A decorated page from the manuscript.
One of the Wales’s most important medieval manuscripts is throwing up ghosts from the past after new research and imaging work revealed eerie faces and lines of verse which had previously been erased from history.
Dating from 1250, The Black Book of Carmarthen at the National Library of Wales is the earliest surviving medieval manuscript written solely in Welsh, and contains some of the earliest references to King Arthur and Merlin.
Despite its importance and decades of scholarly research, the work of a PhD student from the University of Cambridge has revealed tantalising new glimpses of verse, and some images, from the 750-year-old book.
Myriah Williams and her supervisor Professor Paul Russell from Cambridge’s Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, believe that a 16th century owner of the book, probably a man named Jaspar Gryffyth of Ruthin, summarily erased centuries’ worth of additional verse, doodles and marginalia which had been added to the manuscript as it changed hands throughout the years.
New text and image revealed under UV light (f. 39v).
However, using a combination of ultraviolet light and photo editing software, the 16th century owner’s penchant for erasure has been partly reversed to reveal images, and snatches of poetry which are previously unrecorded in the canon of Welsh verse.
Williams and Russell will present a lecture at The National Library of Wales on Wednesday, part of a larger exhibition on the life and work of Sir John Price, one-time owner of the Black Book. There, they will detail some of their findings, stressing the importance of continued research on the manuscript.
Dr Aled Gruffydd Jones, The National Library of Wales’s Librarian and Chief Executive stated: “This new discovery is tremendously exciting, and shows what discoveries may yet be made amongst both old and new collections here at Aberystwyth. We are proud to be part of such innovative research, and share in the Cambridge team’s joy at their discovery.”
The Black Book of Carmarthen may be seen in the National Library’s current exhibition, ‘Publisher and plunderer? Sir John Prise and the first Welsh books’, until 27 June 2015.
A NeDiMAH workshop on ‘New methods of manuscript imaging and analysis’ will be held at the Library on 31 March-1 April 2015.
Maredudd ap Huw
The first ever Wikipedia Edit-a-thon will be held at the National Library on the 10th of April. Come along to learn how to edit and help improve content on Wikipedia. This event will focus on creating and improving articles about Welsh Photographers, their lives, their careers and their photographs. The event ties in with the launch of a major exhibition on the life and work of Philip Jones Griffiths to be held at The National Library of Wales later this year.
The event will be hosted by the Wikipedian in Residence Jason Evans and William Troughton the National Library’s Visual Images Librarian together with experienced Wikipedians. It will begin at 10am with introductions and training before editing begins!
Sign up here or contact Jason.firstname.lastname@example.org
This week Bangor University is holding a conference entitled Shaping the Labour Party to commemorate 70 years since the election of Clement Attlee’s post-war Labour Government, and I was delighted to be invited to talk about the archives we hold on the Labour movement in a workshop on Tuesday morning.
Attlee’s government was a radical one, and without a doubt, the most well know Welshman to be part of it was a real radical himself – Aneurin Bevan, but the Welsh Political Archive is home to the papers of 2 other Welshmen who were part of the government and contributed to its revolutionary programme, Jim Griffiths and Lord Ogmore.
Jim Griffiths was a native of Ammanford, and went to work in the coal mining industry aged just 13. He soon rose up the ranks of the South Wales Miners’ Federation and was elected as Labour MP for Llanelli in 1936. In 1945 we was appointed as Minister of National Insurance and played a key role in establishing the post-war welfare state. He was also responsible for legislation regarding industrial injuries in 1948. He later served as Secretary of State for the Colonies. And in 1964 became the first Secretary of State for Wales.
Lord Ogmore in Court in Berlin (Lord Ogmore Papers, NLW )
Lord Ogmore also left his mark in the Office for the Colonies in Attlee’s government. After a career in law and service in the army during the war where he was the Chief Legal Officer in General Montgomery’s government in the British Sector in Berlin he travelled to Burma and Sarawak to report on local opinion on governance arrangements. He was appointed as Under Secretary of State in the Colonial Office in 1947, was part of the British delegation to the United Nations in 1950 and served as Civil Aviation Minister before Labour lost the 1951 election.
In addition to these cabinet members, the papers of other elected members of the Labour Party are held in the Library including those of two pioneering women, Eirene White and Megan Lloyd-George as well as those of trade union leaders such as Huw T. Edwards . The Library also holds many corporate archives such as those of the Welsh Labour Party and its branches, the Communist Party and the Wales TUC.
Of course the story of the labour movement isn’t just told from one side. The archives of industrialists such as Viscount Rhondda and employers’ organisations such as the South Wales and Monmouthshire Coal Owners Association give an insight into the struggles of the working classes through the eye of their arch enemies!
Rob Phillips, Assistant Archivist @WelshPolARch
Welsh Political Archive , National Library of Wales.
Tomorrow, the 14th of March will be Pi Day, celebrated on the same day every year since 1988. It has a particular resonance this year March 14, ’15, at 9:26:53 (corresponding to the first 10 digits of pi: 3.141592653).
The Greek mathematician Archimedes (c.287–212 BC) discovered formulae to calculate some of the properties of curved shapes like cones and spheres (in three dimensions) and circles (in two dimensions). All of these formulae make use of a very special number, whose value is slightly greater than 3. Archimedes knew its approximate value but, by today, we know that its value is the never-ending 3.141592…
Synopsis palmariorum matheseos by William Jones
About two thousand years later, William Jones (1674–1749), a self-taught mathematician from Anglesey, suggested using a special symbol to represent Archimedes’ number. This symbol, the Greek letter π (pi), appears for the first time in 1706 in the book, Synopsis palmariorum matheseos: or, a new introduction to the mathematics by William Jones. A book written in English, despite the Latin title, which may be roughly translated as ‘A summary of achievements in mathematics’. The symbol π appears in this book for the first time to denote the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. In Greek, π is the first letter of the word for periphery (περιφέρεια) and π is also the first letter of the word for perimeter (περίμετρος). It is thought that one or the other influenced his choice of this particular symbol. William Jones was the first to realise that the decimal 3.141592 … never ends and that it cannot be expressed precisely. That was why he recognised that it needed its own symbol to represent it. In Synopsis palmariorum matheseos, Jones wrote that ‘the exact proportion between the diameter and the circumference can never be expressed in numbers.’
A description of pi from William Jones’ book
A local history society, based in Llanfechell, maintains a website http://www.cymdeithashanesmechell.co.uk/ that includes a short section on William Jones: http://www.cymdeithashanesmechell.co.uk/william_joness.html (the images, accessed 13.03.15, are clearer on the Welsh-language version of this page).
Synopsis palmariorum matheseos, together with other scientific books from the Library’s collection will appear in the exhibition, The Secret Working of Nature, which will be held at the Library from next July to the beginning of January to commemorate 350 years since the publication of Micrographia by Robert Hooke, a book published by the Royal Society, which was a trailblazer for the popularisation of science and the early scientific method.
We are grateful to Dr. Gareth Ffowc Roberts, Professor Emeritus at Bangor University for providing text and photographs to create this blog, some of which comes from his Welsh language book, Mae Pawb yn Cyfrif pp. 65-75. Dr. Roberts, along with Dr. Rowland Wynne will be delivering a lecture at the National Library of Wales in October to coincide with the exhibition.
The National Library of Wales will today unveil a new plaque, based on iconic images relating to Merthyr Tydfil and created by individuals from the Gurnos area, at the Redhouse Cymru building in Merthyr.
The creation of the plaque was funded by the National Library’s innovative ‘Eluned Gymraes Davies’ project. It involved the delivery of 12 woodcarving workshops at the 3Gs Development Trust Centre in Gurnos, introducing the students to a new craft, and teaching them the required woodcarving skills and techniques. The workshop tutor, Sharon Littley, who earmarked images of iconic people, events and topics that relate to Merthyr Tydfil and its history, designed a wooden plaque that shows the district of Merthyr Tydfil, and the students set about creating individual aspects of the plaque. Each student also carved a Love Spoon, to serve as a personal memento of the project.
The ‘Eluned Gymraeg Davies’ project, which is run by the Library’s Education Serives, has seen the Library work with craftsmen of all disciplines to teach and develop craft skills to individuals right across Wales. The project came about during 2012 when the Library received money from the estate of Eluned Gymraes Davies (1910 – 2004) to manage a programme of craft projects in her memory. Using the Library’s collections as inspiration, the appointed craftsmen select items which are relevant to the locality of the project, ensuring that the work produced reflects the interests and values of Eluned Gymraes Davies. It really is a very innovative and relevant approach which has thus far seen communities in Wrexham, the Lleyn Peninsula, Swansea, as well as Merthyr, benefit.
The ‘Merthyr Icons’ plaque will be on display at the Redhouse until April 8th.
This iconic picture by Phillip Jones Griffiths was the first to be shared with Wikimedia as part of the project.
The focus during the first weeks of the residency has been on meeting with teams from various departments in the Library. The fact the I have worked with many of the staff for nearly ten years made introductions a little easier. However this was primarily a chance to clarify the nature of the residency and to promote its goals and objectives. These meetings also spawned excellent ideas which have helped shaped plans thus far.
A major objective for the residency is to hold a number of Edit-a-thons and plans are already firming up. The first Editathon, on the 10th of April, will ‘focus’ on Welsh Photographers including Philip Jones Griffiths whose defining images captured the horrors of the Vietnam war. Events are being planned on a variety of topics including Medieval Welsh Law, World War I, the Welsh colony in Patagonia, and Welsh Rugby. Edit-a-thons will include an introduction to Wikipedia and basic training for new editors.
Library staff will also be involved. Following introductory presentations all staff and library volunteers will be offered training workshops so that they can become editors themselves, and I have already spoken to a number people who are keen to get started.
Despite being in the midst of a major restructuring process staff throughout the institution have reacted positively to the arrival of a Wikipedian. They are keen to get involved and to support the project. As such a number of initiatives are already being developed. The exhibitions department has agreed to trial the use of QRpedia codes in a major upcoming exhibition, and the Web team are working on installing a ‘Cite on Wikipedia’ button into our online resources, which will generate a ready made web citation in Wiki-markup. Discussions have opened with an external partner – People’s Collection Wales – about changing its licence policy so that future contributions could be uploaded to Wiki Commons and, perhaps most exciting are plans to share around 20,000 digital images from the library’s collection. Once we have ironed out a few technical issues we should be able to use Glam Wiki tools to upload en mass to Wiki Commons and allow the world a glimpse of our hidden treasures!
Wikipedian in Residence
The acquisition of another photograph album by the National Library of Wales is another important piece in the jigsaw that enables us to understand the importance of Swansea to early photography. The album contains the work of pioneering Welsh photographer John Dillwyn Llewelyn (1810-1882) and was compiled by his daughter Emma. It contains sixty images, most being rich chocolate-brown albumen prints. Many are of the estate of Penllergare and environs near Swansea and reflect the family’s interests in nature, their surroundings and their idyllic lifestyle, of particular interest as the grounds are currently being restored. Nearby houses of Sketty Hall, Hendrefoilan and Lanelay are also featured. As well as continuing themes found in the family’s other works, new subjects are present in the album including an early photograph of the Tenby lifeboat and an ethereal view of Beaupre near Cowbridge. The album also exhibits the rapid ways in which photography came to be used creatively – early photomontages have been created from family portraits and the title page calligraphically inscribed.
The majority of these photographs from the 1850’s have not previously been represented in either the internationally renowned collection of early Swansea photography held in the National Library of Wales or other public collections. The album was previously in private hands in the United States of America and has now returned to Wales. After restoration work the album will be digitised and placed on the National Library of Wales website alongside other albums of early Swansea photography.
A digital archive of the Welsh Experience of the First World War developed by the National Library of Wales has been nominated for a prestigious international digital humanities award.
Cymru1914.org was launched in November 2013. It brings together a freely accessible digital collection of archives and special collections of Wales that relate to the impact of the First World War in Wales: tribunal records, archives of the Welsh Army Corps established by Lloyd George, and the manuscripts of the Welsh War poets, including Hedd Wynn and David Jones are all part of the collection of 220,000 digital items, much of it relating to the unseen histories of the War.
It has been nominated for The Digital Humanities Award for “best use of Digital Humanities for Public Engagement”. The Digital Humanities awards are an international initiative to recognize excellence in the digital humanities. The nomination of Cymru1914.org acknowledges its use by a wide audience, and its re-use for commemoration and education. Librarian and Chief Executive of the National Library of Wales, Dr. Aled Gruffydd Jones, said “We are delighted at this nomination, which recognizes the community engagement aspects of this important collaboration especially in the provision of content by communities and local organisations. This is especially gratifying for the National Library, as our new strategy, Knowledge for All, emphasizes community engagement around documentary heritage”.
Project Director, Professor Lorna Hughes (now at the School of Advanced Study, University of London) said: “Since its launch, Cymru1914.org has been used extensively for research, teaching, and public engagement, and this nomination recognizes this impact. Images of unknown conscripts and recruits from the digital archive were part of artist Bedwyr Williams sound and video installation Traw, presented at the site of the North Wales Memorial Arch, Bangor in August 2014. The digital archive is also helping schoolchildren in Wales to develop digital skills and literacy in the Wales at War project (walesatwar.org)”.
The digital collection was developed thanks to a £500,000 grant from Jisc, the UK funder of digital infrastructure and resources, and by Welsh Government funding. The project was led by the National Library of Wales in collaboration with Swansea University, Cardiff University, Bangor University, Aberystwyth University, the University of Wales Trinity St Davids, the local archives of Conwy, Flintshire, Glamorgan, and Gwent, BBC Cymru Wales Archive and community content developed with The People’s Collection Wales
The award also acknowledges the hard work put in by many people in developing the resource: staff at the partner organisation, and the collections, systems and IT staff at NLW. Thanks to their input, the resource was delivered on time and within budget.
Voting for the Digital Humanities awards closes on February 28th. Vote at
Staff have been puzzled for some time by the appearance of an undated letter by writer, wit and poet Oscar Wilde among the Sir John Rhŷs Papers here at the National Library of Wales. Why would such a debonair figure be writing to the studious Professor of Celtic at Oxford University? What was the connection between Wilde and Rhŷs?
The clue is in the headed note-paper, showing that the letter was written between the years 1887 and 1889, when Wilde was, of all things, editor of a popular women’s magazine. (Is this the man who claimed in one of his plays that ‘the world was made for men and not for women’?!).
In the letter addressed to ‘Dear Mr Rhys’, Wilde regrets his inability to travel to Oxford to accept the Professor’s hospitality, but thanks him for his ‘kind permission to photograph the picture’, and hopes that the photographer ‘will be successful in having a good light’. Was Rhŷs himself, the ‘ugly gnat of Rhos-y-bol’, appearing as a pin-up in Woman’s World?
Our only volume of the magazine (for 1889) yielded no clues, but an online search of the volume for 1888 (courtesy of openlibrary.org) finally provided an answer. An article by Oxford don William Leonard Courtney on ‘The Women Benefactors of Oxford’ in one of the 1888 issues of the magazine is illustrated by a picture of the ‘East Quadrangle, Jesus College, Feb. 1888’ and a reproduction of the portrait of Queen Elizabeth I in the College hall. It seems that Wilde obtained permission for access to Jesus College from Rhŷs as College Bursar, and that this letter is an acknowledgement of that grant of access.
What a wonderful coincidence that Rhŷs, chairman of the first suffragette meeting held at Oxford, is also associated with an article on the female benefactors of that University!
Nia Mai Daniel, Head of Archives and Manuscripts at the National Library, will be unveiling some other remarkable gems among John Rhŷs’s papers at a special conference at Aberystwyth’s Old College this coming Saturday.
Maredudd ap Huw
E.J. Phelps, the American diplomat and lawyer.
With the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta coming up in June of this year my attention was drawn to an item in the Gladstone collection (an assemblage of pamphlets sent to Gladstone which are currently being digitised by the Library). It is a published address given by the American diplomat and lawyer E.J. Phelps in 1886, entitled The law of the land. It bears examples of Gladstone’s handwriting and is evidence of his interest in constitutional development.
An emphasis in the pamphlet is the importance of equal rights under the law, so that no one class of people is favoured over others. The most famous clause of the Magna Carta was a foundation for the written constitution of many countries including the U.S.A.:
No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.
To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.
Although the clause gave only free men the right for justice and a fair trial, its foundation enabled everybody to enjoy its privileges when succeeding versions were enshrined in law. All but 3 of the 63 clauses of Magna Carta have now been repealed, but it still retains significant symbolic power as a defence against arbitrary and tyrannical rulers, and as a way to safeguard individual liberties.
Another interesting topical point related to the pamphlet, is the current consultation process to look into having a written constitution for the United Kingdom. Until now people have not seen the need for this, but the increase in devolution within the UK has changed matters. A written constitution provides certainty especially when different parts of the UK have different laws. Most countries have a written constitution, but Israel and New Zealand are two exceptions.
Can you, the reader, decipher Gladstone’s handwriting next to a paragraph about the unwritten constitution of the United Kingdom?
Gladstone’s handwriting on the pamphlet.
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