Blog - Collections

Posted - 15-04-2019

Collections

Missionaries to China: The Letters of Timothy and Mary Richard

This year is the centenary of the death of the Baptist missionary Dr Timothy Richard. Born in Ffaldybrenin, Carmarthenshire, Richard has been described as ‘one of the greatest missionaries whom any branch of the Church has ever sent to China’. He was appointed Secretary of what became the Christian Literature Society for China, he was Chancellor of what was later Shanxi University, he was conferred the rank of Mandarin of the Highest Grade by the Chinese Government and was awarded the Order of the Double Dragon. Such was his influence that it has been claimed that ‘he enjoyed greater power than any Welshman in history, apart from David Lloyd George’ and that the name of  ‘Li Timotai’ was known and respected throughout China.

 

 

The National Library of Wales marks the centenary by presenting a collection of 32 letters that Timothy and his wife, Mary, wrote to his mother, Eleanor, in Ffaldybrenin, near Llandeilo. The letter have been specially digitised and are now available to read online for the first time.

 

Timothy Richard was the youngest of nine children born to Eleanor and Timothy Richard of Tanyresgair, Ffaldybrenin. He was baptized in 1859, when he was about 14 years old, and became a member of Caeo Baptist Church. He entered Haverfordwest Baptist College in 1865 and was sent as a missionary to China by the Baptist Missionary Society in 1869.

 

It is the extent of Richard’s later influence that gives particular significance to these documents, but they also serve as a record of his personal experiences as a missionary, and of challenges that would have been faced by the many other missionaries and their families who travelled to distant parts of the world during the 19th century.

 

Written between February 1878 and May 1884, the first nine letters belong to the early period of his mission to China. In the eight years between his arrival at Shanghai and the earliest of the letters, Shandong and Shanxi, the provinces where he was based, had suffered widespread famine which had claimed millions of lives. Richard’s response was to organise relief for the victims, and he succeeded in raising thousands of pounds towards the cause.

 

 

Timothy writes to his mother in Welsh (the following excerpts are my own translations of the text) and, in a letter dated 20 October 1882, he tries to convey the geographical scale of China and the challenge that he faced as one of the few Christian missionaries there.

 

Think of Wales.’  he wrote. ‘There are many who have never been beyond the county where they were born. The whole of Wales is hardly a small place. Think of Wales tenfold, now Wales a hundred-fold, now three hundred-fold, one after the other, that’s how it is with the vast land of China. How many missionaries are there in the whole land? There aren’t enough people to place one missionary in an area the size of Wales. Imagine there were only one preacher in the whole of Wales and you can comprehend how few are the labourers in this vast land. Keep praying for us – we are often in danger.  Yet thank God for his great mercies in delivering us since we arrived here.’

 

The letters demonstrate clearly his conviction and commitment to the mission, the sacrifices made and the dangers that they faced as a family. He spent long periods away from his wife Mary and their daughters, visiting the disparate churches which had been formed and distributing Christian literature. When writing the letter dated 17 May 1884, he had received news of the birth of his fourth daughter and notes that this was the third time that he had to leave home when expecting a new arrival. Three months later, he mentions that Mary was not recovered from the birth, that the baby was also unwell, and that he expected to return home in three weeks.

 

The collection of letters includes two that were written by Mary Richard to her mother-in-law (written in English). Mary (née Martin) had travelled to China with the United Presbyterian Mission, and it there that she and Timothy met. They married in 1878. In her letters, Mary also shares her conviction, her support for Timothy, but also her longing for family and friends:

 

… it is now 7 years since I said goodbye to all the dear home friends. I often wish I could see you to tell you how happy your son Timothy has made me. God is very good to us. We and our children enjoy very good health. Out little girls are a great joy to us. Ella & Mary still pray in Chinese not knowing enough English. They always remember grandma in Wales.’

 

In the spring of 1885, Timothy Richard and his family made the journey back to Wales. 23 of the letters were written between April 1885 and May 1886. They were sent from various towns and cities  in England, Scotland and Wales as Timothy travelled widely to give talks to churches and at colleges about the missionary work in China. They family was to return to China to continue the work in the autumn of 1886.

 

View the letters online using the Library’s Collections Viewer 

 

Dr Dafydd Tudur

Head of the Digital Access Section

 

Posted - 12-04-2019

#LoveArt / Collections / Exhibitions / Story of Wales

Collecting Contemporary: Art from the National Collection

‘Hel Llwch’ by Valériane Leblond, 2018 (Copyright: Valériane Leblond)

 

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.

 

‘Abstraction’ by Charles Byrd, 1964 (Copyright: Charles Byrd Estate)

 

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.

 

‘View through a window’ by Ivor Davies (Copyright: Ivor Davies)

 

This year we were also fortunate to acquire nine iconic works by the Glyn Neath based pop artist Ken Elias into our collections.

 

‘Check’ by Ken Elias, ca.2008-2009 (Copyright: Ken Elias)

 

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.

 

‘Blue Gloves, Orange Chair’ by Seren Morgan Jones, 2016 (Copyright: Seren Morgan Jones)

 

Our collection is increasing in strength with ongoing purchases and donations from generous benefactors.

 

Morfudd Bevan, Art Curator at the National Library of Wales

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Posted - 04-04-2019

Collections / Uncategorized

Tuberculosis Eradication in Wales: 1912 – 1948

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.

branwen.rhys(at)llgc.org.uk

01970 632996

Twitter @NLWPrintandMore    #MedHistWales

 

Posted - 03-04-2019

Collections / Day in the life

A day in the life of… a Trainee Conservation Assistant

Over the next few months, we will be hearing from various members of Library staff about their work to give you an idea of what goes on beyond the Reading Room desks. This week, we will be hearing from Julian Evans, Trainee Conservation Assistant…

I spent the month of February in Hawarden to do my book binding module with Mark Allen, conservator at Flintshire Record Office. It was an intense month but I learned a lot about the history of different bindings and how they work. We started with simple bindings such as a single section binding and then moved on to create a variety of other bindings, such as case binding, library style binding and flexible style binding. The type of binding used depends on a number of factors, for example, the importance of the book, budget and time. Briefly, a case binding is usually much quicker to create and cheaper. A library style binding focuses on strength to ensure that the book can withstand daily use. Lastly, a flexible binding focuses on the overall presentation of the book. Some examples of these bindings can be seen below: from left to right, case binding, library style and flexible style bindings.

I learned how to make a number of different elements relating to book binding, including sewing a book using different techniques, creating different types of end-papers, pairing leather, covering a book with leather and gold tooling. Examples of the different stitches that can be used on books can be seen below: 1) Knotted tie down  2) French Sewing  3) All along sewing (the most common)  4) Raised Cord  5) Double Raised Cord  6) Recessed Cord  7) Kettle stitch (the method in tying one section to another)

 

 

I bound every book using a needle and thread. This is time consuming but it makes the book much stronger. As you can see in the image below, this is the piece of equipment we use to sew the binding. It holds the tapes/cords tightly while you sew around them. See below also for an example of what a library style binding looks like. Notice the use of the knotted tie down in the three sections at the beginning and the end. The first and last sections tend to be the first to break if the book is used frequently, therefore this strengthens the structure of the binding.

 

 

I spent the first week learning about the history of different papers and books, and how Mark cares for the environmental conditions at the Record Office and the collections. It took the following two weeks to create examples of the different bindings.  During my final week, I visited Denbighshire Record Office and also worked on some books from the Flint Record Office collections. Below is an example of a relatively simple task where the spine of the book had become loose and the joint had been damaged. I lifted the spine from the book and attached new material to strengthen it, before using new cloth to attach the two boards to the spine to strengthen the joints.

 

Julian Evans
Trainee Conservation Assistant

Posted - 29-03-2019

Collections / Story of Wales

Pennal Letter: Wales’ important role in European politics

This is a guest post as 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 Pennal Letter is one of the most striking documents produced in Wales during the Middle Ages. It reveals a confident Wales that played an important part in European politics at the beginning of the fifteenth century.

By March 1406, when the letter was written, Glyndŵr had experienced incredible success. After a disappointing start in 1400 the rebellion had swept throughout the country winning military victories, capturing a number of Edward I’s main castles and attracting support from the French king. Glyndŵr was crowned prince of Wales and he held a parliament with representatives from every corner of the country. He had succeeded in creating a Welsh principality that was free from the control of the king of England.

But by 1406 the tide had begun to turn against the rebellion. In the months before the letter was written Glyndŵr lost battles, his brother was killed, his son was captured and some parts of the country began to waver in their support. He had therefore to regain momentum by ensuring further support from France.

At the time of the rebellion major events were happening in Europe’s history. European kings were divided by the Hundred Years’ War between France and England, and the Church was split in two by the Papal Schism when two popes were elected in opposition to one another. France supported the Avignon pope while the Roman pope was supported by England. The purpose of the letter was to strengthen the alliance between Wales and France by transferring Wales’ allegiance from the Roman pope to the Avignon pope. The letter made Wales an independent player in Europe’s political games and placed the nation at the centre of the greatest events of the day.

What we also see in the letter is Glyndŵr, as in many other aspects of the rebellion, following a policy that was at the same time both traditional and radical.

An alliance with France made political sense, but Glyndwr was also following in the footsteps of other important Welsh rulers. In the 1160s an alliance existed between Owain Gwynedd and Louis VII while in 1212 a similar relationship developed between Llywelyn the Great and Philip Augustus. Only a few decades before the Glyndŵr Rebellion the king of France had supported Owain Lawgoch, a descendant of the princes of Gwynedd, in his attempt to become prince of Wales.

What was new about the letter is the comprehensive vision that it includes. While supporting the Avignon pope Glyndŵr outlines his plans for the country:

  • a Welsh Church free from the authority of Canterbury, under an archbishop of St David’s;
  • two universities, one in the north and another in the south, to train the clergy;
  • clergy should be able to speak Welsh, rather than the non-Welsh-speakers from England often appointed to the highest positions in the Church;
  • the revenue of the Church in Wales should stay in Wales rather than, as often happened, going over the border to England.

This vision wasn’t fulfilled in Glyndŵr’s day, but modern-day Wales – with its parliament, universities, national institutions and emphasis on the importance of the Welsh language – in many ways resembles the vision outlined by Glyndŵr in the Pennal Letter.

Dr Rhun Emlyn

Medieval Historian

University of Aberystwyth

Posted - 27-03-2019

Collections / News / Screen and Sound

Unlocking Our Sound Heritage Volunteer Opportunity at the National Library of Wales

 

The Project

The National Library of Wales is one of the 10 Hub partners across the UK participating in the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project, which is funded by the National Heritage Lottery Fund and led by the British Library.

The British Library and the 10 Hubs will digitally preserve half a million rare and at risk sound recordings, and make 100,000 available online.

From September 2018 until September 2021 the National Library of Wales will digitise, catalogue and assess rights for 5,000 sound recordings from Wales. They will include a range of subjects from oral history, lectures, dialect to Welsh pop and folk music.

The aim is to transform access to sound collections in Wales making them available online and on site at the Library. In order to fulfil this, we will be working with some of our partners in Aberystwyth, Bangor, Cardiff, Swansea and Tredegar.

 

 

 

 

Opportunities

We are looking for volunteers or students who wish to gain work experience to support the project.

We have a range of activities on offer from creating inventories, help prepare digitisation work and content research. Training will be provided.

If you have an interest in learning more about Welsh history and sound recordings, keen to learn and develop new skills why not join our warm and friendly team.

If you would like to discuss the project, please contact Alison on uosh@llyfrgell.cymru

Datgloi Ein Treftadaeth Sain

Cyfle Gwirfoddoli yn Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru

 

Posted - 20-03-2019

Collections

The Language of the Heavens

It was reported in the news recently that Welsh was spoken on an episode of the television series Star Trek. This isn’t the first time that Welsh has been heard among the stars because the Welsh piece of music ‘Yr hufen melyn’ (literal translation ‘The yellow cream’) was once sung on an episode of Star Trek: The Animated Series.

The famous phrase associated with Star Trek is, of course, “Beam me up, Scotty!”. Montgomery Scott (or “Scotty”) was the engineer on the starship Enterprise and one of his feats was to transport members of the crew to different locations using a beam. “Beam me up, Scotty!” was the call for his help and it is he who sang the song.

I heard about the connection between ‘Yr hufen melyn’ and Star Trek through the harpist Llio Rhydderch who is preparing notes for her new CD. She heard the fact from Dylan Meirion from Bangor. We explored the history of the piece of music, and thanks to her musical expertise and the Library’s rich resources, more information came to light, including information about the version that Scotty sang.    

The song has appeared in a number of different forms and under various names e.g. Yr hufen melyn, Hufen y cwrw melyn, Cream of the brown ale.

 

 

It was first published as a piece for the harp by the blind musician Richard Roberts (1769-1855) in his volume Cambrian harmony in 1829. According to Llio Rhydderch, it is possible that Roberts first heard the melody from his teacher, Wil Penmorfa. The piece was published in several publications e.g. Welsh harper, vol. 1 (1839), Y tant aur (1916) and Caniadau’r allt (1927):

But which of these numerous versions was sung by Scotty?

In the opinion of Llio Rhydderch, Scotty’s version is similar to the version noted by Alfred Perceval Graves in the volume Sixteen Welsh melodies (1909).

The Y tant aur version will be performed by Llio Rhydderch on her new CD and we look forward to hearing it. Without the rich folk tradition and without music archives, what would Scotty have sung?

Time to bid farewell:  “Beam me up, Scotty!”

Heini Davies, Assistant Librarian

Posted - 11-03-2019

Collections

Charles Darwin, fairy rings and blu-tack

Science Week runs from 8 to 17 March 2019. As a contribution, here are three letters by Charles Darwin, the naturalist, geologist and biologist who, with Alfred Russel Wallace jointly published their theories of evolution by natural selection at the Linnean Society in 1858. While two of the three letters relate to Darwin’s research work, unfortunately none of them relate to the Big Idea:

 

The first is the last page of a letter by an amanuensis, signed by Darwin, with train times and arrangements for meeting the unnamed recipient. (NLW, Dolaucothi L 5984).

Secondly, a letter dated 10 July 1875 written to an unnamed recipient by an amanuensis, again only signed by Darwin, thinking about contagion, and asking whether fairy rings start from a central point and spread outwards, or whether they start as rings. Also, whether it is known on what the mycelium subsists? (NLW, SA/CR/219). This letter is clearly, and the others possibly, part of an autograph collection. Some of the other letters in this collection, including one from Charles Dickens, have been framed, with the frames showing traces of blu-tack. From before their arrival at the Library, I hasten to add!

And lastly, a letter dated 22 Oct. 1880 to Thomas Henry Thomas (‘Arlunydd Penygarn’, 1839-1915), artist and active member of the Cardiff Naturalists’ Society. Darwin thanked Thomas and Prof. Schaefhausen for the photographs, which he found very interesting, and that Thomas had been fortunate to find such fine foot-marks. (NLW MS 3127C, no. 12).

All three letters have been submitted to Cambridge University’s Darwin Correspondence Project.

The Library also holds several letters by Alfred Russel Wallace. Something for another blog, another day perhaps.

 

Stephen Benham
Assistant Archivist

Posted - 04-03-2019

Collections

Contents of Glyn Cywarch

In March 2017 the contents of Glyn Cywarch, Talsarnau, were sold at Bonhams auction house in London – the material relics of four centuries, dispersed within hours to the highest bidders. Glyn Cywarch was a very old house, built in 1616, which passed by marriage from the Wynn family to the Owens of Brogyntyn and thence descended to the family of Ormsby Gore, Barons Harlech.

Recent cataloguing of the Longueville solicitors’ collection has revealed an inventory and valuation of the contents of Glyn, dated August 1876, property of the late John Ralph Ormsby-Gore, first Baron Harlech. The inventory of 124 pages is gloriously detailed. It itemises all the household furniture, carpets, window draperies, glass, china, plated articles, linen, blankets, quilts, wines, spirits, garden tools, plants, pheasant-keeping equipment and other effects. It presents a snapshot of each room, frozen in time at 1876. Some descriptions can be matched with the lots which were auctioned in the Bonhams sale of 2017.

 

The oval top old oak table with fall down leaves on a strong frame and spiral supports in the drawing room at Glyn must surely be Lot 3 on the auction website. The inlaid bureau filled with drawers and divisions, sloping fall down front, lined with green baize is a good match for Lot 89. Could one of the 3 sundry scent bottles be equivalent to Lot 492?

Perhaps the décor at Glyn seemed antiquated to William Richard Ormsby-Gore, second Baron Harlech. When he succeeded to the title he undertook a comprehensive scheme of refurbishment. An account book in the Brogyntyn estate records lists all the new items that he bought from Richard Jones, general draper and family grocer, New Shop, Dolgellau, 1877-1878. It includes table cloths, toilet covers, towels, bedding, muslin, chintz, pink glazed lining, tartan, Brussels carpet, crimson tapestry, a butter scale and a set of fire irons.

Do any of those items still grace the ancient house of Glyn? Or were they, too, sold to beautify some other home, far from Wales?

References:
Longueville Collection Vol. 389
Brogyntyn Estate and Family Records EH3/3

 

Hilary Peters, Assistant Archivist

Posted - 01-03-2019

Collections / Story of Wales

What do we know about Saint David?

This post is the first of a new series called Wales’ Story. We will be looking at different aspects of Welsh history, and how today’s Wales remembers, and shapes it. A post will be published fortnightly on Fridays, and you can follow it all by clicking on Wales’ Story on the right.

 

 

It’s over a thousand years since the birth of Sulien. He was twice Bishop of St. David’s, but his main contribution was the establishment of a centre of education at Llanbadarn Fawr, on a site now lying in the shadow of the National Library.

Some of our earliest manuscripts were created at Llanbadarn, these being the work of two of Sulien’s sons, Ieuan and Rhigyfarch (?1056-99). Rhigyfarch’s Psalter (created c. 1079) is now kept in the library of Trinity College, Dublin, but his most famous creative work was the Vita Davidis, a Latin biography of Saint David created c. 1094 to promote the status and independence of St. David’s bishopric.

Most of what we believe we know about David, the saint from the sixth century, is based on Rhigyfarch’s account, written five centuries later. In the Vita we find the story of his education by Peulin, his victory over Boia, the founding of the monastery at Glyn Rhosyn, and the sermon at the senate in Llandewibrefi. This work was translated and edited into Welsh during the first half of the fourteenth century by an unknown monk. One of the earliest versions of Buchedd Dewi is this text in The Red Book of Talgarth (Llanstephan MS 27), written by Hywel Fychan about 1400 for his patron, the nobleman Rhys ap Thomas.

Generations of Welsh children will be able to repeat the saint’s famous last words, spoken before his death on the first of March: ‘Arglwyddi, frodyr a chwiorydd, byddwch lawen a chedwch eich ffydd a’ch cred, a gwnewch y pethau bychain a glywsoch ac a welsoch gennyf i,’ which translates as ‘Lords, brothers and sisters, Be joyful, and keep your faith and your creed, and do the little things that you have seen me do and heard from me.’

Strangely, the ‘little things’ do not appear in Rhigyfarch’s original Latin work, so we must congratulate the later Welsh translator on creating such a memorable sentence!

Maredudd ap Huw

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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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