Blog - Day in the life

Posted - 29-04-2019

Collections / Day in the life

Two weeks at the National Library: exploring, digitising and cataloguing

A few weeks ago, the Library welcomed Myra Booth-Cockcroft, a PhD candidate at the University of Glasgow, to the Archives and Manuscripts Department for two weeks of work experience. The Library would like to thank Myra for contributing this blog of her time with us and for her work cataloguing some of the inscribed Strata Florida slates.

***

During the past two weeks, I have been in the Archives and Manuscript Department of the National Library of Wales, getting some experience in the variety of work that goes on there. I met with staff from several different areas of the Department who provided an introduction to their working day, showing me the processes for (to name but a few!): cataloguing manuscripts; cataloguing large archives; manuscript digitisation; conservation, restoration and quarantine; early printed books; creating facsimiles; electronic archives and digital conservation. I also spent a morning observing the work of the staff at the South Reading Room desk, who answer enquiries and facilitate readers’ access to the Library’s collections.  I particularly enjoyed having a go at preparing Peniarth MS 6 for digitisation (and getting to see the handwritten notes of J. Gwenogvryn Evans inside!) and photographing another of the Peniarth manuscripts with the staff working on the ongoing project of digitising the entire Peniarth collection. I was also privileged to be able to spend a day working alongside Dr Daniel Huws, Dr Ann Parry Owen, Dr Maredudd ap Huw and Gruffudd Antur, preparing Volume 3 of the forthcoming publication A Repertory of Welsh Manuscripts and Scribes.

 

I gained experience in cataloguing a variety of items: a collection of letters by the Welsh poet and artist David Jones to the French Professor of English Literature Louis Bonnerot; a genealogical roll of Francis Vaughan, dating to 1591, from workshop of renowned Welsh genealogist, Twm Sion Cati; a collection of the papers of the 19th century Welsh antiquary, Owen Williams (Owain Gwyrfai); a stray leaf from a late-13th century manuscript containing the Latin text of Psalm 87 from the Vulgate Bible; and another stray leaf from an early-13th century manuscript, which has survived due to being repurposed as a pastedown for a later manuscript. Perhaps my favourite task of the fortnight, however, was cataloguing the 15th century Strata Florida Slates.

 

 

This collection of 35 inscribed slates have been at the Library since 1946, when they were discovered at the site of the Strata Florida Monastery. It was extremely exciting to be able to examine the slates, which have inscriptions in Welsh, Latin, and English, and feature drawings depicting both humans and animals, as well as geometric patterns. The slates are totally unique in a Welsh context, however we find parallels for them in the inscribed slates of a similar date found in Smarmore, County Louth, Ireland, in 1959 and at Paisley Abbey, Renfrewshire, Scotland in 1991. The Strata Florida Slates provide a glimpse into life at the Monastery in the 15th century: one of the slates gives a list of tenants of the Hafodwen Grange and records how many truggs of oats each tenant had to pay as rent for his land (SF1); three are inscribed with poetry in the cyhydedd nawban and cywydd metres (SF2, SF3 and SF4); three appear to have been used as practice for gravestone inscriptions (SF11, SF12 and SF13); and several others portray animals and people, perhaps partly depicting hunting scenes. While examining the slates, I discovered that two of them (SF23 and SF25) are in fact two halves of what was one slate at the time of inscription, revealing a full-length portrait of a bald man in a tunic – perhaps one of the Strata Florida monks? No doubt there is much more to say about these fascinating inscribed slates and I look forward to further research into them being carried out!

 

I would like to thank the National Library of Wales for a truly fantastic couple of weeks. In particular, thanks to Maredudd ap Huw for organising such a varied and interesting programme of work for me, to all of the staff of the Archives and Manuscripts Department for giving up some of their valuable time to show me their work and for being so welcoming. I am grateful also to the AHRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Celtic Languages for providing the funding for my time at the Library.

Myra Booth-Cockcroft
PhD candidate, University of Glasgow

Tags: , ,

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

Categories

Search

Archives

About this blog

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.

About the blog