Blog - Research

Thomas Stephens Letters: Transcripts now available online

Collections / Research - Posted 17-08-2017

As part of a Leverhulme Trust funded project on Thomas Stephens of Merthyr Tydfil at the University of Wales Centre for Celtic Studies, transcripts of over 400 letters sent to the Chemist of Merthyr Tydfil who fuelled a revolution in Welsh historical scholarship are now available online. Team members Marion Löffler and Adam Coward, whose aim is to rediscover Thomas Stephens and re-establish his work, have decided to make the first fruits of its research available to the public in this way.
Thomas Stephens’s voluminous archive was donated to the National Library of Wales in 1916, and most of the letters to him were bound in two volumes, Letters A-M (NLW MS 964i-iiE) and Letters M-W (NLW MS 965i-iiE), 1840-1876. The Library’s website therefore seemed the natural home for our transcripts of letters sent to Merthyr from Australia, America, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Scotland, Switzerland and Wales, but which have long found a permanent home in Aberystwyth.
Are you are interested in Merthyr Tydfil and Welshmen in Australia, Welsh Victorian scholarship and druids, cromlechs and antiquarians, or the eisteddfod, Unitarians and European scholarly connections? Would you like to read letters by Victorian luminaries like Augusta Hall (Lady Llanofer), Walter Davies (Gwallter Mechain), Harry Longueville Jones, Thomas Price (Carnhuanawc) and Hersart de la Villemarqué? Then click on these links to the manuscripts and the transcripts:

HAVE A LOOK AT THE PROJECT HERE: Knowledge Transfer and Social Networks: European Learning and the Revolution in Welsh Victorian Scholarship

Marion Löffler Dipl.Päd. Dr.Phil. FRHS
Reader University of Wales CAWCS, Knowledge Exchange and Social Networks
Assistant Editor Dictionary of Welsh Biography
Head of Graduate Studies

A Welsh cinematic journey via the Library’s online newspapers

Collections / Digitisation / Research - Posted 24-04-2017

Whilst reading the current issue of Empire magazine, I came across an article on how “Citizen Kane” lost out to “How Green Was My Valley” for the Best Picture award in the 1942 Oscars. The article got me thinking about other Welsh films or films set in Wales, and I decided to see if I could find some more interesting articles in the Library’s collection of online newspapers. (*To access these resources from outside the Library building you will have to use your reader’s ticket. If you haven’t got a reader’s ticket you can register very easily here).

I began by searching for a report of the 1942 Oscars Ceremony, and found this in the Telegraph Historical Archive:


(The Telegraph Historical Archive, 1855-2000)



As you can see, this is a far cry from the awards hysteria we see today. However, to be fair, they did have more pressing matters to report about at the time!


Staying with the academy awards, my next search was for “Hedd Wyn”, the first ever Welsh language film to be nominated. It was interesting to find in this article in The Guardian that the Academy’s board was unaware of the existence of the Welsh language, and that the film was only selected after a Welsh-English dictionary was sent to them as proof!

(ProQuest Historical Newspapers (Guardian & The Observer))



Ask anyone who was a teenager growing up in Wales during the late 90s to name a Welsh film, and I guarantee you they’ll all have the same answer: Twin Town.  This tale of the Lewis twins causing havoc across Swansea remains a firm favourite, but I discovered there was an outcry in some quarters upon its release. To my surprise, I read in this article in the Sunday Times that some appealed for the film to be banned due to its “amoral” nature.

(The Sunday Times Digital Archive 1822-2006)



“Twin Town” was released at the height of Cool Cymru. Sticking with that theme, Gruff Rhys from the Super Furry Animals has ventured into film making in the last few years. His last film was “American Interior”, which traced the story of a 22-year-old farmhand from Snowdonia who travelled to America in 1792 in search of a fabled Welsh-speaking Native American tribe called the Madogwys. It’s a fascinating story, and it was fantastic to find out that Gruff had used the National Library’s archives when researching for the film.




Of course, I couldn’t write this blog without giving a mention to the film that was recently filmed at the Library!




As you can see, these online newspapers provide users with a wealth of information at their fingertips. Also, if this blog has given you an urge to watch any of these great Welsh films, remember that they’re available to view from the National Screen and Sound Archive, and are also available to buy from the Library shop.


Paul Jackson

Legal Deposit, Electronic and Acquisitions Librarian

Thomas Pennant’s Description of London

Collections / News / Research - Posted 20-03-2017

The Library has an extensive collection of the works of Thomas Pennant (1726-1798), the naturalist, antiquary and traveller who was born in Downing in Flintshire.  The first volume of his Tours in Wales was published in 1778, and the second (the first part under the title A journey in Snowdonia) in 1781.  His main work on zoology (British zoology) appeared in four volumes between 1761 and 1777, with a new edition published in 1812.


Pennant travelled extensively in the British Isles and the continent of Europe.  His description of London was first published in 1790, and a new edition appeared in 1814 with the title Some account of London, Westminster, and Southwark, including a number of additional illustrations.  I recently purchased a copy of this edition to add to our collections.


The illustrations show how much the capital has changed in two centuries.  The general view of the city still looks quite rural.  In the picture of Westminster the Abbey looks familiar but the iconic building of the Palace of Westminster does not appear, most of the present building dating from after the fire in 1834.


This copy is in four volumes bound in blue morocco with gold tooling.  The bookplate with the name Gyrn shows that the volumes were in a private collection in Wales before turning up in the catalogue of a bookseller in London.


Timothy Cutts

Rare Books Librarian

Gender equilibrium

Events / News / News and Events / Research - Posted 09-03-2017

The Welsh Wicipedia becomes gender neutral.

The Welsh Wicipedia has become one of the first Wikipedia’s in the world to offer as many articles about women as it does about men.


Historically Wikipedia has struggled to attract female editors, who make up around 15% of Wikipedia contributors globally, and this is reflected in the imbalance of content being created.

Addressing this gender imbalance has been a strategic priority for Wikimedia for some time and Wikimedia UK has been working with partners in Wales to help put things right.


The National Library of Wales, have been partnering with Wikimedia UK for several years have been doing their bit to encourage more Women to edit Wikipedia.


Last year the Library took part in the global Art and Feminism Edit-a-thon, which takes place in hundreds of locations around the world. This was the first time the event was held in Wales.


This year the Library’s Wikimedian in Residence will be helping a Machynlleth community group to run their own Art & Feminism Wikipedia event.

The library’s award winning volunteer team has also been getting stuck in, with 10 women volunteers now contributing weekly to Wikipedia projects.


The fact that the Welsh language Wicipedia exists at all is testament to the resolve of the people of Wales not just to preserve the Welsh language but to see it flourish, but a Wikipedians work is never done! Why not give editing a try?

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Syrup of turnips anyone? Early Welsh books on popular medicine

Collections / Digitisation / Research - Posted 27-02-2017


Books on medicine and public health, which we’re currently in the process of assessing, form an important part of the Welsh Print Collection. Welsh interest in medicine and the medical has a long pedigree dating back to the Physicians of Myddfai and beyond. Welsh works on medicine date back to William Salesbury’s 16th century treatise on herbs and herbal medicines, Llysieulyfr, not published until 1916, through to the profusion of books on popular medicine published in the 18th and 19th centuries and towards the present day.


This blog will focus on three of the many books published about popular medicine in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The growth in the publication of books on the subject during this period was part of a boom in the publication of books on specialist subjects for the general reader that was fueled by the emergence of a growing literate population, hungry for new knowledge of all kinds.


The first book under consideration is Nathaniel Williams’s Pharmacopoeia, originally published in 1793, with a second edition following in 1835. Williams, besides being a controversial preacher and theologian, was also an amateur doctor and his book continued a tradition of Welsh works on the medicinal properties of herbs and their application dating back to the herbal remedies of the Myddfai Physicians included in the Red Book of Hergest and other manuscripts. The first herbal in the Welsh language, Llyfr Meddyginiaeth a Physygwriaeth i’r Anafus ar Clwyfus, had been published in 1750. Williams’ own book was a follow up to his Darllen Dwfr a Meddyginiaeth, published in 1785. Williams’ Pharmacopoeia was a bilingual book that offered herbal remedies for a large range of maladies ranging from asthma and rheumatism to liver complaints, scurvy and consumptive fits, along with recipes and instructions for preparation of a good poultice, bitter wine, purging drinks and the ever-so-appetising syrup of turnips.


The second book under consideration is Pob dyn yn phisygwr iddo ei hun ac i’w anifeiliaid hefyd, which, reflecting the closer symbiosis of humans and nature at this time, offered advice to the general reader on how to treat both themselves, their families and their animals. First published in 1771, Pob dyn yn phisygwr was hugely popular; by the 1820s it was on its seventh edition. The first part informed the reader of the symptoms and remedies for a large number of ailments ranging from the most mundane such as bad breath and dealing with itches to serious illnesses such as diabetes and smallpox. The second part offered remedies for common aliments amongst horses, cattle, sheep and pigs.


The final book under consideration is Elfenau Meddyginiaeth, published in 1852, a translation of Alfred Smee’s Accidents and Emergencies. Elfenau Meddyginiaeth is an example of an early illustrated first-aid book offering the reader advice on how to treat a large number of injuries and ailments including wounds, broken bones, animal bites and fits as well as treating victims of drowning and other life-threatening situations.


All three books offer a fascinating glimpse into the type of popular medicine practiced during this period and how this practical knowledge was presented and disseminated to an increasingly literate population. In a period when registered medical practitioners were thin on the ground in Wales it is little wonder that these books were popular. They also offer a glimpse into the state of popular medical knowledge during this period, which remained to a large extent dependent on the traditions of herbal medicine, Elfenau Meddyginiaeth is to some extent an exception. Some significant breakthroughs, such as Edward Jenner’s development of a vaccine for smallpox, were still to register in these works. Within a generation significant steps would to be taken in the development of medical knowledge coupled with a further professionalization of medical practitioners, leading to the emergence of a recognisably modern medical practice in Wales.



  1. Robin Chapman – ‘The Turn of the Tide: Melancholy and Modernity in Mid-Victorian Wales’, Welsh History Review 27 (3), 2015, pp. 503-527.

Melfyn R. Williams – ‘Yr Hen Gyfrolau Meddyginiaethol’, Y Casglwr 4, 1978, p. 13.

Nathaniel Williams, Dictionary of Welsh Biography.

Pamela Michael – ‘An Overview of the History of Health and Medicine in Wales’ in Health and Society in Twentieth Century Wales, Cardiff, 2006, pp. 1-59.



Dr Douglas Jones

Published Collections Projects Manager.


Collections / Events / News / News and Events / Research - Posted 20-01-2017

A new project will focus on improving Welsh language Wikipedia coverage of the Welsh Pop Music scene.

The Welsh Wicipedia contains around 90,000 Welsh language articles and the Wikipop project aims to add 500 more articles in a bid to record and enrich the written history of the vibrant Welsh music scene.

Source: Wikimedia Commons CC_BY. Attribution Silvio Tanaka, 2009.

January marks two years since the National Library of Wales first appointed a Wikipedian in Residence. In those two years the Library has helped to train new Wikipedia editors who have created hundreds of new articles, and the library has lead the way in promoting open access to Welsh cultural heritage.


15,000 digital images from the library’s collections have been shared on an open license via Wikimedia Commons and library images used in Wikipedia articles have now been viewed nearly 200 million times.


Now, with the help of a grant from the Welsh Government and in collaboration with Wikimedia UK, the National Library is embarking on a 3 month project to create and improve Welsh language Wicipedia articles about Welsh pop music.


The aim is to create 500 new articles using a variety of methods including an outreach program and a series of ‘edit-a-thon’ events which will encourage people to write new content.


Members of the public and organisations will be encouraged to share information which may already be available, and coders and the National Library will trial automated creation of Wikipedia articles using data.

If you would like to be involved in this exciting new project, please get in touch.


Jason Evans

Wikimedian in Residence at the National Library of Wales

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There had come to Aberystwyth a great opportunity. Were they going to rise to it?

Collections / News and Events / Research - Posted 28-11-2016

This call to arms came from the industrialist David Davies of Llandinam in a speech he gave to a packed public meeting held in Aberystwyth in May 1905. He declared that ‘[w]hat they wanted was the pence, shillings and five pound notes of all the people in Aberystwyth to prove…that they were worthy of the great, trust, honour and privilege offered’. Of course, that privilege was the National Library of Wales.


In February 1905 the Treasury had agreed to make a contribution towards the cost of establishing a national museum and library for Wales, and it was announced that a Privy Council Committee was to be formed to decide where these institutions should be located. The announcement made clear that a great emphasis would be placed by the committee on the amount of public subscriptions raised by each town. By 1910 a total of 872 subscriptions had been recorded which came from individuals, couples, families, businesses, groups and local authorities from across Wales. They pledged from as little as 10s. up to £5,000 towards the building of the library at Aberystwyth.


One Cardiganshire resident, John Francis, pledged £100 to the fund. A London-Welsh businessman with shops in Brixton, he had retired to Cardiganshire and purchased the Wallog estate, north of Aberystwyth. At the other end of the scale, Barnett Pareezer, a theatrical manager based at the New Market Hall pledged 10s. 8d. Pareezer was Polish and travelled around Britain with his wife who was a ballad vocalist and sketch artist.



If you would like to find out more about the early subscribers to the library building fund, I will be giving a talk on the subject on 30th November at 1.15 in the Drwm.



Calista Williams


Calista is in the process of completing her PhD on the topic of the National Library of Wales and National Identity, c.1840-1916.

The National Library of Wales on Flickr

Digitisation / Exhibitions / News and Events / Research - Posted 03-11-2016

Explore thousands of images from the archives on Flickr Commons

Users of the National Library of Wales website can explore many thousands of digital images from the library’s vast collections.

However, we also believe in sharing our digital content as widely as possible, and sharing our content with the popular Flickr community gives us a great opportunity to engage with new users and share the rich visual history of Wales.

Over the years the images we have shared with Flickr have been viewed millions of times, and there appear to be some clear favourites, like ‘Dog with a pipe’ which went viral, attracting more than 25,000 views.

Every month at least 20 new images are hand picked and uploaded to Flickr and this month we have kept it topical, uploading old photographs of Bonfire builders and fireworks displays.

New content is being added all the time so why not follow us on Flickr to see all our latest uploads?

Jason Evans, Digital Access

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Gabriel Goodman’s Library

Collections / Research - Posted 24-10-2016

For the past few months I have been cataloguing the library of Gabriel Goodman (1528-1601), Dean of Westminster and founder of Christ’s Hospital, Ruthin.  The collection of about 130 volumes consists mainly of theological works in Latin, especially commentaries on various books of the Bible.  Most of the books were printed during Gabriel Goodman’s lifetime, but the collection also includes four books printed in the 15th century.




Gabriel Goodman lived in a century of religious turmoil, and disliked Catholics and Puritans equally.  Many of the books in his library were printed at the major Protestant presses of Europe, in cities such as Basel and Geneva.  He was a member of the Royal Commission for the settlement of Jesus College, Oxford in 1589, and was concerned in the foundation of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge in 1598.  He assisted in the production of Bishop William Morgan’s Welsh Bible in 1588, and was an important link between Wales and the Court.




Gabriel Goodman was in the habit of signing the title pages of his books, usually adding the motto Gratia Dei sum quod sum (“By the grace of God I am what I am”).  Unfortunately this has led to their being mutilated by autograph hunters, with the result that many of the books have lost their title pages.  Extensive detective work has been needed to identify these books, making this one of the most challenging collections I have catalogued.




Once the cataloguing is complete, the collection will be available for researchers to investigate the theological and scholarly influences on this significant 16th-century Welsh churchman.


Timothy Cutts

Rare Books Librarian

Statista: From late trains to holiday destinations!

Collections / Reader Services / Research - Posted

Are you fed up with late or cancelled trains? And how often does that happen exactly? There are a number of interesting sets of statistics available on Statista (*To access Statista from outside the Library building you will have to use your reader’s ticket. If you haven’t got a reader’s ticket you can register very easily here.  After choosing Statista click on Login and then scroll down to Campus access and choose National Library of Wales to log in for the first time).


You can see how Arriva Trains Wales are doing in keeping to their schedules:


To see this graph on Statista about Arriva Trains Wales from outside the Library’s building register for a reader’s ticket (see * above).


And I wonder how Arriva compare with other train companies in the UK?

Not bad!

To see this graph on Statista about train companies from outside the Library’s building register for a reader’s ticket (see * above).


It’s possible that Arriva’s trains are a bit old but are they getting older?


To see this graph on Statista about the age of the stock of Arriva Trains Wales from outside the Library’s building register for a reader’s ticket (see * above).


Maybe that’s why more people own one of these in Wales than ever before:


To see this graph on Statista about the ownership of cars in Wales from outside the Library’s building register for a reader’s ticket (see * above).


For those of you thinking of getting to your destination on a bike:


To see this graph on Statista about bicycle thefts in England and Wales from outside the Library’s building register for a reader’s ticket (see * above).


Be careful of tourists! They’re on the increase in Wales as well.


To see this graph on Statista about tourist visits to Wales from outside the Library’s building register for a reader’s ticket (see * above).


Which isn’t a bad thing for the economy:


To see this graph on Statista about tourists spending on holiday visits to Wales from outside the Library’s building register for a reader’s ticket (see * above).



Robert Lacey

Head of Collection Development


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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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