As of October 2018 the Library will share a number of additional items from its collections on Europeana, a European digital cultural platform. We are currently working with 12 other partner institutions on a project entitled ‘The Rise of Literacy’ which aims to explore the history of reading and writing in Europe. As a result of this initiative, various users will be able to access a wide range of text based objects, many of which are being showcased on a digital platform for the first time: from manuscripts to printed volumes, periodicals to newspapers.
These items will be explored in various editorial features, all focusing, in one way or another, on the development of literacy in Europe. We as institutions are currently working on a range of curatorial content – from digital exhibitions and blog posts to visual galleries, and these will assess the significance of the text based objects within a pan-European context. The curated features will appear on Europeana Collections from October onward.
This new weekly blog series will reveal the Library’s contributions on a thematic basis. From manuscripts to newspapers, dictionaries to cook books, and children’s literature to ballads; they all have something to offer with regards to tracking the history of literacy. From the iconic to the unexpected, they collectively give a multi-layered summary on the evolution of reading and writing in Wales and beyond, from the mid-thirteenth century to the beginning of the twentieth century.
A selection of items: –
The National Library of Wales’s contributions to the project will be disclosed under the following headings in the coming weeks:-
Amongst the treasures in the Historic Welsh Print Collection is a large collection of Welsh and Welsh interest biographies dating from 1800 up to 1914. This collection, soon to be digitised, encompasses over 2000 biographies of figures in Welsh and international public life.
This unique collection includes biographies of clergy, politicians, social reformers, poets, authors and musicians of Welsh descent, of international figures, as well as slave narratives, biographies of ordinary people, of infamous criminals, and of emigrants from Wales to the USA and other countries.
In its entirety the collection offers a comprehensive picture of Welsh public life from the nineteenth century through to the beginning of the First World War, of the people and the issues that of were of concern during this period and also of how the Welsh viewed the world and how the world viewed the Welsh. They also offer the opportunity to discover hidden or previously forgotten histories that shed new light on some of the leading figures of the day.
One of the hidden histories we recently discovered in the collection was that of Sir Thomas Picton and the torture of Louisa Calderon. Thomas Picton is now mainly remembered for his exploits during the Peninsular War and for being the highest ranking officer killed at Waterloo. Indeed, his statue is among the 12 statues of Welsh heroes on display in Cardiff City Hall. However, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, following his time as governor of Trinidad he had a much darker reputation.
Picton’s governorship of Trinidad was authoritarian and brutal and led to his trial at the King’s Bench in 1806 accused of ordering the judicial torture of Louisa Calderon. Calderon was a 14-year old mulatto girl, accused of being involved in the theft of money from a Port of Spain businessman, Pedro Ruiz, whom Louisa’s mother had arranged for her to live with a as a ‘mistress’ at age 11. The trial was a cause celebre at the time and is recounted in detail in The Trial of Governor T. Picton for Inflicting the Torture of Louisa Calderon… published in 1806.
Unable to get a confession through interrogation, Picton had issued the order to ‘Inflict the torture on Louisa Calderon’, who was subsequently subjected to piqueting, which at trial William Garrow, the prosecutor dubbed ‘Pictoning’. Calderon did not confess and was imprisoned for a further 8 months before being released. Picton admitted ordering the torture, but claimed that it was legal under the Spanish law still being administered in Trinidad at the time, despite the island being under British rule. The jury found him guilty, but Picton was never sentenced and the decision was partially reversed by special verdict at a retrial in 1808.
As noted above, the case became a sensation at the time and shone a light on the brutal realities of the British colonial system and indirectly of colonial slavery. Indeed, Picton had originally been accused of a number of other charges, included the execution of over a dozen slaves, although tellingly these were not viewed as being serious enough by the Privy Council to be taken further. Picton had also been a supporter of the development of slave plantations in Trinidad and had made part of his fortune through speculating in slaves.
Despite Picton’s well-deserved reputation as a brutal and autocratic colonial governor, following Waterloo all was quickly forgotten. The Newgate Calendar, which in 1810 had protested that Picton, the perpetrator of these crimes, was still at large was by 1825 portraying Picton as the victim in the case.
Despite the focus placed on her at the time, Louisa Calderon, largely disappeared from the historical record, although she is believed to have returned to Trinidad in 1808 and according to one source died in poverty in June 1825.
The Trial of Governor T. Picton for Inflicting the Torture on Louisa Calderon a Free Mulatto and one of His Britannic Majesty’s Subjects in the Island of Trinidad, (London, 1806).
James Epstein – ‘Politics of Colonial Sensation: The Trial of Thomas Picton and the Cause of Louisa Calderon’, American Historical Review, 112 (3), 2007
James Epstein – Scandal of Colonial Rule: Power and Subversion in the British Atlantic during the Age of Revolution, (Cambridge, 2012)
Kit Candlin – The Last Caribbean Frontier, 1795-1815, (Basingstoke, 2012)
The National Library of Wales is today launching a number of Peniarth Manuscripts in digital format: they are available here.
What is going on?
To mark the 350th anniversary of Robert Vaughan’s death in 2017, the Library began a piece-meal digitisation of all 560 manuscripts in the Peniarth collection. This is in tribute to the founder of the Hengwrt library, and an acknowledgement of the importance of this, the Library’s ‘foundation collection’.
In what order are your digitising the manuscripts?
To facilitate the work of scanning, the manuscripts are being digitised according to size, beginning with the smallest volumes. They will be scanned and released in batches. The first batch, released today (26 March 2018) include
(1) manuscripts previously captured as ‘treasures’ during the last few years
(2) new appearances by the smallest manuscripts (‘size A’) in the numerical range of 1-70.
Will I see hitherto unseen images, previously hidden on parchment leaves?
No. The manuscripts have been digitised to high resolution, ‘as they are’, without digital manipulation. Therefore, no ‘new’ discoveries have been made. Revealing techniques such as RTI digitisation depend on extra resources, which are unavailable in the Library at present. Readers of Peniarth manuscripts are thus warned that texts MAY be more legible in manipulated microfilm images in the Library Reading Room!
What is the digitisation timescale?
As no extra funding has been obtained for the work, manuscripts will be digitised as-and-when resources allow, i.e. around prioritised project work and funded requests. This means that we cannot give a time-frame for the delivery of the project, or for images of specific manuscripts to appear.
How will I know when a manuscript in which I am interested may become available?
Good question! Follow the order of releases, and a pattern may become apparent. You are also welcome to ‘lodge your interest’ by contacting the Library. We will endeavour to let you know when your manuscript is about to be published. However, you must give us your permission to log your personal data (including email address) when following this route.
Can I ‘jump the queue’, and ask you to digitise a specific manuscript out of sequence?
By all means ask. However, in fairness to other users, we will probably then ask you to pay for the digitisation of that manuscript! Best advice with this project is – ‘be patient, and your manuscript will eventually appear’.
Which manuscripts will you be digitising after the Peniarth collection?
Good news – we are unlikely to run out of manuscripts! The Llanstephan, Cwrtmawr, Bodewryd and other collections await their turns.
What else is happening to the Peniarth Manuscripts?
Many are being catalogued anew by Dr Daniel Huws for his forthcoming Repertory of Welsh Manuscripts and Scribes (due 2019-20). This new resource will make many of our online catalogue descriptions obsolete, and will necessitate a re-consideration of our metadata. In the meantime, our current catalogue descriptions are available here. You are welcome to contact us with new discoveries relating to the manuscripts, if they arise from your own research.
What else is happening with manuscripts at the Library?
Watch out for our Mostyn season in 2018, and for a series of new web-pages on the Library’s medieval manuscripts which will be published during the year. Keep watching our social media platforms for the latest news.
Huw Thomas, Map Curator at The National Library of Wales takes part in our #LoveMaps Campaign.
The Ordnance Survey Six-Inch Maps
Being a Map Curator one sees a large number of maps of all different varieties, but there are few map series which match the Ordnance Survey Six-inch maps either for their continued usefulness or their aesthetic appeal.
The use of the six-inch scale goes back to the very beginnings of the OS when some of the early surveys were carried out at this scale. In 1824 it was adopted as the survey scale for the survey of Ireland and the success of this led to it being used for surveys in Great Britain. In 1854 when it was decided to survey cultivated areas at the 25-inch scale the six-inch scale was still retained for uncultivated areas, but regardless of the survey scale all areas were published at the 6-inch scale as well.
The earliest published sheets at this scale were engraved full sheets such as this example of Pembrokeshire sheet XXXIX originally published in 1869. The fine detail of the engraving of these maps makes them some of the most beautiful maps ever produced by the OS; however, by this time engraving on copper plates was beginning to be superseded by more cost effective methods of printing.
From the 1880s onwards most of the six-inch maps were produced using a process called photo-zincography, a printing method pioneered by the Ordnance Survey which allowed them to produce maps much more cheaply. The sheets were now published as quarter sheets such as the second map shown here, Pembrokeshire XX.NE published in 1891.
Although the photozincographed quarter sheets lack the fine detail of the engraved full sheets they are still items of beauty in their own right and in one aspect improve on the engravings in that the water features are coloured blue. As photozincography was not a colour printing process the blue was added by hand by boys employed at the Ordnance Survey Office in Southampton.
Beyond their aesthetic appeal the six-inch maps are still proving useful today, in my work I use them on an almost daily basis for the valuable information they provide about the historical landscape.
Looking at the content of the maps, it can be seen that the first shows part of Milford Haven and includes the town of Pembroke Dock. Pembroke Dock owes its existence to the Royal Naval Dockyard built at the site; it was for this reason that Southern Pembrokeshire was the first part of Wales to be mapped by the original Ordnance Survey in 1809-10 and also the first part to be mapped on the 6-inch scale starting in 1860.
On closer examination one curious feature of the map can be seen, the naval dockyard is shown as a blank white area. It was common practice for the OS not to show military establishments and other sensitive locations, a practice which continued until the 1990s.
If the first map was chosen to show one of the earliest areas to be mapped the second was chosen instead for its location. Today is March the First, the feast of St David and this map shows the City and Cathedral which bear his name.
Dydd G?yl Dewi Hapus!
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The beta site of the UK Web Archive was finally launched at the end of 2017 and can be viewed here. This is just the beginning of what will involve a number of exciting developments to the site over 2018, eventually replacing the current web archive.
In order to improve your future user experience, the Legal Deposit Libraries is requesting your valuable assistance! Good or bad we would value your feedback and encourage you to complete a short two minute survey.
What is the UK Web Archive? The UK Web Archive represents all of the UK Legal Deposit Libraries and aims to collect all of the UK Web Space annually. At least once year, an automated “crawl” is performed to capture as many UK websites as we can identify and save, preserve and give access to this material for current and future researchers.
This is an exciting new chapter for the UK Web Archiving at the Legal Deposit Libraries. The National Library of Wales has been archiving websites since 2004, and has collected thousands of sites. From 2004, we had to seek permission from the website owner to archive their website. This was a long and rather frustrating process especially as many did not reply.
This then changed for us all. The terms of the Non-Print Legal Deposit Regulations 2013 allowed the UK Web Archive to archive the whole of the UK web domain. This vast collection is available to view at the Legal Deposit Libraries’ Reading Rooms. Nevertheless, the aim is to provide ‘open access’ to as much of this collection as possible therefore do not be surprised as website owner to receive an email from us requesting permission to show archived copies of your site outside of the library reading rooms.
Furthermore, much focus is given to collecting websites relating to a specific event or topic and grouping them in a Special Collection. The National Library spent a significant amount of time collecting sites relating to the ‘2017 General Election’ and the ‘Impact of Brexit in Wales’. A collection for 2018 will involve a Special Collection on the Welsh language, a blog on this soon to follow.
What next for the UK Web Archive? A huge amount of sites are to be added to the UK Web Archive over the next 6 month and this is mostly covered in the UK Web Archive’s most recent blog What can you find in the (Beta) UK Web Archive? Further updates will be available from their Twitter feed and of course, a number of new blog posts will appear over the coming months on this blog relating to the UK Web Archive at the National Library of Wales and the UK Web Archive’s blog.
In less than a month’s time, the Library’s Arthurian exhibition will close its doors, and our hero will return to his isle of enchantment.
To mark this year’s Explore your Archive, two events at the National Library on the 15th of November drew attention to all things legendary and archival here.
A lunchtime presentation by Scott Lloyd of RCAHM Wales (author of The Arthurian Place Names of Wales) discussed myths, legends and archaeology, drawing on examples from over a century of archival accumulation by the Commission.
A gallery talk by Maredudd ap Huw, curator of the Arthurian exhibition, led visitors on a trail following the king in his many guises: from the legendary Welsh figure in sources such as the Black Book of Carmarthen and the White Book of Rhydderch, through his medieval French manifestations, before returning to his mixed fate in Tudor Britain.
It is unlikely that King Arthur himself was an archival creator: he was far too busy to keep minutes, file correspondence, and audit accounts. However, manuscripts and books concerning the king may still be seen and enjoyed at the Library’s Hengwrt Gallery until he finally sets sail on December 16th.
Improving online access to Welsh language health information
The newly appointed National Wikimedian at the National Library of Wales will begin in his new role by tackling an important issue facing Welsh speakers – access to free, quality information on important health and wellbeing issues in Welsh.
Wicipedia is the most viewed Welsh language website in the world with over 90,000 articles. A recent audit of the content revealed that Welsh Wikipedia has very few articles about health and yet the few articles which do exist are, on average, being viewed more times than articles on any other subject. This suggests that Welsh speakers want to consume information about their health in Welsh, through Wicipedia.
Welsh Wicipedia has 1,500 Welsh language articles on health compared to 84,000 in English
2.09% of Welsh Wikipedia articles about Health – 6.67% in English
Views of Welsh articles about health make up 12% of total page views, more than any other subject.
It is thought that Wikipedia has become the most consulted health resource in the world (based on 4.8 billion pageviews in 2013) and therefore it is vital that it contains reliable, comprehensive information on all aspects of health, from medications, and surgical procedures to fitness, wellbeing and historical information.
It is estimated that poor health costs Wales billions each year, and free easy access to health information through the medium of Welsh (on Wicipedia) would help provide the public with the information they need in a format they are familiar with.
The project, funded by the Welsh Government, will see the National Library of Wales hold a series of public events across Wales, to teach and encourage Health professionals, Medical students and the general public to help improve health content on Wikipedia.
The National Wikimedian will also seek partnerships with charities and institutions who already produce Welsh language health content with the aim of working together to provide access to this content through Wicipedia, with links back to their own online services.
It is hoped that the 9 month project will result in the creation of 3000 new Welsh language health related articles on Wicipedia.
This project aligns with the mission of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, namely, to help develop A healthier Wales and A Wales of vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language. The National Library of Wales is one of the Government’s key partners in delivering on the act.
The project will also help the Library to engage with new communities and develop new partnerships in the education and health sectors in order to promote and develop the use of Welsh as a digital language.
Just days after the National Library announced they were employing the Uk’s first, and world’s second, permanent Wikimedian I travelled to Montreal in Canada for Wikimania – the largest annual Wikipedia conference.
As the name suggests this is an exciting event, bringing together Wikipedians from all around the world, along with hundreds of ‘Wikimedians’ people involved in other Wikimedia projects such as Wikidata and Wikimedia Commons.
Before the main conference got underway I embraced my inner geek and attended the first day of the Wikimania Hackathon. As the National Library of Wales begins to open up its data to the world, we hope we will soon be hosting our own hackathons, inviting developers and programmers to develop new tools, apps and even games, powered by Welsh cultural heritage data.
So taking part in the Wikimania Hackathon was a hugely valuable experience. There were some great outcomes, from improvements to Wikipedia itself to a colour blindness simulator for digital images. So keep your eyes peeled for Welsh Hackathons soon!
Day two was the Wikipedia Medical Conference. In remote parts of the world Wikipedia is the only source of medical information for millions of people, including doctors! In a sector dominated by English language information, Wikipedia provides a platform for health related content in local dialects.
I spoke at the Medical conference about the National Library’s upcoming Wici-Iechyd (Wiki Health) project, aimed at providing free access to important health information in Welsh on Wicipedia, and I had some great discussions with the Wiki project Medicine team about how we can best achieve our goals, and about how they can support our project.
Day three marked the official start of the Wikimania conference, which was opened, as is traditional, by Jimmy Wales himself. With the recent banning of Wikipedia in Turkey, Jimmy was keen to highlight the importance of free access to impartial and accurate information.
The conference schedule was diverse with many threads running simultaneously. I took part in many workshops and informal discussion groups about Wikipedia’s relationship with the cultural sector, known as GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums) in the Wikiverse.
What struck me was the range of projects taking place around the world, from volunteer projects aimed purely at improving Wikipedia content about a GLAMs collections, to long term wiki collaborations. The National Archives and Records Administration of the United States, the only other institution with a permanent Wikimedian on their staff, has agreed to share all their digital content with Wikimedia on an open licence. They have already uploaded 130,000 images and frequently run events and outreach programmes aimed at making use of these images, and improving Wikipedia generally.
As the conference progressed I was surprised by the number of volunteers and Wikimedians who now look to Wales, and to the National Library of Wales as role model and an inspiration when running their own projects. This was particularly true of those working with small or minority languages.
Our success in engaging the Library, volunteer communities, the Welsh government and partner organisations with the Welsh language Wikipedia has been noticed by many, and I had some fantastic conversations with Wikimedians from Russia, Finland, Estonia, Brittany, and more, about how we can learn from each other to ensure our languages are able to thrive on Wikipedia and other online environments.
I presented a poster session on the Wikimedia UK residency at the National Library and there was plenty of interest in the work we carried out, and how we achieved our outcomes.
As with last year’s Wikimania, Wikidata sessions were hugely popular. This massive linked open data resource is growing rapidly and offers huge potential for GLAMS to share and develop open data for their collections. Many GLAMS, including the National Library of Wales are already sharing data with Wikidata, but we heard from Beat Estermann of E-Government Institute of the Bern University of Applied Sciences in Switzerland that Wikidata is now being used to enrich library catalogues, and I think this method of drawing open data into core library metadata offers some exciting opportunities.
Another big theme of the conference was the planned development of Wikimedia Commons, the website which hosts millions of freely licenced images used on Wikipedia and beyond. The metadata behind these images will be converted to structured (linked) data making it far easier to search, analyse and visualize this massive media archive.
The National Library of Wales has innovated in this area, with the help of it’s Wikidata visiting scholar, by converting detailed image metadata to Wikidata, a very similar data structure to the proposed Commons data, and I have been invited to advise the development team as the new website takes shape.
Despite the dominance of the English Wikipedia, the Wiki movement is truly global, and that was reflected clearly at Wikimania. What is exciting is that the National Library of Wales is at the forefront of this movement, employing new tactics, technologies and techniques to make sure Wales is properly represented online and to ensure that the Welsh language Wicipedia continues to grow and to build upon its status as the most viewed Welsh language website on the web.
This weekend the Nanteos Cup will return to Strata Florida Abbey, where, according to tradition, it was kept by the Cistercian brothers before Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monastries campaign which began and which was implemented by the merciless Thomas Cromwell. It seems that the lands and various chattels belonging to the Abbey were sold to the Steadman family, who in tern and through family links, passed the Cup on to the Nanteos family who kept in the manion for many centuries.
What use was made of the Cup at the Abbey is still a great mystery. It is very unlikely that the Cup was used as a communion cup because we can be fairly certain that the Abbey’s communion cup would most probably have been made of silver – as was was the Cymer Abbey communion vessels, discovered by accident by walkers many years ago. However – if the traditions and legends surrounding the Nanteos Cup are fairly accurate – the Cup was definately used during ceremonies at the Abbey.
As we are about to open the ‘Arthur and the Welsh Mythology’, exhibition one has to ask whether the legend linking the Cup to the ‘Holy Grail’, an object which has been such a central theme in the Arthurian legends, is indeed true?
You are welcome to visit the Library to view ‘The Holy Grail’ of Nanteos.
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.