Recently the National Library acquired a copy of the New Testament in Welsh that was presented to the explorer Henry Morton Stanley on his wedding day held in Westminster Abbey. It bears the inscription “To Mr H.M. Stanley with much prayerful sympathy and best wishes from the Vale of Clwyd for July 12th, 1890.” Following this inscription there are three references to verses in the Bible: Isaiah liv, 10; Matthew x, 32; Acts ix, 23. I will let the reader decide how appropriate these are for a wedding occasion.
H. M. Stanley is remembered today for his greeting ‘Doctor Livingstone I presume’ on finding the explorer and missionary in Ujiji near Lake Tanganyika in present day Tanzania. Whether this is a true account is another matter as Stanley was not averse to being economical with the truth.
In many ways he was and remains a very controversial figure. His attitude and treatment of the native African population has often been called into question. At one time he was in the service of the Belgian King, Leopold II. During his reign it is estimated that around 10 million Congolese were killed or mutilated.
He was born John Rowlands on 28 January 1841 in the town of Denbigh. His parents were poverty stricken as well as being unmarried, a stigma that weighed heavily on him. After spending a short time in St Asaph Workhouse, at the age of 18 he emigrated to the United States and created a new persona for himself. Stanley later tried to deny his Welsh roots but this was rather difficult as so many people in the Vale of Clwyd remembered him as a child amongst them. He was also very disparaging towards the language and culture of his country.
When he was invited to preside at the National Eisteddfod of Wales he sent a letter to his wife in which he expresses the following thoughts:
“The Eisteddfod, as I understand it, is for the purpose of exciting interest in the Welsh nationality and language. My travels in the various continents have ill-prepared me for sympathising with such a cause. If I were to speak truly my mind, I should recommend Welshmen to turn their attention to a closer study of the English language, literature and characteristics, for it is only by that training that they can hope to compete with their English brothers for glory, honour, and prosperity. There is no harm in understanding the Welsh language, but they should be told by sensible men that every hour they devote to it, occupies time that might be better employed in furthering their own particular interests …”
Not surprisingly he did not attend this event. It is therefore slightly ironic that he was presented with a volume in the Welsh language on his wedding day.
In three weeks time on 15 March 2014, the 4 Books: Welsh icons united exhibition at the National Library of Wales will close. Shortly afterwards, the iconic Red Book of Hergest will return to England, and to the stacks of the Bodleian Library at Oxford.
During the last six months, the Red Book has shared an exhibition case with other national treasures – the Black Book of Carmarthen, the Book of Taliesin, and the Book of Aneirin – in the National Library, for the very first time. Before this event, the Red Book has only once returned to Wales since its exile to Oxford in 1701, and it is not expected that it will cross the border again for many years.
Dr Maredudd a Huw, Manuscripts Librarian at the National Library stated that: ‘It will be sad to see this treasured item leaving Wales once more, but we are most grateful to Jesus College, Oxford and to the Bodleian Library, for readily agreeing to the loan of their manuscript. By having it here for six months, we have been able to present a “quartet” of the nation’s earliest literary treasures. It is the culmination of a dream to show visitors the best of our literature, gathered together for the very first time.’
The Red Book of Hergest contains treasured texts such as the Four Branches of the Mabinogi, the Dream of Rhonabwy, a medicinal tract by the Physicians of Myddfai, and poems belonging to the saga of Llywarch the Old. The volume was compiled by a team of 3 scribes for Hopcyn ap Tomas ab Einion of Ynysforgan, near Swansea between 1382 and 1410. One of those scribes has been identified as Hywel Fychan ap Hywel Goch of Builth.
Dr Aled Gruffydd Jones, Chief Executive and Librarian of the National Library stated that: ‘It has been a delight to see four of the nation’s greatest treasure together in one place for the very first time. It has also been a delight to see so many visitors – from Wales and beyond, including many children – taking the opportunity to see this unique show. It has been a chance to celebrate the preservation of our native literature over the centuries, and the role of the Library today in preserving our manuscripts for the future.’
The 4 Books will be followed, from 29 March until 14 June 2014, with To tell a story: Chaucer and the Canterbury Tales, an exhibition showcasing one of the National Library’s greatest treasures, the Hengwrt manuscript of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Visitors will be able to view a manuscript believed by many to be the earliest extant version of this literary masterpiece, and to find an answer to the question of why it is here in Wales?
On 20 December 1863 the sailing ship the Indian Empire left Gravesend, bound for New Zealand. On board were some three hundred emigrants. One of these, John Griffith, kept a journal of the voyage. In 2012 this was purchased at auction by the National Library of Wales and is now NLW MS 24033D. The journal is an interesting record of an ocean voyage and its hardships but its writer remains something of a mystery. During my cataloguing of the journal I was unable to definitively pin down where he came from or what happened to him.
The story presented in the auction catalogues (the journal was sold at auction twice in recent years) is that Griffith died of scarlet fever during the voyage and was buried at sea, giving the volume a tragic edge. Certainly the journal ends abruptly on 10 February 1864, six weeks before reaching New Zealand.
However, newspaper reports in the ship’s destination of Port Lyttleton (available on the National Library of New Zealand’s Papers Past website) fail to corroborate the story. For instance the ‘Shipping Intelligence’ report in the Lyttelton Times, 26 March 1864, p. 4, lists four passengers as having died on the journey (Griffith himself recorded one of these deaths on 26 January) but John Griffith is not one of them. A ‘Griffiths’ is listed, alive, among the passengers in the second cabin. The ship was quarantined for several days on arrival because one passenger was still ill with scarlet fever (could this have been him?). A later report notes the lifting of the quarantine. It fails to mention the sick passenger, so presumably he or she must have recovered. In which case John Griffith reached New Zealand safely, then vanished without trace.
I also failed to ascertain where he came from. The sales catalogues give his home as Bangor, Caernarvonshire, and he mentions the Penrhyn Quarry in the journal. We also know his exact age – he recorded his 21st birthday in the journal on 5 February 1864. However it proved too difficult to pin down the right John Griffith from the many in the Bangor area.
Can you help us find John Griffith? Does anybody out there know where he came from? Maybe you’re a descendant of his? (Ideally in New Zealand!) Failing that, can you suggest other avenues of inquiry? Have I missed something obvious? It’s over to you!
At the Swiss Boarder
It was a cold January morning. I sat in my hotel room in London at 5.00am with nervous anticipation for the phone to ring, awaiting instruction of my mission. Sounds very James Bond, but in fact this is a day in the life of a courier. At 6am I was due to commence an epic journey across Europe by truck to transport some very important paintings to Bern, Switzerland.
The National Library lends items to other museums and galleries throughout the UK and the world. On this occasion, the Library along with other institutions such as Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, lent a number of exquisite watercolours by the Swiss artist Samuel Heironymous Grimm to the Kunst Museum in Bern.
Traveling around the globe with the nations cultural heritage may sound glamorous, but being a courier calls for hard work, stamina, patience, a level head and the ability to foresee problems. Two days across Europe via truck is tiring, and I learned many things during this particular trip:
1. Take plenty of reading material and an audio book, delays at borders can last for several hours and conversation runs dry with the drivers after the first couple.
2. Antibacterial hand gel is a must for anyone with an OCD like myself- especially when you are sharing facilities with other truck drivers!
3. Courier trips are a test of endurance – expect to be bright eyed and bushy-tailed at all times of the day and night.
4. Don’t expect to take in the sights – time to take a break is very rare and even then you’re too occupied with planning for what might go wrong.
But I have to admit the life of a courier is exciting, especially when you have the satisfaction of arriving home safely and knowing that your mission was successful.
The Gladstone Collection contains pamphlets sent to William Gladstone about various topics of importance in his period as Prime Minister and afterwards. In the collection there is an interesting anonymous paper dealing with animal rights compared to human rights entitled The right of man over the lower animals. It is obvious that the topic caught the eye of Gladstone as some detailed notes and questions are annotated on the last page (see illustration).
The topic was one of considerable interest in his lifetime because medical research was in the process of rapid growth and many of the new treatments were being tried on animals to gauge their effect in different doses and to observe any side-effects that they might cause. It is still a controversial topic and encourages strong opinions on both sides.
The writer broadly agrees that to inflict pain on animals to obtain knowledge that can cure or alleviate pain or illness in humans is justified. However the author does not seem to be in favour of hunting animals for “sport” or pleasure. He also does not think that afflicting pain on animals will lead to moral degeneracy; he cites the then accepted use of whips on horses for the convenience of humans as an example.
The author does quote a Mr. Freeman who is very suspicious of people’s motives and suspects that scientific men are also liable to human temptation and human infirmities, and “to the subtle power of self-delusion”. But he writes on to say that “knowledge, even if it leads to nothing practical, is higher than sport, and if it can be shown that experiments in vivisection have led to discoveries by which painful diseases can be cured or lessened this is as much as to say that there are cases in which vivisection can be justified.”
It is obvious from reading Gladstone’s handwritten notes at the end of the paper that he has many concerns about animal experiments. It is difficult to analyse exactly what was written. The five questions he wrote down allude to the acquisition of knowledge in the course of study, and what is the limit of pain inflicted on animals for the purpose of reducing human pain. He seems to raise the question of whether the pain inflicted might cause the animals to die sooner than would occur naturally and he would like more information regarding the moral effect on men and women.
Can you, the reader, decipher Gladstone’s handwriting and shed light on this issue that is still such a controversial topic today?
There is great excitement today as we release 27 publications (200,000 pages) from the Library’s rich collection on Welsh Newspapers Online.
Take a trip back in time from the comfort of your home or office and discover millions of freely available articles published before 1919.
The resource now allows you to search and read over 630,000 pages from almost 100 newspaper publications from the National Library’s collection, and this will grow to over 1 million pages as more publications are added during 2014.
Among the latest titles are Y Negesydd, Caernarvon and Denbigh Herald, Glamorgan Gazette, Carmarthen Journal, Welshman, and Rhondda Leader, not forgetting Y Drych, the weekly newspaper for the Welsh diaspora in America.
The resource also includes some publications that were digitised for The Welsh Experience of World War One project.
Browse the resource and discover unique information on a variety of subjects, including family history, local history and much more that was once difficult to find unless the researcher was able to browse through years of heavy volumes.
The list below of archives which have been added to the Online Catalogue during the last few months shows the diverse range of non-print material held at this Library. From theatrical archives to literary, estate, political and industrial archives, online access to subject material relevant to many fields of study is now available on the Library’s Catalogue.
Included in this list is an important apicultural archive of international renown, namely the records of the International Bee Research Association (IBRA) formerly held in Cardiff. As well as paper records, a large collection of IBRA printed works, photographs, lantern slides and glass slides have been transferred to the care of the Library.
The list is also testament to the versatility of archivists – from arranging, interpreting and listing bee research records to unravelling the significance of avant garde theatrical records of all kinds (Brith Gof and Cliff (Clifford) McLucas Archives), or understanding the functions and responsibilities of a myriad of industrial boards, councils and committees (Monmouthshire and South Wales Coal Owners Association Records) – such tasks are essential in order to assist potential researchers, not only to discover the existence of valuable primary materials, but also to understand their significance and value.
‘Sketch showing correct position of lamp in relation to swing of tool’ (Coal Owners Association Records, P6/4/7)
Brith Gof Archive
Cliff (Clifford) McLucas Archive
Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Cymru – Cyfansoddiadau a Beirniadaethau
International Bee Research Association (IBRA) Records
Lockwood Estate Records
Monmouthshire and South Wales Coal Owners Association Records
Newport Playgoers’ Society Records
Plas Power Estate Records and Papers
Wales Anti-Apartheid Movement Papers
Welsh Horse (Lancers) Yeomanry Movement Papers
Alwyn J. Roberts
Valerie Ganz was born in Swansea overlooking the dramatic sweep of Swansea Bay with the background of heavy industry. She attended Swansea College of Art and studied painting, sculpture and stained glass. She remained as a tutor until 1973 when she turned her attention to painting full time.
As her interest in the landscape of South Wales grew, her attention was drawn to the landscape of industrial areas and, in particular, the mining industry. Over a period of many years, she worked at fourteen different collieries.
During her career she has studied many and varied subjects all over the world.
One of her artworks can be seen in the Welsh Landscapes Exhibition in the Gregynog Gallery.
This is a prestigious exhibition of paintings and drawings from the Library’s collection which illustrate the response to the Welsh landscape by various artists over the centuries.
From the picturesque to the industrial this exhibition is undoubtedly a feast for the eyes in one of Wales’s premier exhibition venues.
This exhibition continues until Saturday 10th May.
The National Library of Wales welcomes the New Year of the Horse with an exhibition of rare material from its excellent collection of historical Chinese texts. Assembled by Professor David Hawkes, who taught at the University of Peking in the 1940s and early 1950s, it includes items ranging from the ancient Dynasties to the Republic and the early years of New China under Mao Zhedong. David Hawkes was a world-famous scholar of Chinese literature and history, a Professor of Chinese at Oxford University, and the most celebrated translator into English of the Chinese classic The Story of the Stone (石头记). His entire library is held by the National Library.
Further information on the Hawkes Collection at the National Library of Wales, including an introduction to the collection by Dr Wu Jianzhong, Director of the Shanghai Library (上海图书馆) .
The Exhibition may be seen in the Summers Room at the National Library of Wales from 30 January to 15 February 2014. All welcome!
Following the recent stormy weather, I found two postcards by Aberystwyth photographer Arthur Lewis showing the storm damage in 1927, both entitled ‘Havoc of the storm, Aberystwyth, Oct. 1927′.
NLW, Photo Album 1695 (PZ 6811/35)
NLW, Photo Album 1695 (PZ 6811/29)
History seems to be repeating itself!
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