who put Wales on the map.

#LoveMaps – Dr Shaun Evans

#LoveMaps / Collections / News and Events - Posted 09-08-2018

Dr. Shaun Evans is Director of the Institute for the Study of Welsh Estates, an all-Wales research centre based at Bangor University which explores issues relating to the history, culture and landscapes of Wales, through the prisms of estates and their cultural heritage collections.  @YstadauCymru

 ‘This place ain’t big enough for the two of us’ – what happens at the boundaries of estates?

My final contribution to the series of blogs on Welsh estate maps focuses on the theme of boundaries. As previously discussed, ownership of land was a crucial part of the Welsh gentry’s claims to status, honour and authority. These connections between land and power often led to strong assertions of territoriality from estate owners and provided a major impetus for the production of estate maps: records which visually asserted the location, extent and composition of an individual’s domains.

The vast majority of estate maps were commissioned to show the lands belonging a single estate. Typically, little or no detail is shown for land not owned by the individual commissioning the map. They do however often give an indication of who owned the adjacent lands, inscribing the names of neighbouring landowners at the margins of the territories marked on the map. This was especially the case if the estate in question was not consolidated, but rather a patchwork of lands intermixed with the landholdings of other estates.

The question I want to explore in this blog is what happened at the boundaries of two estates?

Boundaries were often marked in the landscape by physical features such as trees, rivers, hedgerows, walls and ditches. There are also many examples in Wales of boundary stones marking out the limits of an estate in a landscape, such as in the Black Mountains, Breconshire, which features a line of early-19th century stones demarcating the lands of the Macnamaras of Llangoed Hall . In some places, there was also a tradition of ‘beating the bounds’, which involved groups of local people walking around the boundaries of a manor or parish, thereby inscribing the limits into the memory of the local populace.

Despite these attempts to sure up boundaries, they were regularly the subject of disputes, which could often lead to law cases.

In the National Library of Wales there is a map which focuses on the boundaries of two estates situated around a stretch of Afon Cothi in the parish of Cynwyl Gaeo, Carmarthenshire. The map appears to have been produced in response to a lawsuit filed in the Court of Great Sessions in 1778 by John Johnes, the squire of Dolaucothi, against William Davys of Kencoed (Cefn-Coed Mawr) relating to ‘the watercourse’ (Eaton Evans & Williams Solicitors Records, 3281, 7469).

The map signals an attempt to differentiate between the two estates, with Mr. Johnes’ lands outlined in black and Mr. Davys’ in red and green (the lands in green having been recently acquired by Mr. Davys, previously forming part of the Millfield / Maesyfelin estate). The map shows the proximity of the two houses and though the Dolaucothi mansion was clearly the more eminent structure (surrounded by formal gardens and outbuildings including a barn and mill), the map gives the impression that Kencoed was too close for comfort. The two estates were interfering with one another’s territorial assertions.

A yellow line on the map marks the boundary between the two estates, which for the most part follows the course of the river, though there are two small areas, marked in blue, which are referred to as ‘unknown property’. The lands adjoining the river are marked with 28 numbers, which relate to written notes and explanations on the side of the map.

What becomes clear from these notes is that both estates had been making extensive use of the watercourse as part of their schemes of land and resource management. Two of the notes refer to ‘the water diverted from its usual channel to Kencoed’ and ‘the trench made by Richard Davies about 30 years past to convey water to Kencoed’; whereas reference is also made to ‘the reservoir of water for watering Cae-cwm-yr-hen-d? Issa and other lands of Dolecothy demesne’ and ‘a trench to convey water to Cae Rodyn & other lands of Dolecothy demesne in winter and spring for watering the same’.

Both the Dolaucothi and Kencoed estates had redirected or channelled the watercourse to meet their needs, with notes referring to:

– ‘The place the water formerly divided, part going to the mill and the remainder thro Henberllan to Dolecothy mansion’;
– ‘The channel of the watercourse formerly in the upper part of Cae Rodyn and Cae T? Bach’;
– ‘That part of the trench which conveyed the water by Waynnefain hedge, years past & upwards’;
– ‘A trench that formerly conveyed the water to Dolecothy’.

However, the schemes were incompatible, leading to a dispute over the water resources. One of the notes mentions ‘the new trench cut by Mr. Johnes and ye water diverted from thence by Mr. Davys’ servants to the ancient channel’; and others refer to ‘the trench that conveys the water in dispute to Kencoed’ and ‘the trench for conveying the water in dispute to water Cae-cwm-yr-hen-d? Issa and other lands at Dolecothy demesne.’ In addition to the dispute over the water, the various schemes which had necessitated the redirection of the watercourse had moved, or at least complicated, the boundary between the two estates, one of the notes referring to ‘the piece of land in dispute’.

The outcome of the Great Sessions case is unknown, though the map gives the impression that the area was unable to sustain the pretentions of the two neighbouring estates. It is perhaps of little surprise that Kencoed and its surrounding lands were purchased by the Dolaucothi estate in 1856 (Dolaucothi Estate Records, 179). The proximity of Kencoed, plus the competition it provided over use of the watercourse, would have provided a significant driver for consolidation, swallowing up the lands to bring them fully into the Dolaucothi ambit of authority.

Over the forthcoming months and years the Institute for the Study of Welsh Estates plans to promote further research into Wales’ collections of estate maps. To keep up to date with our work, news and events, please email iswe@bangor.ac.uk to subscribe to our mailing list.

 

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A blog about the work and collections of the National Library of Wales.

Due to the more personal nature of blogs it is the Library's policy to publish postings in the original language only. An equal number of blog posts are published in both Welsh and English, but they are not the same postings. For a translation of the blog readers may wish to try facilities such as Google Translate.

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