Posted - 13-10-2014 No Comments



The LENS Festival of Documentary Photography is now ten, yes ten, years old. Established with the aim of publicising the National Collection of Welsh Photographs here at the Library it has become a popular and well attended event.


Preparation for any LENS Festival starts with 51 weeks to go. First there is an inquest into the previous LENS, what could be improved and consideration of suggestions from the floor. After all LENS belongs to those who attend it.


Next comes the juicy bit. Choosing speakers for each LENS event is akin to being a child in a sweet shop – lots of choice, some old favourites, some new delights to be discovered. At least photography doesn’t ruin your teeth.


Our Friday night slot is traditionally devoted to the more artistic side of photography. This year we look forward to hearing from James O. Jenkins.


Saturday will showcase four presentations, each speaker free to interpret the chosen theme as they wish. Neil Turner has photographed extensively in the Middle East and will be relating aspects of his travels to us. Amanda Jackson has recently been photographing those who have chosen to walk a different and more sustainable path, notably in North Pembrokeshire.  Tina Carr and Annmarie Schone have worked together for over 25 years and are well represented here in the National Collection of Welsh Photographs having photographed extensively in Wales. Their projects have included Pigs & Ingots, Coalfaces and Abandoned.

Tina Carr and Annemarie Schöne


Homer Sykes came to prominence with his book ‘Once A Year’ published in 1977. Numerous other works followed including ‘The Village Pub’ (a personal favourite) in 1992. He continues to be fascinated by the quirkier side of life in Britain.

Homer Sykes


In previous years requests have been made for more information about storing digital photographs. This year our own Ifor Ap Dafydd will be speaking about digital preservation, in particular digital photographs.


The National Library of Wales is pleased to confirm the purchase of another album of photographs by John Dillwyn Llewellyn at a recent auction in New York.


Will Troughton

Posted - 02-10-2014 No Comments


Do Archivists Dream of Electric COWs?

The COW and the CloudWales is famed as a land of sheep but we were delighted to hear recently that the ARCW Digital Preservation Group’s  ‘COWs in the Cloud’ project has made it onto the short list for the prestigious Digital Preservation Coalition’s Annual Awards.  We’ve all got digital files that are important to us – whether they are family pictures, business documents or emails – and the COW, or Community of the Willing has been an Archives Records Council Wales collaborative project, bringing together universities, archives, and record offices across Wales to help find ways of working together towards saving our nations’ digital heritage, if it ends up in the National Library of Wales, your local archive, or stored in the Cloud. We would also like to congratulate students and colleagues at Aberystwyth University, for making the shortlist in their respective categories too.

Ifor ap Dafydd, MabLab Project

#dpa2014 #dpc


Posted - 12-09-2014 No Comments

Collections / Exhibitions / Uncategorized

GLAMorous archivists

In a few days the Library will be welcoming a GLAMorous set of archivists for a conference on ‘Collaborative Approaches in Literary Archives’.
GLAM is the Group for Literary Archives and Manuscripts ( established in 2005 to bring together archivists, librarians, curators, writers and researchers with an interest in the collecting, preservation, use and promotion of literary archives and manuscripts in Britain and Ireland.  Their visit coincides with the Dylan Thomas exhibition at the National Library which can be seen until 20 December 2014.

Dylan Thomas Exhibition

Dylan Thomas Exhibition

The Dylan Thomas exhibition at the Library (with online version at is a prime example of the interest and activity that can be created around the papers of a poet and writer. Also the Library’s collaboration with the David Jones Society and the David Jones Centre at Aberystwyth University will be discussed.
The holdings of the Library of literary archives in Welsh and English is comprehensive, and includes the papers of Edward Thomas, David Jones, John Cowper Powys as well as Kate Roberts and Islwyn Ffowc Elis. Visit our web pages on Modern Literary Archives for more information:

'Sali Mali' Mary Vaughan Jones, 1969. (NLW XPB2124 J77). © Cymdeithas Lyfrau Ceredigion

‘Sali Mali’ Mary Vaughan Jones, 1969. © Cymdeithas Lyfrau Ceredigion

There are two other exhibitions currently at the Library which bring attention to our literary holdings. The first, ‘Words and Pictures Women in Welsh Children’s Literature’ includes original manuscripts, personal letters, reviews and artwork based on the literature of Winnie Parry, Mary Vaughan Jones (author of Sali Mali) and others. The second on ‘ Valleys Writers’ celebrates the life and literature of four Welsh valleys writers, Jack Jones, Rhys Davies, Glyn Jones and Idris Davies.


Nia Mai Daniel


Posted - 08-09-2014 No Comments

Exhibitions / Uncategorized

“…innumerable exercise books full of poems…”

After traveling to Wales in January and spending five months at the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea, Dylan’s Notebooks have returned to the Library, and to the ‘Dylan Comes Home’ exhibition.

This exhibition includes the four poetry Notebooks Dylan compiled during his teenage years between 1930 and 1934. He sold them to Buffalo University in the 1940s for a small sum of money, and this is their first trip back to Wales since that fateful day.

With the famous Notebooks are letters written between the poet and Pamela Hansford Johnson, which shed light on his writing process, as well as manuscripts for the poem ‘Ballad of the Long-Legged Bait’.

Dylan Thomas, Llyfr Nodiadau 1932 Notebook © David Highams Associates

Dylan Thomas, Llyfr Nodiadau 1932 Notebook
© David Higham Associates

Dylan Thomas, Hunan Bortread / Self Portrait © David Highams Associates

Dylan Thomas, Hunan Bortread / Self Portrait
© David Higham Associates

Dylan Thomas, Llyfr Nodiadau 1930 Notebook © David Highams Associates

Dylan Thomas, Llyfr Nodiadau 1930 Notebook
© David Higham Associates












The ‘Dylan’ exhibition in the Gregynog Gallery will also be having a revamp, with new items from the Library’s collection going on display. More letters that have never before been published will displayed, including one from Dylan to his mistress in America, Elizabeth Reitell. Manuscripts for some of Dylan’s famous poems will also be out on show in the Poets’ Pub, including ‘A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a Child in London’ and ‘Into Her Lying Down Head’.

If you’ve already visited the exhibition,do call by again to view Dylan’s Notebooks and the new material on show in the Gallery from 13th September.  We look forward to seeing you!


Posted - 26-08-2014 No Comments


Wales’ Most Famous Shed

‘..the heaven of my hut’


A replica of Dylan Thomas’ famous writing shed is at the Library from Thursday 28th August to Saturday 30th August 2014.

The shed – complete with curled pictures on the walls, boiled sweets on the desk and the poet’s jacket still hanging on the back of his chair – is on tour as part of Dylan Thomas 100, the year-long festival commemorating the centenary of the great Welsh writer’s birth.

The original shed sits above the Boathouse in the scenic seaside town of Laugharne, Carmarthenshire, where Thomas penned some of his most famous works including Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night and his play for voices Under Milk Wood. The replica will be situated at the front of the main entrance of the Library building overlooking the beautiful views of Cardigan Bay.

 In the shed there will be an opportunity to invent your own ‘Dylan-esque’ new word, which will then be added to the ‘Dictionary for Dylan’. Why not complete your visit by visiting the Library, home to the largest ever exhibition of the poet’s rare original items.


Geoff Charles, Sied Ysgrifennu, Dylan Thomas Writing Shed ©LLGC / NLW

Geoff Charles, Sied Ysgrifennu, Dylan Thomas Writing Shed ©LLGC / NLW

The shed was documented by photographer Geoff Charles in 1955. These images – which are in the Library’s collection – are believed to be the last pictures of the poet’s workspace as it was before his death.

The writing shed has free admission and will be open daily from 9am – 5pm from Thursday 28th August to Saturday 30th August 2014.


In partnership with Carmarthenshire County Council.


Posted - 18-08-2014 No Comments


Sir Watkin and the Italian Castrato

As the musical world celebrates the tercentenary of Gluck (1714-1787), the star of Orfeo ed Euridice emerges from the account books of a Welsh estate. Previous to his role in Gluck’s opera the Italian castrato, Gaetano Guadagni (1728-1792) had become a London ‘celeb’, through professional contacts with Handel and David Garrick, sleazy lifestyle notwithstanding; and to London he returned in 1769.

Portrait of Sir Watkin Williams Wynn – by kind permission of the National Museum of Wales

Portrait of Sir Watkin Williams Wynn – by kind permission of the National Museum of Wales

Guadagni’s audience at the King’s Theatre included Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, the greatest Welsh patron of art and music in the eighteenth century. His name was linked with John Parry, the blind harpist, the Antient Concerts and the Handel Commemoration Concert in Westminster Abbey, 1784. He idolised both Handel and David Garrick, so he must have found Guadagni’s style utterly captivating. These are some of the heart-melting arias written for Guadagni.

Sir Watkin invited Guadagni and Stephen Paxton to perform at the installation of a new Snetzler organ in Ruabon church. Their astronomical fees are recorded in the Wynnstay accounts (October 1770):

Gave Mr Guadagni by Sir Watkins order having been 8 weeks at Wynnstay £100-0-0.

Pd Mr Paxton for the same time 60 guinees & gave him towards his expences 10 guineas £73-10-0.

Wynnstay accounts, 1770 (NLW, Wynnstay Estate Records, EH4/2, p. 32)

Wynnstay accounts, 1770 (NLW, Wynnstay Estate Records, EH4/2, p. 32)

Guadagni quarrelled with his manager and appeared before the magistrates for performing unlicensed opera at Carlisle House. The adverse publicity did not diminish the adulation of his devoted fan. Wynnstay accounts for March 1771 record that £20 was paid to Guadagni for singing at Grosvenor Square. He dedicated the libretto of Orfeo (1771) to Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, denying any further professional remuneration: …..with all due respect to the public, that in performing the part of Orpheus, I require no other bribe, or reward, than the pleasure of shewing you a ready obedience.

Eventually Guadagni returned to Padua but Sir Watkin Williams Wynn must have remembered the astounding voice of the Italian castrato.

Hilary Peters

Posted - 14-08-2014 No Comments


Speed’s Wales : A recently purchased atlas

The name Speed is famously synonymous with antiquarian maps. John Speed (1552-1629) remains the most eminent of English cartographers, a reputation primarily secured by his atlas “The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine” , initially published in 1611/12. The “Theatre”, the first atlas of the British Isles, proved very successful and was issued by several publishers from its inception until 1770. Its individual county maps are the best known and among the most coveted of antiquarian county maps.


Picture 512


Speed attempted to produce his maps from the most reliable and contemporary sources available. He reaped, yet acknowledged the fruits of others’ labours but also introduced innovations, notably town views or plans which appear as insets on many of his maps, together with the boundaries of counties and hundreds and the coats of arms of Royalty and local gentry. In so doing Speed created highly informative, decorative, and attractive maps.

In July the Library purchased the Welsh component of the “Theatre”, known as the “Second Booke containing the Principality of Wales”. The volume comprises a general map of Wales, flanked with inset views of the county towns plus four cathedrals and thirteen individual maps of the Welsh counties, each with one or two urban insets. The maps name and locate towns, larger villages, estates, sites of historic interest and rivers. Hills and mountains are represented pictorially. Each map is coloured, its verso (or reverse side) carrying descriptions of the area depicted. The atlas is competently and appealingly bound in calfskin.


Picture 513


In spite of the date 1662 on the title page, this edition of the “Second Booke” was published in London by Roger Rea the Elder and Younger about 1665, its manifestation unfortunately coinciding with the Great Fire of London. Many copies were lost in the devastation and consequently the Rea editions are amongst the scarcest editions of the “Theatre”. This atlas is thus a rarity of Welsh cartography. The Library also possesses other editions of the “Second Booke” with its Welsh maps dating from 1611 to 1713, as well as examples of the “Theatre” with its maps of other British counties and countries.

Gwilym Tawy

Posted - 05-08-2014 No Comments


Dylan Online

Today we launch an online exhibition of Dylan Thomas manuscripts, which mirrors the physical exhibition that can be seen at the Library until 20 December 2014.

© David Highams Associates

Dylan Thomas, Rhestr o eiriau ‘Poem on His Birthday’ Word List © David Highams Associates


Over 150 digital images can be viewed on the website, varying from Dylan’s passport, personal letters to friends and family and notes relating to some of his most famous poems, to drafts of stories, broadcasts and scripts, his hand-drawn map of Llareggub and a collection of his doodles.

The National Library houses the largest archive of material in the world relating to the ‘rock-and-roll’ poet, and although many of his manuscripts can currently be seen in the physical exhibition, even more can be seen in detail on the website. We hope to add further material over the next months and years as a legacy to Dylan Thomas’ centenary celebrations.

This fantastic digital archive is now available to everyone from all four corners of the earth free of charge, so why not take a look and browse this valuable collection relating to the Welsh literary icon.


Posted - 04-08-2014 No Comments

News and Events

First World War Digital Commemoration Programme

The Library’s commemoration programme forms a key part of the Welsh Government’s Cymru’n Cofio –  Wales Remembers 1914-1918 Programme

Wales RemembersCymru’n Cofio Wales Remembers 1914-1918 is the official site for information on how Wales will mark the centenary of the First World War in Wales. It provides a focal point for information on the latest news, projects, events and signposting services for the programme of commemoration which will take place in Wales from 2014 to 2018.

The National Library of Wales is pleased to announcte an integrated programme of digital projects and resources that will commemorate the impact of the First World War in Wales, and provide a lasting legacy for research, teaching, and public engagement.

Remembering the First World War

Today we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. To mark the occasion, the Library has now made available a number of key resources that will be invaluable throughout the commemorative period. All are free for use and re-use around the world, reflecting the Library’s strategy of “knowledge for all”, and recognising that our impact extends far beyond people who can travel to the Library in Aberystwyth to work with our unique and priceless primary sources and documentary heritage.

Accessing our heritage

The National Library of Wales has been preparing this programme of resources, and their use, for more two years. In August 2012, at the National Library’s stand at the Eisteddfod, the First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, outlined his vision for the Commemoration of the First World War: one that made sure that Welsh experiences of the conflict were captured digitally for future generations. On that occasion, the First Minister also heard about the Library’s plans for an integrated digital commemoration programme. our flagship digital archive of the First World War, was funded by Jisc and the Welsh Government and launched in November 2013. It contains over 200,000 pages of archives and special collections of Wales that reveal the unseen histories of the First World War and its impact on all aspects of Welsh society: economics, language, art, and literature. The material comes from our own collections here at the National Library, and a range of partners, including WHELF (the Welsh Higher Education Libraries Forum), National Library of Wales, Bangor University, Cardiff University, Aberystwyth University, Swansea University, University of Wales Trinity Saint David’s, the local archives of Conwy, Flintshire, Glamorgan, and Gwent, BBC Cymru Wales Archive, and community content generated with The People’s Collection, Wales.

The Library will add resources to this archive throughout the commemoration period, including additional newspapers; the Cardiganshire Great War Tribunal (Appeals) Records; Saunders Lewis Letters; the Welsh Horse Lancers Research Papers Archive; as well as books (including novels), periodicals, diaries and letters. We hope to also add partner materials based on the availability of additional funding.

Other digital resources from the Library that are useful for the study of this period include:

Welsh newspapers and journals available on-line, free of charge

Welsh Newspapers Online, up to 1 million pages of English and Welsh language newspapers from 1804-1919. The text of the newspapers has been through optical character recognition, making the full text searchable

Welsh Journals Online offers access to scholarship from Wales through back issues of 50 titles, from academic and scientific publications to literary and popular magazines.

We also encourage you to browse our digital art and photographic collections, as they also contain key materials from the period, and the National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales is also a important source of materials for study.

Learning resources: the Wales at War app and our educational programme

Iwalesatwar.orgn addition, the Library is leading two digital education projects about the First World War. Wales at War, funded by the HLF, the WG Education Department, and the Armed Forces Covenant fund will build an app that will help schoolchildren research the names on their local War Memorials in Wales.

The National Library of Wales and National Museum Wales are leading a project to produce education resources for schools to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. As part of this project we are using items from the collections of both institutions to create digital teaching resources for Hwb, the all-Wales learning platform. The formats of these resources vary, and include Word, PDF, PowerPoint, iBooks and interactive web technology.  This work is funded by Welsh Government Department of Education and Skills. Learning resources can be downloaded from The National Library of Wales Education website.

A learning pack of World War 1 material printed from our collections will be disseminated to schools across Wales, and is available from the National Library of Wales on-line shop.

It is important that our digital commemorative programme meets the needs of as many people and organisations as possible around the world, to ensure that Wales’ distinctive experience and contribution is properly reflected. In developing our digital programme, the Library has drawn on the advice of experts in the fields of history, literature, art and music have to ensure future generations gain a better understanding of these monumental events and their impact.

Research is being widely used for research, and outputs of this are becoming visible in print and online publications. Dr Paul O’Leary at Aberystwyth University used it to develop research on the impact of the Great War on Merthyr and the Valleys; Dr Gethin Matthews at Swansea has integrated the material into a volume of essays on Welsh History. It is also the source of investigations of different narratives of the War in the Welsh and English language documents: Ifor ap Glyn used it as the source of a presentation at a international conference on Languages in the First World War in June 2014.

Public access, free of charge

The resource has, and will continue to be, a valuable focus for public engagement, especially family history: it has been used at several events, including the BBCs Who Do you Think You Are roadshows. Analysis of usage statistics shows that it is popular outside Wales, especially for research and by the Welsh diaspora. It has been used as the basis of research for TV and radio programmes about the First World War.

And the Library’s attention has not been on the battles on land and sea alone. At the Royal Agricultural Show this year, the Library mounted an innovative new exhibition focusing on the impact of the War on rural communities in Wales, on the ‘home front’. This week at the Eisteddfod Genedlaethol, we are presenting a series of events featuring key commentators and historians, from Sir Deian Hopkin and Catrin Stevens, to Aled Eirug, Gethin Matthews and our own Lyn Lewis Dafis. On Friday, 8 August, we will, for the first time ever, take the bardic Chair won by T.H.Parry Williams back to the Eisteddfod Maes -exactly one hundred years after the coming of War had abruptly cancelled the celebration.

Art and cultural production

Today, the celebrated Welsh artist Bedwyr Williams will use images from the collection of photographs that can be found in in his striking installation piece, Traw, the Welsh centerpiece of the 14-18-Now LIGHTS OUT event in Bangor. Other activities will be taking place across Wales and all around the UK, with worldwide coverage.

Commemoration: collectively remembering the War that shaped the 20th century – and the 21st?

It seems fitting that on the 100th anniversary of the First World War, images, documents and archival sources from the collections of the National Library of Wales will be digitally available to all, free of charge, all around the world.

This shows clearly the scale of the National Library’s digital commemoration programme, the extent of the legacy it will leave behind for future generations, and the Library’s ongoing commitment to the principle of ‘knowledge for all.’

Posted - 01-08-2014 No Comments

Collections / Digitisation / Reader Services / Research / Wills

Wills online – bringing the past to life.

Though always informative, it must be remembered that the wills left by our ancestors are legally binding documents and as such follow a rather dry format, leaving little room for the writer’s individuality to shine through. However there are exceptions – little gems of eccentricity or affection that begin to colour the faded lives of the dead.

The last will and testament of the Rev. Henry Williams (c.1769-1825) begins in the usual manner – “In the name of God my Saviour, I Henry Williams of the town of Cardiff”. Yet, we soon find great bitterness in the testator’s words;

“Not one farthing is to go through the hands of that accomplished villain William Higgon…who killed my sister through cruel usage”. This, swiftly followed by “Rees and his wife are disinherited for the lies, imposition and bad usage they heaped upon me”

More interesting still is the elderly vicar’s passionate homage to his late Grandfather, and his reminiscences of childhood;

“The venerable Thomas Williams, the Gentleman, the Scholar, the Christian, having lived in happy wedlock with Mary his wife 65 years, a woman of the greatest industry, a mother to the poor and adorned with every Christian virtue, whose prayers I heard put up for me when a child”

The will continues with instructions to finish his house in Lanishen and to rename it “Chapel House, being formally a place of worship, and I remember part of the Ten Commandments on one of the walls”

So who was this “venerable grandfather”? And what of the house with its biblical décor? One discovery led to another and, using our online catalogue, I soon discovered a bundle of research notes into one Thomas Williams of Lanishen. It transpires that the grandfather had been a Methodist exhorter in the 1740’s, and his house, a meeting place for likeminded evangelists. The great hymnist Charles Wesley took shelter there during a fierce storm and thereafter the Wesley brothers were always welcomed at the “Chapel house” at Lanishen.

And all this from a few lines of a will. Search today and unlock the past!

Jason Evans

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A blog about the work and collections of the National Library of Wales.

Due to the more personal nature of blogs it is the Library's policy to publish postings in the original language only. An equal number of blog posts are published in both Welsh and English, but they are not the same postings. For a translation of the blog readers may wish to try facilities such as Google Translate.

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