The Welsh Political Archive annual lecture is now a well-established event in the calendar of the National Library of Wales. On the first Friday of November the Welsh Political Archive Advisory Committee meets with the lecture following at 5.30pm. This is the first time since 2019 that we have held the lecture in the Library; a panel discussion was held online in 2020 and in 2021 Professor Paul O’Leary delivered his lecture on Lloyd George in the Senedd in Cardiff.
Huw Edwards at the National Library of Wales
Journalist Huw Edwards was the lecturer this year. Huw is a familiar face and voice since the 1980s on the BBC, and the subject of the lecture was his work as a reporter and Wales’ place in British news and politics. Huw looked back at the 1980s, noting in particular how the BBC had reported on the launch of S4C in 1982 and the coverage of Welsh affairs in the UK Parliament, comparing it to the period since devolution. He mentioned some prominent figures in Welsh politics including Jim Griffiths, Megan Lloyd George and Sir Wyn Roberts, the first Welsh debate in the UK Senate, developments such as the establishment of the Welsh Grand Committee, the Welsh Affairs Committee, the appointment of a Secretary of State for Wales and the establishment of a National Assembly Wales.
Huw presenting in the Drwm
As part of the day’s events we held a pop up exhibition in the Summers Room showing items from the the archives of 3 prominent Welsh journalists: Wynford Vaughan Thomas, Patrick Hannan and Gareth Vaughan Jones. Like Huw Edwards, Wynford Vaughan Thomas had presented BBC programs on major British events including royal funerals, the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and the Festival of Remembrance at the Albert Hall.
Pop up exhibition and Huw with Rob Phillips, head of the Welsh Political Archive
An interesting discussion followed the lecture, the text of which will soon be available to view on the Welsh Political Archive pages on the National Library’s website.
The Broadcast Archive, which is being established at the National Library, will give access to thousands of BBC radio and television scripts, as well as a great deal of audio visual digital material.
Emma Towner is cataloguing the scripts, and there are some chilling stories in some of the early scripts.
There are just over 1100 boxes in the BBC Script collection that are made up of radio and television programmes. With these programmes covering a dozen genres and spanning roughly 90 years, it was a challenge to decide what to prioritise and catalogue first. I began with the oldest scripts, Children’s radio programmes from 1931. They were full of light hearted tales of Magic Jam Pots, Plumtones and Pirates. There were also fun scripts that told the story behind nursery rhymes. Why did Jack and Jill go up the hill to begin with? Did a dish really run away with a spoon while a cow jumped over the moon, or did something else happen? They were a nice place for me to start.
World War Two news scripts were next on my list, and in contrast to the Children’s programmes, I found these scripts were harder to read. I had learnt about the war in school, and seen films. I knew what happened in Dunkirk and on the beaches of Normandy. I knew about Pearl Harbour, and my grandparents told me about the Blitz in London and in Swansea. But reading about these events as they happened, day by day, was different.
Not long after I began working on these scripts, fighting in Eastern Europe broke out. As I was reading about the First Soviet-Finnish (Winter War) where The Soviet Union was attacking Finland just over 70 years ago, I was watching footage on the news of the Russian attack on Ukraine that was happening in the present. The stories were very similar, towns were being attacked and bombs were falling on hospitals. Then 15 months after the First Soviet-Finnish War had ended came the Second Soviet-Finnish War, which bought more conflict between Russia and Finland. But this time the news featured a few more countries, one of which was Ukraine. Now the locations I’d been hearing about on the news were appearing in the scripts, and I found it getting increasingly difficult to watch the news when I returned home after finishing my working day. Just like this week, in 1943 it dominated the news.
Each news script would have been broadcast over the wireless every evening around 5pm. I often thought about the people listening to these broadcasts day in day out wondering, if the war would end, and hoping it would be soon. I was lucky, I knew the end date, and I knew how the war was going to end. Since the end of the Second World War, there have been more wars that have brought more pain and loss. It makes me sad that history seems to always be repeating itself. No one seems to be learning from what has happened in the past.
Aberystwyth University, in partnership with the National Library, is launching a new research centre on Friday, 11 November, the Literature and History of Medicine Research Centre. The centre will make use of the research sources in the Library’s medicine collections as a foundation for new academic research in the field. A one-day conference has been arranged for the launch on 11 November. It’s free and you can book a ticket to the event here. The conference will be held in person and online.
The Library’s medicine-related collection is extensive, and includes print material, archival material, manuscript material, architectural material, drawings and photographs. As a result of the Library’s Medicine and Health in Wales before the NHS project, the medicine-related material that is part of the Welsh and Celtic Print Collection is now available on the online catalogue in its entirety, with the items that are out of copyright also digitized and available remotely. The print collection includes a number of important research sources, including the reports of the Medical Officer of Health for the rural and urban district councils across Wales, hospital reports and psychiatric hospital reports.
The psychiatric hospital reports offer a good example of the type of information and data that is included in these print sources. If we look at the example of the annual reports of psychiatric hospitals, in this case the reports of the Joint Counties Asylum at Carmarthen (see above for the embedded digital version or click here to see it on the Library’s digital viewer), we can see the feast of core data that the reports offer to researchers. The reports contain data on a large number of aspects of the life of the hospital and its patients including statistics regarding where patients came from, their work, the nature of their illnesses, mortality rates, the patients’ diet, the patients’ ages, readmission levels, the patients’ relationship status, and the institution’s financial statistics.
Such data is fundamental to research in this field, and it is hoped that establishing the Centre in partnership with Aberystwyth University will be a means of strengthening the relationship between the Library, our collections and the research community. If you want to learn more about the partnership, or if you’re interested in the latest research in the field of literature and the history of medicine, book a ticket to the conference!
Today is World Digital Preservation Day and an opportunity to highlight the work undertaken by the National Library of Wales to ensure that digital content is preserved for the future. In order to raise general awareness of issues relating to enabling on-going access to digital content, which affect personal as well as organisational data, I would like to introduce you to Wilf.
Although Wilf is familiar with physical collections (having sat on a shelf watching archival cataloguing for many years) he has recently become interested in digital content and how it will be accessible in the future. To learn more about this, he went around the Library to film the digital preservation activities of the Library. The film is available to view here:
Following his tour around the Library, Wilf wanted to find out more about how he could make sure his digital content was preserved. He discovered that the Library had been given an award by the Preservation Coalition for its work Learning through doing: building digital preservation skills in Wales. The award was presented by the Dutch Digital Heritage Network as an acknowledgement of the value of the work in providing training and raising skills for staff across Wales. Through studying the resources which supported the programme, Wilf has developed new skills and can virus check content, identify file formats, check that data is not corrupted and create metadata. The resources to do these actions are available for all to view and use on the Archives Wales website.
Wilf enjoyed his adventures in the Library but is now back on his usual shelf. He has gained the knowledge that digital content cannot be left sitting on a virtual shelf but that action must be taken for its preservation. If you want any help or advice about digital preservation, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sally McInnes, Head of Unique and Contemporary Content
Edward Wynne of Bodewryd (Anglesey) and Hereford and other Welsh History Essays / Neil Fairlamb, 2021
Wysg / Gaerth Writer-Davies, 2022, 9781999849177
Open / Paul Blount, The Cluny Press, 2022, 9780954761097
Ten Poems about Swimming / Selected and Introduced by Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch, 2022, 9781913627065
Science, education and nature
CBAC TGAU Drama, Dylunio Drama: Dylunio Goleuo, Sain, Set a Gwisgoedd / Sue Shewring, 2022, 9781913963330
The Birds of Wales = Adar Cymru / Edited by Rhion Pritchard …, 2021, 9781800859722
The Glory Years of Cardiff AAC / Clive Williams, 2020, 97818338257750
The Minor Counties Championship 1895-1914 / Julian Lawton Smith, Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians, 2022, 9781912421329
Cardiff Arms Park : An Illustrated Architectural and Social History / David Allen, Cardiff Rugby, 2021, 9781527296527
Cyfrinach Fwyaf Siôn Corn / Lyndon Jeremiah, 2020, 9781838271312
Yes! Even a Mouse: The Very First Christmas / Christine Field-Davies, Bear With Us Productions, 2021, 9781838280819
Ring of spies : how MI5 and the FBI brought down the Nazis in America / Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones, 2022, The History Press, 9781803990361
The Chronicle of Clemendy : or, The History of the IX. Joyous Journeys. In which are contained the amorous inventions and facetious tales of Master Gervase Perrot, Gent. now for the first time done into English / by Arthur Machen ; Illustrations by Jon Langford, 2022
Government and politics
Diwygio’r Senedd: Y camau nesaf = Senedd reform, The next steps, 2020
Over the years the library has collected books with fine and unusual bindings, especially those of Welsh interest. A particularly rare example was added to the collection recently. The volume is a reprint of a French book, La Prose du Transsibérien by the painter Sonia Delaunay-Terk and the poet Blaise Cendrars, which was originally published in 1913. The poem describes a train journey through Russia during the first revolution in 1905. It is printed on four sheets glued together in concertina format.
For the 2019 reprint, 22 bookbinders were invited to create unique bindings. The copy purchased by the Library this year was bound by Julian Thomas, the Library’s former Head of Binding and Conservation. The case is covered in black calfskin coloured in fluorescent blue acrylic paint, with strips of calfskin inlaid, some gilded and others coloured with acrylics. The strips refer to the railway and the circle to the revolution and the wheels of the train.
This striking binding is a unique example of the work of one of the foremost bookbinders in the U.K. More bindings by Julian Thomas, his predecessors in the Library and other craftsmen can be seen in the Beautiful Books exhibition in the World of the Book on the ground floor of the Library until 9th December 2022.
On 6 March 1858 a devastating fire swept through the mansion at Wynnstay and the inhabitants fled in their night clothes. No lives were lost but much of the library was destroyed, along with furniture, paintings and other valuables. A report in the North Wales Chronicle and Advertiser for the Principality on 13 March described the remains of the rare books and manuscripts as ‘masses of black substance in the shape of books but hard and wet, mixed with scraps of black-letter books (some partially legible), music and engravings’.
This dramatic description supplied the motivation for investigating the fate of the fourth baronet’s music collection. Did it all go up in flames……or not?
Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, 4th Baronet (1749-1789) was a passionate devotee of the fine arts. He almost bankrupted the Wynnstay estate through his excessive expenditure on pictures, sculpture, theatre and music. At great cost he created a private theatre at Wynnstay for plays and concerts. His luxurious London home in St James’s Square,1 designed by Robert Adam, had its own lavishly decorated music room containing a Snetzler organ. Sir Watkin’s interest in music developed early, perhaps influenced by the family harpist, John Parry, or perhaps during his teenage years at Westminster School. As a young man he joined the Noblemen and Gentlemen’s Catch Club and he quickly became involved with the contemporary musical scene in London2 He was a steward at the annual music festival at St Paul’s to benefit the Corporation of the Sons of the Clergy and treasurer of the committee for ‘Antient Concerts’. Inevitably he was on the committee for organising the Handel Commemoration Concert in Westminster Abbey in 1784.
Sir Watkin’s collecting habits were probably inspired by his Grand Tour3 in France and Italy, 1768-9. The first evidence comes from the account book4 of his long-suffering servant (later his steward) Samuel Sidebotham. The expenses included purchases of pictures, statues, furniture and rare books, concerts by Piantanida, Giovannini and others, music for the French horn for Mr Morris (a Wynnstay servant), harp strings and at Turin a violoncello for Sir Watkin, who was a proficient amateur player. Back at home the Wynnstay music accounts for 1773 showed purchases of Haydn’s quartets, Boccherini’s quartets, Hamal’s select overtures, Ebdon’s harpsichord sonatas and Noferi’s duets; as well as alterations to the cello, numerous concerts, and music lessons for Sir Watkin and for the bass singer, Mr Meredith. In 1774/5 some music by Handel (unspecified) was acquired. In April 1779 Sir Watkin attended the three day sale of the ‘truly valuable and curious library of music late in the possession of Dr William Boyce’5 where he bought ten lots, comprising songs, madrigals, motets and instrumental works by Porpora, Bononcini, Orlando de Lassus, Caldara, Steffani, Gabrieli, Geminiani, Handel and others. The Williams Wynn family naturally subscribed to the works of John Parry, whose British Harmony being a collection of Antient Welsh Airs, published in 1781, was dedicated to his patron.
Wynnstay EH4/1, account book, 1768-69
More evidence of the Wynnstay music collection comes, unsurprisingly, from Charles Burney, whose Account of the Musical Performances in Westminster Abbey and the Pantheon May 26th, 27th, 29th; and June the 3rd, and 5th, 1784 in Commemoration of Handel6 described the grandiose event in equally magnificent detail. Fortunately Burney incorporated a list of Handel’s works, both in the royal collection and in the hands of private individuals, including Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, who owned printed operas, oratorios and Te Deums (sic); and in manuscript the Te Deum in A, the anthem Let God arise, I will magnify thee, As pants the Hartforfive voices (‘with several alterations and additions by Handel himself….’), The King shall rejoice, Sing unto God, Blessed are they, versions for voices without instruments of Let God arise andAs pants the Hart, and Ode or Serenata for the Birthday of Queen Anne.
Among the Trevor Owen Manuscripts (now NLW MS 2785C) is A catalogue of the Wynnstay library, 1840 (therefore predating the fire) which lists histories of music by Hawkins and Burney, The Welsh Harper by John Parry and other scores by Haydn, Avison, Clark, Handel, Gay, Corfe and Arnold, stored in the library, study and other rooms at Wynnstay. These were probably components of the fourth baronet’s music collection. Other sad remnants were viewed by Alexander Hyatt King in 1945, ruined by damp, mouldering in the stables at Wynnstay, described as ‘…practically all unbound, mint, in wrappers, as issued. The bulk was English, back to the seventeen-thirties, but it also included many Hummel and Roger editions, beside some French and Austrian publications.’7
Clearly Sir Watkin had amassed a music collection of national significance. Sadly the inventory of books and furniture at 20 St James’s Square, dated 1789, is too fragile to access.8 The full extent of the collection is unknown and it is difficult to assess exactly what proportion was lost to fire or to damp. Nevertheless some of it did survive, ultimately to be sold together with the silver, pictures and other Wynnstay heirlooms, to discharge debts and tax demands in the 1940s. Tantalising fragments have turned up later, in archive repositories, libraries and unexpected places.
Wynnstay Estate by John Ingleby (1749-1808)
An article by Martin Picker in the Journal of the Rutgers University Libraries9 describes eleven volumes of Handel, acquired by the Rutgers Library, New Brunswick, c. 1950, which appear to have originated from Wynnstay. Six of the volumes correspond exactly in content and order to those listed by Charles Burney. The uniformity of the binding and the consistent use of the same copyists suggest that all the volumes once belonged to Sir Watkin Williams Wynn. Picker notes the locations of other Handel scores from the collection, notably anthems in the Gerald Coke Handel Collection at the Foundling Museum10 and Italian cantatas and early editions of operas at the University of Sydney, Australia.11
Donald Burrows, in Newsletter of the American Handel Society12 notes the unexpected discovery, in a Manchester animal charity shop, of a Messiah score in the hand of John Matthews probably from the 1760s, once belonging to Sir Watkin Williams Wynn. Other manuscripts from Wynnstay, containing excerpts from the operas of Pasquale Anfossi, Piccini, Monza, and Gassman were formerly in the library of St Michael’s College at Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire, and are now held at the Bodleian Library13
Sir Watkin’s musical interests obviously were not limited to Handel. The British Library holds seven manuscripts of Purcell, comprising ‘dramatic music, odes, etc.’ [1683×1695], the majority copied c. 1771 by Jos. Fisher, Darwen, Lancashire.14 The name of Sir Watkin Williams Wynn is inscribed on the flyleaf of one volume and the Williams Wynn eagle crest appears on the spine of several in that series. Purcell’s theatre music featured in the programmes of the Catch Club and the Concerts of Antient Music, promoted by the Earl of Sandwich and Sir Watkin Williams Wynn. Sir Watkin is known to have owned copies of King Arthur, The Indian Queen and The Tempest.15
NLW MS 14427B, including compositions by Handel and John Parry, c.1764
Remarkably two of the instruments from the Wynnstay collection have survived the ravages of time. The first and most obvious is the magnificent Snetzler organ in its Adam case, originally located at 20 St James’s Square, removed to Wynnstay in 1864 and purchased by the National Museum Wales in 1995. The second is the cello which Sir Watkin bought in Turin on the grand tour in 1768. It cost him 480 Piedmontese livres and it was already an antique when he acquired it, bearing the label of Chiafredi Cappa, Mondovi 1697. The instrument was purchased from Wynnstay by Alfred Hill of W.E. Hill & Sons, London, and its provenance was confirmed by Rudolph Wurlitzer Co., Cincinnati & New York, 1931, Alfred Hill, 1934, Adolph Hoffman (n.d.), Desmond Hill, 1962 and Kenneth Warren & Son, Chicago, IL, 1962. It was entered for sale at Christies, New York, 6 March 1986, where it failed to achieve the anticipated $60,000.16 It has been identified as the cello which is now played by Marc Coppey, but confirmation is lacking.
The tour is described by Paul Hernon, Sir Watkin’s tours : excursions to France, Italy and North Wales, 1768-71 (Wrexham : Bridge Books, 2013).
NLW, Wynnstay Estate Records EH4/1. Further account books of the fourth baronet are numbered EH4/2-10. Loose accounts are EH3/2-12.
Robert J. Bruce and H. Diack Johnstone, ‘A Catalogue of the truly valuable and curious library of music late in the possession of Dr William Boyce (1779): transcription and commentary’ in Royal Musical Association Research Chronicle No. 43 (2010), pp. 111-171 (Taylor & Francis Ltd on behalf of the Royal Musical Association)
Charles Burney, ‘List of Handel’s Works’ in An Account of the Musical Performances in Westmisnster Abbey and the Pantheon May 26th, 27th, 29th; and June the 3rd, and 5th, 1784 in Commemoration of Handel (London : T. Payne and son [etc.] 1785) pp 45-6.
Alexander Hyatt King, Some British Collectors of Music, c. 1600-1960 (Cambridge University Press 1963), p. 18
The National Library of Wales offers users a wealth of electronic resources, right at your fingertips. The Library subscribes to a wide range of these resources, varying from online newspaper archives, scholarly journals, encyclopaedias, reference resources and genealogical resources:
You will need to join the Library but once you have done you can use your ID and password in order to gain access to these resources remotely, as long as you have a postal address in Wales.
Newspapers are an essential research resource for our users. They record birth and marriage announcements, death notices and obituaries as well as news articles about incidents and achievements. They can provide greater detail and photographs to enhance research and capture the attitudes of the time. By becoming a Library user, you can gain access to the following titles:
The Times Digital Archive 1785-2010
The Sunday Times Digital Archive 1822-2006
The Guardian and The Observer 1791 – 2003
The Telegraph Historical Archive 1855-2000
Daily Mail Historical Archive 1896- 2004
Independent Digital Archive 1986-2012
Illustrated London News
British Library 19th century newspapers
British Newspaper Library
Newsbank – a current newspaper service which usually gives access to yesterday’s copy of UK newspapers (including many from Wales) and going back several years before that.
We also of course have many newspapers from Wales that we have digitised ourselves. These are freely available to anyone in the world and you are welcome to consult these at any time, without registering. Welsh Newspapers Online currently lets you search and access over 1,100,000 pages from nearly 120 newspaper publications generally up to 1910.
Online scholarly materials are available to our users via the Library’s subscriptions to Sage Journals and JSTOR. Between them, these resources provide access to over 900 journals, and 12 million journal articles, books, images and primary sources. This high-quality, peer-reviewed material covers a wide range of subjects, and has proven to be invaluable to students and researchers.
The Library also subscribes to a number of different reference resources. These include resources such as Credo Reference, Oxford Reference Online, and Britannica Academic, all of which provide access to millions of articles, biographies, videos and images. These resources include materials from
a variety of different educational levels, and can be useful for primary/secondary schools pupils to university students alike.
We also provide access (within the Library only) to Ancestry and Find my Past, two resources that are invaluable to today’s genealogists. They include extensive coverage of the United Kingdom, Ireland and the United States, including census, church, court, military and immigration records, as well as record collections from Canada, Europe, Australia and other areas of the world. In addition to these, they offer useful services such as a Family Tree Builder, and message boards for members.
Our digitisation work has continued behind the scenes and a number of new items and collections are now available to view from home on the Library’s website and/or the catalogue. Find out what’s new in our blog.
The work on digitising a series of meteorological registers of thermometer, barometer and rain gauge readings in ‘The Chain’ has been completed. They will be available on ‘Torf’ in due course: C 2/6: Meteorological register. Including enclosures C 2/6/1-40, 1901, Jan. 1-1906, July 7 C 2/7: Meteorological register. Including enclosures C 2/7/1-73, 1906, July 1-1911, July 1 C 2/10: Meteorological register. Including enclosures C 2/10/1-9, 1918, Dec. 29-1923, Feb. 3 C 2/11: Meteorological register. Including enclosures C 2/11/1-6, 1923, Feb. 4-1927, Feb. 12 C 2/12: Meteorological register. Including enclosures C 2/12/1-13, 1927, Feb. 13-1931, Feb. 21 C 2/13: Meteorological register. Including enclosures C 2/13/1-69, 1931, Feb. 22-1935, March 2 C 2/14: Meteorological register. Including enclosures C 2/14/1-32, 1935, March 3-1939, March 11 C 2/15: Meteorological register. Including enclosures C 2/15/1-26, 1939, March 12-1943, March 20 C 2/16: Meteorological register. Including enclosures C 2/16/1-78. The meteorological readings continue to 29 Dec. 1945 only, 1943, March 21-1947, Feb. 8
The Digital Preservation Awards are presented by the Digital Preservation Coalition every two years to celebrate the most significant achievements by individuals and organisations in ensuring the sustainability of digital content. Following a rigorous assessment process, the winners were announced at a glittering presentation ceremony in Glasgow, attended by a organisations and practitioners of digital preservation from around the world. The Library was delighted to win the Dutch Digital Heritage Network Award for Teaching and Communications for its project: Learning through doing: building digital preservation skills in Wales, https://www.dpconline.org/news/dpa2022-winners.
Learning through doing was a programme of interactive training delivered by Library staff on the Teams platform to extend digital preservation skills and increase capacity for staff working in organisations across Wales. Resources to support the training are available on the Archives Wales website at https://archives.wales/staff-toolkit/saving-the-bits-programme/.
The Library also contributed to winning another prestigious award. The Archives and Records Assocation’s award for the New Professional of the Year was won by Gemma Evans. Gemma was employed by the Library to lead the Records at Risk project for the Archives and Records Council Wales. The project was funded by The National Archives Covid-19 Archives Fund, which was established to support archives to secure records which were in danger of being lost as a result of the economic impact of the pandemic which threatened the continuing operation of businesses, charities and organisations, acrossWales. Gemma developed a Records at Risk Toolkit to enable the identification and preservation of at risk records, which is available for download on the Archives Wales website at https://archives.wales/records-at-risk/.
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.