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Lady Charlotte Guest and the culture of the Orient

Collections / Uncategorized - Posted 15-11-2021

A few weeks ago the Library bought a copy of the first edition of “Ta’rikh al-rusul wa’l-muluk” by Muhammad ibn-Jarir al-Tabari, one of the most historical and noteworthy books from the classical Arab world according to the Encyclopedia Iranica. The main reason for purchasing the book was the inclusion of a presentation sheet for Lady Charlotte Guest from the Oriental Translation Fund, which was attached to one of the first pages of the book. This illustrates the respect and admiration which scholars of the eastern languages had for Guest.



Lady Charlotte Guest married Josiah John Guest, the Merthyr Tydfil M.P. and the Master of Dowlais Ironworks. The iron works flourished and quickly increased in size to employ seven thousand people, the largest iron works in the world. Lady Charlotte took great interest in the day to day running of the business, including publishing a pamphlet explaining the technicalities of the use of a hot blast. She travelled widely with her husband within Britain and Europe and contributed to meetings with scientists such as Charles Babbage. She also had her own room in the company’s London office. After her husband’s death she became responsible for the business.

After learning middle Welsh and studying medieval Welsh history under the Reverends Evan Jenkin, Thomas Price (Carnhuanawc) and John Jones (“Tegid Jones”), Lady Charlotte became famous for copying and translating eleven books from the Red Book of Hergest. These were the four tales of the Mabinogi, three Arthurian Romances and four other tales. She also translated the “The book of Taliessin”, a middle Welsh manuscript. She was inspired by studying works of the Romantic revelation and the works of William Owen Pughe. By researching, she noticed the influences and the mythological ideas which were woven into the Mabinogi.

It is a sign of Charlotte Guest’s ability that she succeeded to teach herself Arabic, Hebrew and Persian without the help of a teacher to guide her. The period written about in “Ta’rikh al-rusul wa’l-muluk” spans from the creation of the world to the period of the Prophet Shu’ayb in the Quran. It is quite possible that she drew from these writings while translating the Mabinogi. This is one of the first works published by The Oriental Translation Fund, whose admiration for the work of Lady Charlotte is clearly shown in the presentation sheet.



1. John, A., Parry-Williams, T. Guest (Schreiber), Lady Charlotte Elizabeth Bertrie (1812-1895), translator, businesswoman and collector. Available at

2. Bromwich, R. The Mabinogion and Lady Charlotte GuestThe Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion, 1986, 127-41

3. John, A. Schreiber [néeBertie; other married name Guest], Lady Charlotte Elizabeth. Available at (Accessed 16 October 2021)


Hywel Lloyd,

Assistant Librarian.

The First Educational Book from the Pacific

Uncategorized - Posted 26-04-2021

While working from home, the staff of the Collection Development Section have continued to add to the Library’s collection.  One of the most unusual books purchased recently is Aritemeti: oia te haapaoraaotetaio e te faa au raa o te numera.  Despite its long title, this is a small book of 16 pages, bound in marbled leather covers.



This is probably the first educational text published in the Pacific.  It was printed by the Windward Mission Press in Tahiti in 1822.  The author was John Davies of Llanfihangel-yng-Ngwynfa, Montgomeryshire (1772-1855), who served as a missionary for 54 years under the London Missionary Society in the South Sea Islands.  His other works include a dictionary and grammar of the Tahitian language and translations of Pilgrim’s progress, substantial portions of the New Testament and Psalms, and the Westminster catechism.

The book is a basic mathematical text listing the numbers in Tahitian and teaching how to add, subtract, multiply and divide.  At the end is a list of important events in Tahiti from 1606 to 1822.  The text is based on an earlier edition published on the island of Huahine in the Leeward Islands in 1819.  The Windward Mission Press moved to Wilk’s Harbour, Papeete, in April 1818, and this is onoe of the first books printed there.  The Library already owns a copy of Matthew’s Gospel in Tahitian printed by the press in 1820.

This little book is evidence of the influence of Welsh missionaries on the other side of the world.


Timothy Cutts

Rare Books Librarian

Tuberculosis Eradication in Wales: 1912 – 1948

Collections / Uncategorized - Posted 04-04-2019

International Tuberculosis Day was on March 24. It was a day to raise awareness of the devastating impact of the disease on health, society and economy. This blog looks at the campaign to eradicate tuberculosis in Wales by the Welsh National Memorial Association of King Edward VII, WNMA.

Tuberculosis (TB) was a major problem in Wales in 1900. In 1910, seven of the fifteen worst affected counties in Wales and England were in Wales and the five counties with the highest mortality rates were also in Wales. A plan was needed to deal with the disease and with the vision of one man, David Davies, MP (1880-1944) the WNMA began.

On 30 September 1910, in a meeting in Shrewsbury, a decision was made to commemorate King Edward VII by creating a campaign to eradicate TB in Wales and Monmouthshire.  Some years earlier, King Edward VII referred to the need to prevent TB: ‘If preventable, why not prevented?’ The sum of £300,000 was needed – half this amount was donated by David Davies. He became the first president of the WNMA, which was incorporated on 17 May 1912. The Campaign had four main aims:

  • Funding pharmacies across Wales
  • Providing residential establishments including sanatoria at Sully Hospital, Cardiff and Craig-y-Nos in Breconshire
  • Creating an educational department to publish educational material and host anti-tuberculosis lectures.
  • Funding a research department at the Welsh National School of Medicine, including the David Davies Tuberculosis Chair.

A Newtown office was established and an advisory committee of 6 medical experts were appointed to work in education, disease detection, treatment, post treatment, and research. David Lloyd George, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, provided funding for sanatoria for the whole population through the 1911 National Insurance Act. By the Public Health Act (Tuberculosis) in 1921, all Welsh local authorities had transferred funding to the WNMA. Now, one national body existed with overall responsibility for the treatment and management of tuberculosis in Wales.

The educational campaign concentrated on training individuals to avoid TB. Between October 1911 and March 1913, 80 touring exhibitions took place. The Campaign’s caravan, bought to facilitate traveling to rural Welsh schools, made it possible to educate and lecture 11,500 children on ‘The Laws of Health and the Prevention of Tuberculosis’. Topics included: sleep, fresh air at night, home lighting, healthy food, tooth hygiene, clothing, body and hair hygiene, and the link between milk and saliva and the spread of TB.

The Campaign built two new hospitals and bought several hospitals and country mansions (such as Craig-y-Nos, Swansea). Over the next twenty years a network of pharmacies and hospitals had been created:

  • 5 Sanitoria (Menai Bridge, Denbigh, Talgarth, Llanybydder and Llandrindod Wells)
  • 12 Hospitals (total 1,600 beds)
  • 14 Pharmacies
  • 85 Visiting Stations
  • 22 X-ray Stations.

In early 1930s there were 11,000 new cases a year. Nurses and health visitors visited 40,000 homes annually. The King Edward VII National Memorial Association had become one of the most comprehensive plans to deal with tuberculosis. The results of the campaign were evident at an early stage with steady reductions in mortality rates from tuberculosis. Author Glynne R. Jones says:

‘There are few families in Wales without reason for gratitude to the WNMA, which had grown to be the foremost anti-tuberculosis organisation in the British Empire, if not the world – a fitting memorial to a king, which has ensured the WNMA a place of honour in Welsh History.’

NLW holds a complete collection of WNMA annual reports and minute books which form an important part of the Medical Printed Collection. The ‘Medicine and Health in Wales before the NHS’  project will digitise these collections and they will be displayed online later this year.

For further information, contact Branwen Rhys.


01970 632996

Twitter @NLWPrintandMore    #MedHistWales

A rare publication on the death of Captain Cook

Collections / Uncategorized - Posted 28-01-2019

The Library has bought a very rare book by a Welshman who was present when the explorer Captain James Cook was killed.  David Samwell was born in Denbighshire in 1751.  He had a particular interest in English and Welsh literature and in the Welsh cultural movements of his time, and wrote a great deal of poetry in Welsh and English.  He was President of the Gwyneddigion Society in 1797.  The Library owns his manuscripts, including correspondence with Iolo Morganwg.

Samwell sailed with Captain Cook as “surgeon’s first mate” on the Resolution in 1776 and witnessed Cook’s death in a skirmish with natives in Hawaii in 1779.  He wrote a full account of the event, and after his return to England published it in 1786 under the title A narrative of the death of Captain James Cook.  The Library already has two copies of this.  But in the same year, a French translation was published with the title Détails nouveaux et circonstanciés sur la mort du Capitaine Cook.  This is particularly rare, with only three known copies in other libraries throughout the world, so when a copy came up for sale we took the opportunity to add this important item to the collections of the National Library of Wales.

Timothy Cutts

Rare Books Librarian

First look at the new Dictionary of Welsh Biography website

Uncategorized - Posted 23-08-2018

The Library has given access to the the Alpha version of the new Dictionary of Welsh Biography website, giving us a first glimpse of the changes we can expect to see when it is launched in the autumn.

Here is some of the background to the project, a summary of what you will find in the Alpha version, and how you can help with the development of the new website in the coming weeks.

The Dictionary of Welsh Biography

The Dictionary of Welsh Biography (DWB) features nearly 5,000 biographies of men and women who have made noteable contrubutions to life in Wales and beyond. The Dictionary first appeared in print volumes, and their content has been available digitally since the launch of the website in 2003.

Through collaboration between the Honorable Society of Cymmrodorion, the Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies and the National Library of Wales, new and revised articles are now added to the resource since it turned digital.

The current website

The current DWB website allows users to:

  • search by person name
  • search by keyword (the entire text of the articles)
  • Browse through the articles by subject’s surname in alphabetical order.

Articles are written in text, with some illustrated with images of the subject.

The value and potential of the DWB as a resource was stated in the Library’s Strategic Plan for 2017-2021, The Nation’s Memory: Informing the Future, and has led the project to update and improve the website. The delivery of the project has been made possible with the financial support of the Colwinston Trust and the National Library, and we aim to launch the new website in the autumn.

What’s different about the Alpha website?

The purpose of the Alpha website is to ensure that the functions are working as they should. A new design hasn’t yet been applied and not all of the articles on the current website have been added to it.

However, this version does include some new features that are worthy of note:

  • Improved searching functionality which notes if the name searched is mentioned in other articles
  • The ability to filter search results by gender, article author, thematic category and language.
  • The ability to browse article authors in order to read their contributions.
  • More prominence on the home page to new articles.
  • Featured articles on the home page
  • A ‘key facts’ box for articles

What other features can we expect to see?

Other new features that are not currently available include:

  • Video as well as images
  • The ability to make a donation to the DWB
  • Information on how to cite an article

Another aspect that is essential to the new website is ensuring that it adapts effectively when accessed on mobile devices.

What about the design of the new website?

The design for the new website is currently in development. Links to the initial design (seen below) can be found on the homepage of the Alpha version.

The intention is for the design to be more striking visually and based on the familiar red colour.

How can you help?

We would be grateful if you would begin to use the Alpha website, and let us know:

  • Is everything is working as it should, or as you would expect?
  • What else would you like to be able to do with the DWB website?

You can send your comments, suggestions and questions to or contact us using the @WelshBiography Twitter account.


Dr Dafydd Tudur

Head of Digital Access Section

Bees in the archive

Uncategorized - Posted 09-07-2018

Did you know that a large collection of papers relating to the world of the bee is held here at the Library?

The International Bee Research Association was formed in 1949, originally as the Bee Research Association, and its archive also incorporates that of the earlier Apis Club, (active 1919- 1951). The Bee Research Association was established in Hull by bee scientist Dr Eva Crane, before eventually being based in offices in North Road, Cardiff. The aim of the association, which is still active, was to promote the value of bees by providing information on bee science, and is now one of the world’s foremost authorities in the world on bees and beekeeping.

The IBRA archive is wide ranging, consisting of documents covering the period c.1876-2004 and also including those relating to the publication of IBRA’s quarterly journal, Bee World. Many of the earlier records belonged to the Apis Club and the British Beekeepers Association, and include correspondence, reports, minutes, and conference papers. Of particular interest is the IBRA archive’s large collection of research papers which date from 1880-1988, charting the development and changing priorities of bee research over the course of a century.

The collection also contains some more unique items, a notable one being a copy of a letter to IBRA founder Dr Crane from climber and enthusiastic beekeeper Sir Edmund Hillary. Hillary notes that during his successful ascent of Everest in 1953, the team was very pleased to discover several pots of honey left on the mountain left by a previous expedition, as it was sadly not on the list of official expedition supplies.

The IBRA archive can be found and requested through the Library’s catalogue.

Lewis Morris and his quest “to search carefully for those dangers, which all others endeavour as carefully to avoid”

#LoveMaps / Collections / Digitisation / Uncategorized - Posted 16-04-2018

The Welsh Assembly Government has designated 2018 the ‘Year of the Sea’ and fittingly sea charts and other matters maritime will be topics of the day in ‘Charting the Seas’ the forthcoming Carto-Cymru Symposium at the National Library on 18th May.

Consequently this is an appropriate time to recall the life and labours of Lewis Morris, Wales’s most esteemed hydrographer.

Lewis Morris (1701-1765) was a member of the celebrated family known as the ‘Morrisiaid Môn’, or the ‘Morrises of Anglesey’ who are remembered for their cultural endeavours. Lewis Morris was a polymath, being not only a hydrographer, but also a land surveyor, customs officer, antiquary, literary scholar, philologist and mineralogist.

His work in land and marine surveying has received scant attention until recently. Morris’s marine survey of the Welsh coast, undertaken with very little official support, was a supreme pioneering achievement, especially for a self-taught hydrographer. It is for this survey that he is now recognized as one of the most eminent of British cartographers.


Morris was raised near Dulas Bay in Anglesey and living near the sea, he would have observed vessels engaged in coastal trade or on passage to and from Liverpool and witnessed or heard about shipwrecks around the region’s hazardous  coasts.

He became an estate surveyor and then a customs official on Anglesey and listened to  seamen bemoan the inadequacies of contemporary local charts. In the interests of safer navigation Morris decided to embark on the immense task of surveying the Welsh coast, despite never having been formally trained as a marine surveyor. Welsh chart making had been neglected and shipping casualties were frequent. The poor condition of Welsh roads meant that coastal sea transport was more common at this time.

In 1734 Morris unsuccessfully placed his proposals before the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, but both the Admiralty and the Customs Commissioners refused him a survey vessel and he was obliged to hire one, at his own expense.

Morris embarked on his venture at Beaumaris in July 1737. Further complications and setbacks ensued and only in 1748, with an economic upturn following the war with France together with  Admiralty encouragement were his charts published. Morris’s large general  chart showed the coast from Llandudno to Milford Haven and  twenty-five of his harbour plans were published in Plans of harbours, bars, bays and roads in St. George’s Channel, a small volume which sold well. All of his charts were a significant improvement on earlier ones and provided a wealth of information on local conditions and hazards. These works preceded improved charts from Admiralty surveys by about seventy years.

Morris’s son William revised and extended the general chart in 1800 to show the coast from Liverpool to Cardiff  and his enhanced volume published in 1801 contained additional plans of harbours which had often increased in importance during the intervening years, such as Liverpool, Amlwch, Aberaeron, New Quay, Carmarthen Bay harbours, Burry, Swansea and Dublin.


Gwilym Tawy

Map Curator


Christmas is coming!

Uncategorized - Posted 01-12-2015

We’ve joined in the Christmas festivities this year by preparing an advent calendar for our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram followers. Every day between now and Christmas day, we’ll be sharing daily treats from the Library’s collections and services.

Our first treat is this beautiful image of the Nativity from the ‘De Gray’ Hours, which dates back to the beginning of the fifteenth century.

Books of Hours were the most popular texts of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance in Western Europe. They range from exquisite and highly decorated volumes to modest texts devoid of illustration. Tens of thousands were created as commercial ventures, and thousands survive today in libraries, museums and private collections throughout the world.

Follow us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram to find out what else we have in store for you!

New Catalogue in December

Uncategorized - Posted 29-10-2015

A new Catalogue will be launched in December which will replace the Catalogue and Full Catalogue.

The timeframe has been revised (the original intention being to launch in November) in order to make further adjustments to the new Catalogue.

We would like to notify current users of the Library that there will be some changes that may affect their use of the Catalogue and require further action.

User history

Your ‘history’ as a user, which is the record of your past requests, will not be transferred to the new Catalogue.

If you wish to retain some of the information in your current ‘History’, you will need to make a copy before the new Catalogue is launched.

Specific searches

When using the new Catalogue, users will only be able to limit their searches to ‘Digital’, ‘Subscriptions’ and ‘In the Library’. These are defined as follows:

Everything: Search NLW collections and subscribed external digital content

Digital: Search NLW digital collections and subscribed external digital content

Subscriptions: Search only subscribed external content

In the Library: Search only NLW collections

Once you have entered your search, you will be able to filter those results using the facets which appear on the left-hand side of the page.

If you wish to limit your search to specific collections or datasets that were available in the old Catalogue, you will need to begin your search from the following pages:

Wills (Page will be made available with the new Catalogue)

Welsh Ballad Collection (Page will be made available with the new Catalogue)

Theses Collection Wales (Page will be made available with the new Catalogue)

There is also a full list of Resources available on the Library’s website.

We hope that will find that the new Catalogue is an improvement and that you will soon become familiar with it.

We are committed to delivering services of the highest standard and would welcome any comments or suggestions that you may have through our Enquiries Service.

Shhh! Libraries: A Quiet Revolution

Uncategorized - Posted 24-09-2015

Grand hall of the Grande Bibliothèque du Québec, Montreal; April 2005. Photograph and compositing by Montrealais.

Grand hall of the Grande Bibliothèque du Québec, Montreal; April 2005. Photograph and compositing by Montrealais.

In 2004, almost a hundred years after the founding of the National Library of Wales, the Quebec government passed an act which amalgamated the collections and services of the national library and archives with a public library facility, to create the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ). Over the summer I visited BAnQ for a book history conference, and learnt that the design of this iconic glass building in the centre of Montreal represents a key element of BAnQ’s mission statement. BAnQ aims to engage with the people and culture it represents by actually showing the public what is going on inside of the building. The key phrase I kept hearing was: the library is in the city, but the city should also exist within the library.


 La Grande Bibliothèque, 475, boulevard De Maisonneuve Est, Montréal

La Grande Bibliothèque, 475, boulevard De Maisonneuve Est, Montréal

The National Library of Quebec was actually created in 1967 at a key time in Québécois history known as the Quiet Revolution, when a surge of French-Canadian nationalism caused major socio-cultural change. This period is not dissimilar from Wales in the late nineteenth century, when a surge of Welsh nationalism became a political force, enabling institutions such as the National Library of Wales to come into being. A visually austere library, the National Library of Wales is a product of its time and was deliberately built on a hill away from the hustle and bustle of city life. However, the purpose and function of both libraries is fundamentally the same: to collect, preserve and disseminate publications and archival material relating to a particular nation or group’s culture and heritage, previously underrepresented by their designated national libraries.

Calista Williams   @Ca7ista

Calista Williams is an AHRC-funded doctoral student, about to begin her third year of study. 
Her PhD is part of an innovative collaboration between the Open University and The National Library of Wales.

Images from Wikimedia:


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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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