Amongst the many printed works associated with William Williams Pantycelyn held by the National Library is a 1779 Welsh translation of A Narrative of the Most Remarkable Particulars in the Life of James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, an African Prince, as related by Himself originally published in English under the auspices of Selina Hastings, Lady Huntingdon in 1772. Gronniosaw’s Narrative is an important work, especially in terms of the development of early black biography. It was the first autobiography by a black author published in Britain and one of the earliest known examples of a slave narrative.
At first glance, that it was Williams Pantycelyn that was responsible for the translation and publication of Berr Hanes o’r Pethau Mwyfa Hynod ym Mywyd James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw makes sense. Williams Pantycelyn after all was responsible for the first printed condemnation of the slave trade in Welsh in the first volume of his Pantheologia, published in 1762. However, as a number of academics, most notably the African American literary critic Henry Louis Gates Jr., have noted there is no condemnation of slavery in Gronniosaw’s text, unlike later 19th century slave narratives. Indeed, according to Gates Jr.’s reading of the text one of the key threads throughout is Gronniosaw’s abandonment of his African heritage and his blackness as he seeks to become more European in order to gain acceptance in 18th century Anglo-American society.
Other readings argue that the text presents slavery in a generally positive, paternalistic light playing down its brutal reality. Gronniosaw’s initial enslavement is portrayed as saving him from being murdered; the horrors of the Middle Passage are absent, with only a reference to a mild bout of sea-sickness; it is through slavery that Gronniosaw is brought to a Christian country from a ‘pagan’ Africa; it is through slavery, and specifically through his final ‘dear kind master’ that Gronniosaw is converted to Calvinism. There is no explicit condemnation of the slavery as an institution, no meditation on the condition of being in bondage or on the morality of slaveholding. Indeed, the text can also be seen as making an implicit case for slavery as a path to conversion, an argument made by its editor Walter Shirley, Lady Huntingdon’s cousin, in the Narrative’s preface.
How then do we reconcile Williams Pantycelyn’s avowedly anti-slavery principles with the publication of a text which at best was ambivalent in its attitude to slavery? The same can, of course, be asked with regards to Gronniosaw, as a former slave responsible for the authorship the text. Recent academic work by the academic Ryan Hanley, focused on the religious, social and cultural milieu behind the original publication of the Narrative, may shed some light on these contradictions. As Hanley has argued the depiction of slavery in the Narrative was profoundly influenced by Gronniosaw’s relationship to evangelical Calvinism and its social networks. Hanley identifies a number of key factors that help explain the way slavery is depicted in the Narrative.
First, while the text is commonly read as a slave narrative today, on publication the Narrative’s function was primarily as a piece of devotional literature, forming part of a sharp, and by now obscure, theological debate on predestination and slavery conducted by pamphlet between the Calvinists and the John Wesley’s Arminian Methodists. The central focus of the Narrative is on Gronniosaw’s path to Calvinism, his conversion, his engagement with Calvinist circles and the comfort provided by his religious faith during his extremely challenging circumstances post-slavery. The Calvinist belief that a person’s fate in the afterlife was pre-ordained meant that their freedom in the physical world was of little importance in terms of their eventual salvation, which had significant implications for their views on slavery at this time. For proslavery Calvinists such as George Whitfield and Lady Huntingdon, as long as the gospel was being preached to their slaves they saw no obstacle to owning slaves, their spiritual wellbeing being of more importance than their physical freedom.
Second, there are issues related to Gronniosaw’s authorial agency, especially in relation to the texts’ muted depiction of slavery. A number of actors stood between Gronniosaw, the narrator, and the published text: an amanuensis, an editor and perhaps most significantly a patron, the slave owning Lady Huntingdon. An alternative reading by Jennifer Harris, however, makes the case for a higher degree of authorial agency, with Gronniosaw omitting key facts, such as his probable Islamic background in contrast to the depiction of a ‘pagan’ Africa, as a means of playing on European sympathies and prejudices.
Third, many of the people in this Calvinist social network, on whom Gronniosaw was, crucially, financially dependent upon at different times, were involved in the slave trade, including key figures such as George Whitfield and Lady Huntingdon. Indeed, Lady Huntingdon, the patron of Trefeca College, is key here with all the actors involved in the Narrative’s production, as Hanley points out, doing their upmost to please her. Williams Pantycelyn was also well acquainted with Lady Huntingdon, writing many of his English hymns at her behest and in relation to her influential role as the benefactor of Trefeca College
The religious, social and cultural environment in which Gronniosaw’s Narrative was produced provides important context in relation to its depiction of slavery. The primacy given to theological concerns and the role of Lady Huntingdon also provides similar context for Williams Pantycelyn’s role in the translation and publication of the Berr Hanes. However, questions remain in reconciling its muted depiction of slavery and Williams’ opposition to the slave trade and how these relate to the proslavery views of many in that periods Calvinist social network.
Dr. Douglas Jones
Printed Collections Projects Manager
Evans, Chris – Slave Wales: the Welsh and American Slavery, 2010.
Gates Jr., Henry Louis – The Signifying Monkey, 2011.
Gronniosaw, James Albert Ukawsaw – Berr hanes o’r pethau mwyaf hynod ym mywyd James Albert Ukawsaw Groniosaw, tywysog o Affrica: fel yr adroddwyd ganddo ef ei hun, 1779.
Hanley, Ryan – ‘Calvinism, Proslavery and James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw’, Slavery and Abolition 35 (2), 2015.
Hanley, Ryan – Beyond Slavery and Abolition: Black British writing, c.1770-1830, 2018.
Harris, Jennifer – ‘Seeing the Light: Re-reading James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, English Language Notes 42 (4), 2005.
James, E. Wyn – ‘Blessed Jubil!: Slavery Mission and the Millennial Dawn in the work of William Williams Pantycelyn’ in Cultures of Radicalism in Britain and Ireland, 2013.
James, E. Wyn – ‘Welsh Ballads and American Slavery’, Welsh Journal of Religious History 2, 2007.
James, E. Wyn – ‘Caethwasanaeth a’r Beirdd’, Taliesin 119, 2003.
Potkay, Adam and Sandra Burr – Black Atlantic Writers of the 18th Century: Living the New Exodus in England and the Americas, 1995.
Schlenther, Boyd Stanley – Queen of the Methodists: The Countess of Huntingdon and the Eighteenth-century Crisis of Faith and Society, 1997.
Tyson, John R. – ‘Lady Huntingdon, Religion and Race’, Methodist History 50 (1), 2011.
Welch, Edwin – Spiritual Pilgrim: A Reassessment of the Life of the Countess of Huntingdon, 1995.
As those who know me well will tell you, I am an arctophile. I have been collecting teddy bears for more than 30 years and, some time ago, realised that I needed to catalogue my collection if I was to remember key details about individual bears. In 2001, I acquired a Palm Personal Digital Assistant to record provenance information relating to my growing collection. I noted the names of the bears, manufacturer or artist, place of acquisition, price and personal notes, such as memories associated with their acquisition. I used this PDA for a few years and then had a lull in collecting, so did not access it for a while. A few years ago, I tried to add some information, but the PDA would not turn on. I did some research and discovered that it was known to have a problem with its battery and backing up data. I also found out that even if I could have turned it on, the data was held in a proprietary Palm software format and it would have been far beyond my skills to extract the data and save in a different format. Fortunately, although I could not access the digital record I had kept some information on paper, but several of the original names of my bears were lost forever!
We are all now using digital means to connect, record and share data, both personal and professional. However, the risks of losing data are considerable unless steps are taken to ensure access in the present and the future. Things I wish I had done when I created the records for the bears include naming the files consistently, checking that I could open the PDA and read the information every year or so, or that I had used a system which did not rely on a proprietary software, so that I could copy the data to several places for security. With digital content, such as emails, photographs, videos, there is often no paper alternative and access to the personal digital archive of the future is dependent on preservation planning in the present. The Library has published guidelines to assist with preservation planning and please feel to contact the digital archives team, if you want any additional information at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sally McInnes, Head of Unique and Contemporary Collection
The small gauge film format 9.5mm is not as well known today as other popular formats such as 16mm, standard 8mm and super 8mm. However, this may change now that it has reached its centenary and become the subject of a number of events which have been created to celebrate its history and impact on film culture.
Pathé 9.5mm film projectors in the apparatus collection of NLW Screen and Sound Archive
It was December 1922 when the French Pathé company launched its new 9.5mm format. It was a radical miniaturisation of both film exhibiting and film making technology which enabled significant reductions in costs. This in turn had the effect of making home cinema and home cinematography accessible to a much wider global public. The initial offering was of a movie projector – The Pathé Baby – which the company supported with a supply of films from its extensive back catalogue. Diverse short subjects and even edited down feature films all originally made on 35mm standard gauge were available for purchase or hire, printed down to 9.5mm. In many ways it was the VHS or Netflix of its day, the means for a re-dimensioned experience of cinema in the home. One year later Pathé added a camera to its new system which by then had a new competitor in the shape of 16mm film, backed by the American companies Kodak and Bell and Howell.
A camera magazine or ‘charger’ of 9.5mm film, showing its distinctive central perforation
The existence of these relatively affordable complete tools for small gauge filmmaking had the effect of making widespread amateur film culture possible. Although various now obscure formats had existed for well-heeled amateurs from the beginnings of cinematography in the late Victorian era, their use had never become a mass market phenomenon. Within a few years Pathé had sold 100,000 of its Baby projectors. The home movie making genie was finally out of the bottle!
An undated sales leaflet for the Pathé Baby projector
It is no coincidence that the moving image snapshots of everyday life which institutions like the National Library of Wales Screen and Sound Archive hold in their collections begin in the 1920s and are well represented from the 1930s onwards. Movie making became a popular pastime and was further democratised by the establishment of cine clubs in which members would share the costs and collaborate on story films and documentaries.
From 2013 to 2017 many such films in the UK’s national and regional film archives were digitised and contextualised as a part of the Unlocking Film Heritage project. NLW’s Screen and Sound Archive was a partner of the BFI run project and 57 of its 9.5mm home movies were scanned and made freely and indefinitely available on the BFI player. Representative examples include:
These are clips from films made by Jack Clark of Brecon. The Clark family were multi-generational residents of Brecon and still operate a family business to this day. Jack Clark owned and ran a Photographic supplies shop and studio which may have helped with supplies of film stock and developing chemicals. Some of his films can also currently be seen in the Brecknock Museum exhibition. For the centenary of 9.5mm we are making available a further clip from the Clark collection which shows areas of the town close to the river – Llanfaes Bridge and around the Cathedral – flooded in the 1930s.
In this case, we present an overscan of the material so that the characteristic features of 9.5mm can be seen. These include the central perforation and the notch cut into the side of the film at the point of an intertitle which triggers a still frame mechanism in the projector. The often associated melted frame is also visible, as is damage to the image from the action of the projector claw. Aside from the historical value of images of the flooding, something made newly relevant by our current concerns about climate change, this clip is an interesting example of the ‘remixing’ potential of 9.5mm in which Clark as a home movie maker has edited commercial footage together with material which he has shot himself. We cannot be sure how intentional this action was but it is suggestive that the scenes of flooding have been connected to the cartoon images of taking ‘an unexpected bath’.
Scanning 9.5mm film on the MWA Flashscan at NLW Screen and Sound Archive
In 1932, a new even more economical format, 8mm, joined the now buoyant market for home movie making. Despite this increased competition, 9.5mm continued to thrive as both a medium for making and showing films. Pathé’s catalogue of film titles continued to expand and new hardware catered for the development of 9.5mm sound film which meant contemporary releases could be heard as well as seen.
The gauge had a devoted following who appreciated it being less costly than 16mm but having a comparable picture quality, certainly far superior to 8mm. When, in 1960, Pathéscope UK went into receivership, it might have been the end of the format but these devotees banded together to form a new cine club which successfully recreated support structures for the gauge. Members of Group 9.5 continued to collect and show the prints produced by Pathé and some of them – and similar groups in other countries – also kept production of 9.5mm home movies going, in some rare cases even experimenting with new cinematographic techniques such as the use of anamorphic lenses for a widescreen image.
On the left, a section of the 9.5mm film strip of a film by Group 9.5 member, Hugh Hale. On the right, the expanded widescreen image as seen when projected using a 1.5x anamorphic lens
Now operating in the age of super 8, which was introduced in 1965, these latter day nine fivers were ploughing an idiosyncratic furrow and with more limited exposure the gauge gradually slipped out of the public consciousness, becoming, in the phrase reported by Lenny Lipton, ‘a living corpse’. It is perhaps kinder to say that, as a practical filmmaking medium and as a means of dissemination of theatrical film content, it is now something of an archaeological curiosity, but one which can nevertheless give valuable insights into the vastly different practices of media consumption experienced by earlier generations. What’s more, as the carrier of a hundred years’ worth of global memory, it is our hope that, through the preservations carried out by the library and other archives, this storied centenarian will live forever.
As the United Kingdom celebrates the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, it’s an opportunity to see how similar occasions have been marked in Wales in the past.
A number of monuments were built throughout Britain to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of George III in 1809, including the Arch near Devil’s Bridge, Ceredigion, which was built for Thomas Johnes, book collector and owner of the Hafod Press. A Jubilee Tower was built on the summit of Moel Famau, Flintshire, which is described in A history of the Jubilee Tower on Moel Fammau in North Wales by R.J. Edwards.Both these monuments still stand today. The Church of England (which included churches in Wales at that time) published special forms of prayer, in Welsh and English, to give thanks for half a century of the King’s reign.
Similar forms of prayer were published in 1887 for the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria, and a thanksgiving service was held in St. Peter’s Church, Carmarthen, with a sermon by the Bishop of St. David’s. A decade later, Victoria celebrated her Diamond Jubilee. One of the books published to mark the occasion was The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee: illustrated record of Her Majesty’s reign and descriptive sketch of Aberdare, 1837-1897.
The collection given to the National Library by Miss Margaret Davies of Gregynog, near Newtown, includes a unique record of the Silver Jubilee of George V in 1935. A book was given to Miss Davies and her sister Gwendoline by members of the Montgomery County choirs who sang in the presence of the King and Queen in the Royal Albert Hall, to thank the sisters for their support. The book is signed by members of the choirs and beautifully bound.
The next Silver Jubilee was that of the present Queen. I remember as a child standing at the side of the road when she and the Duke of Edinburgh were returning from a thanksgiving service in Llandaff Cathedral in 1977. An attractive bilingual booklet was printed containing the order of service. A quarter of century later the Queen celebrated her Golden Jubilee, and amongst the year’s events she and the Duke of Edinburgh visited the Festival of Youth in Eirias Park, Colwyn Bay. A bilingual booklet was published to celebrate the visit.
I wonder what historical records will be added to our collections after this year’s celebrations?
For the past two years, between lockdowns, I have been working my way through a backlog of uncatalogued or partially catalogued maps of Africa, sorting them and adding them to the online database so everyone can access them. We are often told by readers that they did not know we had maps from outside Wales, so I hope this cataloguing project and my blog posts will help more readers to discover the breadth of material we hold.
Most of these maps are from the era of European colonial administration of African countries. This partly results from the source of the maps in the collection — the vast majority have arrived in the library during the 20th century through the legal deposit process, which applies only to material published in the UK. The most prolific British publisher of overseas mapping in the 20th century was the government’s Directorate of Colonial Surveys. It was established in 1946 to centralise production of maps of the empire. In 1957, with independence movements across the empire gaining momentum, it was renamed the Directorate of Overseas Surveys. Other governmental departments, such as the Central Office of Information, also produced maps for a general audience, while the Ministry of Defence (MoD) produced and collected maps for military purposes, some of which have been added to the library collections as the MoD reduces its paper map collection in favour of a more digital approach. However, the dominance of colonial administrative perspectives in the collection also reflects the importance of mapping the colonial world — maps ‘prove’ who owns land.
Our first two maps are from a set used to define and legalise the border between British Tanganyika (modern Tanzania) and Belgian Rwanda and Burundi. The maps were drawn in the 1920s, and divided the spoils of the First World War as decided by the Treaty of Versailles. Tanganyika, Rwanda and Burundi had until then been part of German East Africa, but were to be divided as reparations between Britain and Belgium.
The ceremonial signatures of British and Belgian commissioners can be seen on the map. No reference is made to local people or leaders, whose signatures were not required for this division of their territory.
Wiedergutmachung von Unrecht?, 1918
Our next map is a German challenge to British Prime Minister David Lloyd George’s speech outlining his aim of ‘compensation for injustice’ [Wiedergutmachung von Unrecht] through the peace process. Lloyd George had demanded that Germany and its allies withdraw from Belgium, Serbia, Montenegro, Italy, Romania, Alsace and Lorraine — this German map argues that his demands were hypocritical while Britain and its allies held colonies around the world. German East Africa is not included on the map.
While some colonial borders were defined with reference to geographical features, such as Lake Tanganyika in our first map, a quick glance at ruler-straight national boundaries in north Africa, for example, suggests that other borders were defined on paper, by lines drawn on maps, rather than with reference to the land itself, or its people.
This six-sheet 1959 map of the town of Voi in southern Kenya demonstrates this on a smaller scale: the town’s administrative boundary is a perfect circle, map information stopping abruptly at the circle’s edge.
The map of Voi was intended for administrative use within Kenya itself. However, many maps in the collection were made for a UK audience, to inform people about the empire. As a result, some are much more visually striking than the large-scale maps used for colonial administration.
West Africa, 1948
East Africa, 1947
West Africa, 1948 [border]
West Africa, 1948 [Mungo Park]
East Africa, 1947 [legend]
Our next two maps were produced in the late 1940s by the British government’s Central Office of Information for a general British audience. Both were drawn by Leo Vernon, who also illustrated maps of other parts of the empire, as well as tourist and historical maps of Britain.
They are intended to convey something of the culture and history of the places they depict through their use of colour and highly illustrated borders.
On the West Africa map, numerous figures are depicted around the edge of the map. The only one named is Mungo Park, a Scottish explorer. The numerous Black Africans depicted are unnamed, and most have only the slightest suggestion of facial features, in stark contrast to the detailed image of Park.
Both maps also show the rich resources found in Britain’s colonies, emphasising the exploitative and extractive nature of much of British colonialism. This focus on exports and commercial potential is a common feature on the maps in the collection.
Africa: commercial development, 1922
Legend from Africa: commercial development, 1922
The next map dates from 1922, and aims to classify the ‘commercial development’ of the entire African continent. The neat colour coding presents an impression of scientific rigour and accuracy, in contrast to the pictorial appeal of Leo Vernon’s illustrations.
In this hierarchy of development, mining, industry and plantation agriculture (run by and for European settlers) come at the top, while ‘virgin’ lands, although used by local communities for hunting and ‘primitive’ collecting, are classed as undeveloped. It is clear in whose interest ‘commercial development’ is intended to be. There is also very little interest in internal trade within countries or regions, only in external connections — those that benefitted imperial countries.
The continent of Africa, 1954
A number of maps in the collection emphasise the difference between colonies, protectorates and trusteeships, including our next map, as well as the 1948 West Africa map discussed above. Although trusteeships were theoretically intended to ensure that economic development benefitted both native people and colonial interests, they were thought of in a decidedly paternalistic way. An article published in 1946 describes trusteeships:
“Trusteeship, both national and international, is a conception which is at the forefront of the human advance. It assumes a relatively stable human society in which nations, themselves mature, rational, and governed in their actions and policies by high conceptions of law and justice, undertake to assist less advanced peoples to climb the ladder of self-government…”
The maps also frequently include short texts extolling the virtues of the colonial system, detailing the benefit that British rule supposedly bestowed upon Africans, and the ‘progress’ to be made before Africans could be ‘trusted’ with self-government:
The continent of Africa, 1954 [text]
East Africa, 1947 [text]
This blog has only scratched the surface of the fascinating material I have catalogued during this project, and there is plenty more work still to do, so I will be doing more blog posts in future to update you all with my favourite finds from this process.
In the year 1870. A Welshman by the name of John Hughes stood in a desolate land in Eastern Ukraine. This land was chosen as the site of his ironworks. The area, later to be named Hughesovka after him, became an enormous industrial complex attracting workers from all over the world.
Hughes was born in Merthyr Tydfil in 1814, and made a name for himself in South Wales and London for being the mastermind behind several steel foundries. He learnt his trade under his father at the Cyfarthfa Iron Works and by the time Hughes was in his mid 30s, he owned his own foundry in Newport. He then moved to London to continue his meteoric rise. In 1870, Hughes was given the opportunity by the Russian Tsar to bring his expertise to Imperial Russia.
His newly formed company, the New Russia Company Ltd., not only created a new industry within the region, but also provided amenities for the newly formed population, with churches, hospitals, and other important services available, to ensure a happy and harmonious working environment. Workers were even allowed to re-locate their families to the new region, in the hope that this would minimize homesickness.
The working conditions were tough with hot dry summers, dust storms, torrential spring rains, and harsh winters with large snowfalls. Hughes hoped that the good rate of pay and consistent work, which many other countries couldn’t provide, would compensate for the extreme weather conditions that the workers had to endure.
Hughesovka, latterly Stalino, then Donetsk, became a thriving community by the early 21st century, with the region becoming an important part of the Donbas region. Unfortunately, conflict soon followed.
References and online sources:
Edwards, S. Hughesovka: a Welsh enterprise in Imperial Russia : an account of John Hughes of Merthyr Tydfil, his New Russia Company, and the town, works and collieries which he established in the Ukraine, 1992
Thomas, C. Dreaming a city : From Wales to Ukraine : The Story of Hughesovka/Stalino/Donestsk, 2009*
Glamorgan Family History Society Journal, No. 128 (December 2017), p. 10-13 (Diggins, R. Hughesovka: a Welsh enterprise in Imperial Russia)
May has arrived and once again it is time for the National Library of Wales and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales to join together to hold our annual map symposium Carto-Cymru. This will be the sixth event in the series since we started in 2016 and this year we are once again holding an online symposium, though unlike last year the whole event will take place on a single day, the 20th of May.
Our theme this year is ‘Mapping in Megabytes– how computer generated mapping is changing the way maps are produced, used and preserved and what this means for those who hold such information and make it available to the public.’
We have an exciting line-up of speakers, starting with our very own Jason Evans, who will be talking about ‘Decolonising Welsh mapping’. Jason is the Library’s Open Data Manager, and he will be telling us about Welsh speaking users of Openstreetmap and Wikidata have been working to safeguard Welsh language place names and why it is important to do so.
He will be reflecting on a recent Welsh Government funded project, led by the National Library of Wales, to combine these two datasets in order to improve Welsh language mapping services. He will also be looking ahead at the potential of crowdsourced data to empower Welsh speakers and ensure they have equal access to digital map-based services.
Our second talk will be by Jon Dollery, the Royal Commission’s Mapping Officer, who will be discussing the exciting project he is currently working to create interactive digital data from historic mapping.
He poses the intriguing question “What if we could have an OS Mastermap style system of polygons for landscapes now lost to the ravages of time and human progress and what if these polygons could be linked with estate, census and historic environment records?”
The UK has a vast collection of historic cartographic sources, increasingly these are being digitised and georeferenced. The AHRC funded ‘Deep Mapping of Estate Archives’ project seeks to take all of the information contained within these various mapping sources and create innovative interactive digital spatial data that will improve our understanding of landscape development over the past 400 years.
Jon’s talk will explore the types of spatial data we currently capture and how they are used within the historic environment sector and how these new developments can give us new ways to use them. We know there is a wealth of data in our historical written and cartographical sources, but we need to make it easier to get at and analyse. This talk will demonstrate some of the ways in which this can be achieved.
After the lunch break Dr Gethin Rees, Lead Curator of Digital Mapping at the British Library will talk about the Legal Deposit Libraries’ Map Viewer. His presentation will outline the steps that the six legal deposit libraries have taken to ensure that digital maps published in the United Kingdom are available for current and future generations.
Gethin will discuss how access to an increasing amount of data is provided through the legal deposit libraries’ map viewer, built on familiar web map technologies that offer user-friendly functionality and make the collection accessible within the reading rooms of the legal deposit libraries.
Finally, he will look towards the future and outline some of the upcoming plans for map collecting as the legal deposit libraries seek to keep pace with the increasing diversity of maps published in the UK today.
In our final talk Sally MacInnes, Head of Unique and Contemporary Content at The National Library of Wales and Dr Sarah Higgins, Senior Lecturer in Information Studies at Aberystwyth University, will discuss the issues surrounding the preservation of digital maps.
Sally will describe the Library’s approach to preserving born digital content, with a focus on digital maps and how this fits into the Library’s new strategy: A Library for Wales and the World.
Sarah will then describe a project being undertaken in partnership between Aberystwyth University, The Royal Commission and The National Library to develop an AI enabled Trusted Digital Repository for Wales.
This promises to be an exciting day with the chance to hear about some cutting-edge projects in the field. So do come and join us. Tickets are free and can be obtained from events.library.wales
The Library is surrounded by around 9 acres of grounds, which include lawn and formal garden, a craggy knoll which has been left over to natural vegetation, mainly stunted trees and gorse, and open fields, grazed by sheep. At the southernmost point of the site is a knoll which is not grazed and is covered in gorse and with some more mature trees. The site is an extremely exposed location, with open aspects to the sea exposing it to high winds and rain, and in the summer the harsh effects of the strong sun. Originally part of the Gogerddan Estate, there are a number of examples of the original planting such as mature Scots Pine still to be found.
The Library has been undertaking a long term plan to make its gardens more environmentally friendly and enhance the natural environment to encourage biodiversity in all parts of the site. The fields are let for grazing, whilst the two “knoll” areas are left to nature, with occasional management in relation to oversize trees.
Although the gardens surrounding the Library are required to contribute towards the impression of formality and compliment the Grade 2* listed status of the building, recent improvements to the gardens have included a long term vision to make them more sustainable and to encourage biodiversity.
The main actions that have been taken are:
Adopting sustainable gardening practices
The Library has stopped buying in annual bedding, instead all annual flowers have been grown from seed and are aimed at attracting pollinators. Echium, cornflower, ecsholtzia, cosmos and geranium are all part of the planting scheme.
Flowering perennials were bought in as plug plants and will be grown on for future years. There are also a number of areas that have been planted with heathers that give permanent ground cover and the range of varieties ensure that there is always something in flower at every time of the year. The planters at the front of the building, which are particularly exposed to extremes of dryness and heat, have been planted with lavender which can tolerate the harsh conditions. A number of areas in the front gardens have now been planted with flowering bulbs which are left in situ, rather than being replaced by summer bedding which had been the previous practice.
The gardens on the north side of the main steps have been cleared and replanted with a selection of low maintenance shrubs and perennials that are bee and insect friendly. The fence at the top of the garden has been planted with the rambling rose “Seagull” which is very attractive to bees.
Carrying out environmental improvements
The Library’s car park has a hedgerow on the east and part of the south boundary, and a new hedgerow has been planted across the Library’s field to the east. On the northern boundary with the University fields and immediately surrounding the cark park the Library unstable and dangerous Leylandii was removed and the sterile conditions created by these conifers have been replaced with formal laurel trimmed bushes in the car park, and by native species such as crab apple and cherry trees on the northern boundary.
Being insect friendly
In the formal gardens around the Library we have consciously planted a number of insect friendly shrubs such as cotoneaster, hebe, fushia, buddleia, cotton lavender, artemesia and laurel, as well as allium, sedum, and hybrid roses.
The Library has also ceased to routinely use Pesticides and herbicides, only where absolutely necessary on an exception-only basis.
All garden waste is composted on site in three specially constructed compost bins. This compost is periodically removed and used as a mulch around the gardens.
Over the last few years the Library has made a great deal of effort to improve the condition, impact, and sustainability of the gardens immediately surrounding the building. The aim of these improvements has been to improve biodiversity, as well as to create a beautiful environment in which members of the public and Library staff can relax. In the next few years the planting will mature and it is hoped that the gardens will make a major contribution to wellbeing. The Library has started to involve the gardens within the Library’s volunteering scheme and hopes that this will offer unique opportunities to volunteers.
The Library provides an exhibition each year for the St. David’s Day Prayer Breakfast in Cardiff. This special event is organised by a group of Christian members of the Senedd from different parties, and the guests include members of parliaments from across Europe, church and chapel leaders, and representatives of a number of Christian organisations.
The theme of this year’s Prayer Breakfast was “Revivals”. The earliest item in the exhibition was Llythyr ynghylch y ddyledswydd o gateceisio plant a phobl anwybodus (1749) by Griffith Jones, who was responsible for establishing thousands of circulating schools in order to teach people to read the Bible. There was a close connection between these schools and the efforts to persuade the SPCK to provide Bibles in Welsh.
Two letters, giving an account of a revival of religion in Wales by Thomas Charles of Bala were published in 1792. The time of spiritual awakening recounted by Charles led to the founding of the Bible Society, and the exhibition also included the first edition of the Welsh Bible published by the Society in 1807.
In order to reflect the international aspect of the theme, we showed Hanes llwyddiant diweddar yr Efengyl, a rhyfeddol waith Duw, ar eneidiau pobl yn North America (1766), a translation by William Williams, Pantycelyn of a pamphlet describing the spiritual awakening in America two years earlier. Also included in the exhibition were the autobiography of Ben Chidlaw (1890), a Welshman who emigrated to America but was also involved in the 1839 Revival on a visit to Wales, and The revival in the Khasia Hills (1907), the history of the Calvinistic Methodist foreign mission in India.
Two manuscripts from the 1858-9 Revival were shown: the diary of Dafydd Morgan, Ysbyty, and a letter from John Matthews of Aberystwyth. The item which attracted most interest was Evan Roberts’s Bible, which he had with him when working as a miner. The Bible was partially burnt in an explosion in 1897 which killed five of his colleagues. This led to his conversion, described in the diary of the Rev. Seth Joshua, which was displayed beside the Bible. Evan Roberts became the leading figure of the 1904-05 Revival.
It was a privilege to display these treasures from the Library’s collections in the foyer of the Senedd and discuss them with the guests. In creating the exhibition I sought to recount the work of God through a number of revivals in Wales, as well as revivals in other countries which have either had an influence in Wales or benefited from the contribution of Welsh missionaries.
One of the Library’s main aims is to collect all kinds of recorded information about Wales and the people of Wales for the benefit of the public, with a new emphasis on ensuring that our collections represent all aspects of Welsh life and history, especially under-represented individuals and communities. The ‘Collecting’ exhibition gives a taste of our recent acquisitions, including archives and manuscripts, books, maps, photographs and artwork.
In terms of archives the material represents a number of themes – literature, wars, sport and entertainment, politics and music, industry and culture. It contains material of interest in the study of women’s history, the history of slavery, the social history of Wales, the history of art, and the history of the entertainment world, dating from 1866 to 2018. The writers Edward Thomas, David Jones, Menna Elfyn and Eigra Lewis Roberts are among those featured, as are Frederick Douglass, David Lloyd George and Jill Evans from the political world, and Mollie Doreen Phillips, Harry Secombe and Llio Rhydderch from the entertainment industry.
This is what’s on display:
The poet Edward Thomas’s exercise book contains drafts of ‘The Mountain Chapel’, December 1914. (NLW MS 24122B). Purchased with financial assistance of the Friends of the National Libraries.
An illustrated letter in Welsh which forms part of a collection of letters from David Jones to Valerie ‘Elri’ Wynne-Williams. (NLW MS 24167i-iiiE) Purchased with financial assistance of the Friends of the National Libraries.
Notebook of the writer Menna Elfyn dating from 1977 containing early poetic endeavors and drafts of poems. (Menna Elfyn Archive, 1/1/1) Purchase.
Eigra Lewis Roberts’ manuscript draft of the popular television program ‘Minafon’. She wrote about the lives and discontents of Welsh women in post-war Britain, a subject that was not widely addressed by Welsh writers at the time. (NLW MS 23074B) Donation.
Papers of Captain Ted Lees, relating to Island Farm Prisoner of War Camp, Bridgend. Captain Lees was the camp’s Intelligence Officer and interpreter during the period 1946-1948, when it held some of the most senior German officers, including Feldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt. (NLW MS 24094E) Purchase.
Scrapbook relating to Mollie Doreen Phillips, the Carmarthenshire-based ice skater who competed in the 1932 and 1936 Winter Olympic Games. (NLW ex 3043 (i)) Purchase.
A selection of items from the Harry Secombe archive, including a letter from Prince Charles in 1981, the script for the final ‘Goon Show’ radio programme, broadcast in 1972, and photographs of ‘The Goons’. (Harry Secombe Archive) Donation (below):
Copy of a petition, presented to the European Parliament on behalf of Residents against Ffos-y-fran in an attempt to stop opencast mining in Merthyr Tydfil. (Jill Evans MEP Papers, 1 ) Donation.
David Lloyd George’s War Department Pass, Military Identity Card and Westminster Palace Pass from 1940. (Coalition Liberal Association Papers, 1) Purchase.
Papers relating to the 2007 travelling exhibition, ‘Crossing Oceans: Wales, Slavery and Its Music’, the year of Women in Jazz’s 21st anniversary and the bicentennial anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade. (Jazz Heritage Wales Archive : Women’s Archive of Wales) Donation.
A collection of Welsh music fanzines from the 1980s from Rhys Williams’ collection, including ‘Yn Syth o’r Rhewgell’ fanzine, April 1985. (Rhys Williams Fanzine Collection) Donation (below):
Manuscript score of ‘Dwy Gwningen Fechan’ by noted harpist Llio Rhydderch, to the words of I. D. Hooson, 1955. (Llio Rhydderch Papers, 1) Donation.
Autograph album belonging to the journalist John Griffith, compiled during visits to Reconstruction Era America to report for Baner ac Amserau Cymru between 1866 and 1868. Seen here is the autograph of the famous African-American abolitionist, Frederick Douglass. After escaping from slavery in Maryland, he became a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York. (NLW MS 24173B) Purchase.
Poster for a gig August 8th 1991 where Welsh bands Tŷ Gwydr, Llwybr Llaethog and Datblygu played. This poster was donated as part of The Welsh Music Archive’s appeal for Welsh gigs posters #poster2020 . Donation (below):
Casglu / Collecting – our exhibition of recent acquisitions is on from 14.02.22 – 03.06.22. Remember to pop in to see it.
Nia Mai Daniel
Head of Archives, Manuscripts and Contemporary Records Section, and The Welsh Music Archive Coordinator
A blog about the work and collections of the National Library of Wales.
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