Posted - 01-09-2015 No Comments

Collections / Exhibitions / News and Events

Science lectures at the National Library of Wales

To coincide with the science exhibition of the National Library of Wales; The secret workings of nature: Robert Hooke and early science a number of notable events will be held in the Library during the next few weeks.


A lecture was given by Dr Gareth Griffith on Robert Hooke and Micrographia on the 8th of July. The next event in the series will be Dr Paul Evans lecturing on Thomas Pennant on the 2nd of September. Pennant was one of the most famous naturalists of his day. He was a Welshman from Flintshire who collected art works, mainly to do with science. Many of his works can be seen in the Library, and one of the volumes of his work A History of Quadrupeds can be seen in the exhibition. He travelled around Britain making detailed notes of the wild life that he saw alongside his servant Moses Griffiths, who was one of the best scientific artists of his day.


On September 11th the Library will welcome Lord Rees of Ludlow, the Astronomer Royal and one of Britain’s most eminent scientists. Lord Rees was President of the Royal Society from 2005 to 2012, and among his many prizes and honours are the Order of Merit , to which he was appointed in 2007, the Templeton Prize in 2011 and the Isaac Newton award in 2012. The Order of Merit is an award that is confined to twenty four British people who have contributed greatly to promoting the sciences, literature etc.


The exhibition involves Robert Hooke and his book Micrographia which was published by the Royal Society and also included items by other scientists who were early members of the Royal Society, such as Isaac Newton, Robert Boyle and the Welshmen Edward Lhuyd and William Jones. Therefore the visit of Lord Rees as former President of the Society is very apt. One of the aims of the Society at its inception was to popularise science, something which is close to Lord Rees’s heart.


The title of the lecture will be Life and the cosmos: four centuries of expanding horizons. The lecture will address questions such as how did the stars, planets and life come into being, why is the universe what it is, what – or who – established the laws that it follows, and do any other universes exist?


A science lecture will also take place on the 7th of October with the title Copenhagen and Wales, given by Professor Gareth Ffowc Roberts and Dr Rowland Wynne. The lecture will deal with the role and influence of the famous scientist Niels Bohr through his pioneering of quantum theory – a profound and complicated subject, both philosophical and scientific, that underpins very many modern inventions. He inspired a number of scientists from Wales, and in the lecture, their contribution to science will be outlined, together with the nature of their dealings with Bohr.


Avril Jones, Director of Collection Services at the Library said: “These events show that the Library takes seriously its role of educating the people of Wales, while wrestling with subjects that are of vital importance in order for Wales to grow culturally and economically.”

Posted - 31-08-2015 No Comments

Collections / Exhibitions / News and Events / Uncategorized

A summer letter

Thomas Pennant is one of those authors who seem to remain popular and relevant. His prose is beautifully crafted, so that he is often quoted. In fact he is probably best known at second hand rather than first.

As a polymath, Pennant was one of the classic 18th century scholar gentlemen who could spend their energies researching and discovering, visiting and touring, writing and reading. His was an almost scholastic existence of gathering information and publishing findings.

The Library recently acquired a letter by Pennant written on 17 August 1764, (NLW MS 24045F) we are not certain who was the recipient, but evidently one of his scholarly circle. This letter allows us a rare insight to Pennant’s life, which is worth noting and exploring. His first wife died in 1764 and this letter represents his response to a friend, as he recovers an interest in collecting and sharing information.

A letter written by Thomas Pennant NLW MS 24045F

The letter written by Thomas Pennant NLW MS 24045F

Remarkable is the amount and the detail of material that he was able and willing to share. The writer also shows us how drawings were shared on particular subjects and how he promoted and expanded his publishing interests. Pennant is seen, through this letter, as a person full of ideas and energy; with a clear vision and focus in his work. Another point of real significance is that he notes that that the previous year he had offered to purchase ‘a certain number of original drawings… which are to be sold for a quarter of their original value’. Pennant was one of the great 18th century collectors of drawings, certainly within Wales maybe the person who safeguarded some of the most important works on paper of Welsh antiquities and landscape.

But why do we purchase one letter? It forms part of a much larger body of material written by Pennant and it adds a sense of the urgency with which he undertook his research. Seeing the handwritten text with crossing out and smudges gives us a sense of the process of thinking: Pennant wrote with ease and confidence, thinking as he composed his prose, so we get the feeling of something fresh and alive. We are witness to his life as a gatherer of facts and material: always on the look -out for new things.

Pennant’s letter, written in the summer of 1764, opens a window on the life and work of one of our most influential authors of topography and wildlife. It sends us a message, that even in adversity, the person who is determined can overcome their circumstances and develop their career successfully. Yes, he had vast resources, but he also had the will to learn which we can all acquire and nurture.

Paul Joyner

August 2015


To coincide with the exhibition “The Secret workings of Nature: Robert Hooke and early science” a lecture entitled “Thomas Pennant: the leading British zoologist after Ray and before Darwin” will be given by Dr Paul Evans at the Library on Wednesday September 2nd at 1:15 p.m.

Posted - 19-08-2015 No Comments

Collections / News and Events

Sharing thousands of Welsh landscapes with Wikipedia

Several years ago the National Library of Wales digitised around five thousand paintings, sketches, engravings and prints of Welsh landscapes mostly dating from 1750-1850.

Many of these are accurate topographical representations which are of huge value to historians, conservationists and archaeologists, whilst others are romanticised artistic works which simply capture the beauty of the Welsh landscape and aspect of Welsh life in a time before the invention of the camera.

As Wikipedian in Residence, making this collection available to Wikipedians was one of my first priorities, and now the entire collection is being released into the public domain and uploaded to Wikimedia Commons.

Already these fantastic images of castles, high streets, churches, ruins, and more, are being added to Wikipedia articles.

Events will soon be held to make more use of these images on Wikipedia, enriching the history of Wales on the world’s most used encyclopaedia.

Browse through the images here and please let us know if you are interested in helping us by adding these images to Wikipedia articles.


A plan of a first bridge to be constructed between Anglesey and mainland Wales. 1820

Aberystwyth Harbour, c.1850

Aberystwyth Harbour, c.1850

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Posted - 31-07-2015 No Comments

Collections / News and Events

Pop in to see us at the National Eisteddfod

The weeks’ events at the National Library of Wales stand (601 – 605) at the Montgomeryshire and Marches National Eisteddfod 2015

We are looking forward to visit Mathrafal! We will have a stand at the Eisteddfod with allocated space for art work created by pupils in Mid Wales, based on Mathrafal – ac ancient seat of the Princes of Powys. This Library Outreach Education Project is sponsored by Scottish Power Foundation and has worked with 270 pupils from local schools, and art workshops with Hilary and Graham Roberts. The art work, in the form of eight banners will be on display at the Library stand at the Eisteddfod.
Also on the Library stand will be information on the Cynefin project and the ‘Gwladfa’ and ‘Philip Jones Griffiths: A Welsh Focus on War and Peace’ exhibitions.

We have also compiled the following events, so if you intent on visiting the Eisteddfod, pop in and see us…

Monday 3 August
12:00pm Gig: Gwenan Gibbard

2.30pm Patagonia 150 – ‘ Yma i Aros’ Eirionedd Baskerville talks about her new book

Gwenan Gibbard

Gwenan Gibbard

Tuesday 4 August
12.00pm Gig: Ynyr Llwyd

2.30pm “Enwau ein Cynefin” – Dr Rhian Parry, Caeau Cymru, S4C

Ynyr Llwyd

Ynyr Llwyd

Wednesday 5 August

12.00pm Gig: Gildas



Thursday 6 August

12.00pm Gig: Sorela



2.30pm Chat with Beryl Vaughan, Eisteddfod Executive Committee Chair

Beryl Vaughan

Beryl Vaughan

3.30pm ‘Ar gof a chadw’: the importance of personal thoughts and memories to dementia care – Arwel Ellis Owen

Friday 7 August

12.00pm Gig: Côr y Gen (The Library Choir)

2.30pm Llys Glyndŵr – David Vickers, Gregynog Press talks about the press’ latest book

David Vickers

David Vickers

Saturday 8 August

2.30pm ‘Y danbaid fendigaid Ann’. Sian Meinir chats to Lis Hughes Jones, show director.

Y danbaid fendigaid Ann

Y danbaid fendigaid Ann

See you there!

Rhiain Williams

Posted - 27-07-2015 No Comments


Excuse me! Can I interest you in some NLW Data?

The National Library of Wales’s digital collections have grown significantly in recent years and users have become familiar with searching and browsing our online catalogue and digital resources such as the recently revamped Welsh Newspapers Online website. But soon there will be another way to access our collections …

NLW Data is a new initiative from NLW Research that will offer a new way of accessing some of our collections. NLW Data will focus on providing direct programmatic access to the various types of data held by the National Library of Wales. As a result users will be able to download datasets. This makes it possible for users to use their own software tools or to query datasets programmatically (for example as Linked Open Data or via APIs).

The first dataset released in this way is the result of transcription work by the NLW Volunteer Programme that enabled certain portions of the Aberystwyth Shipping Records Archive to be made available as Excel Spreadsheets.


NLW volunteers transcribing the 19th century shipping registers

What can you do next?

  • To find out about more about this specific collection, see this blog post.
  • To see an example of one of the crew lists click here.
  • To download this dataset go to NLW Data.
  • If you’re interested in finding out more about NLW Data or if you have any ideas or suggestions for developing this service, please contact us at


Dr Owain Roberts

Acting Head of Research



Posted - 20-07-2015 No Comments

Collections / Uncategorized

Everything you ever wanted to know about our art – in 30 minutes!

The Annual Conference of the Art Libraries Society of the UK & Ireland gives the opportunity for art librarians to share experiences, new technology and research. The conference has been held in Wales once before – its first conference in 1972 was held at Aberystwyth. Cardiff Metropolitan University was the host this year and attracted speakers and delegates from a wide range of libraries, galleries, museums and universities.

Keynote speaker, Linda Tomos of MALD told the group of librarians specializing in art resources from across the UK, Ireland and beyond about a range of projects and initiatives in museums, libraries and archives across Wales, including Kids in Museums – Taking Over Day, and two projects based the National Library, Cynefin and the popular People’s Collection. Later on the first day, Amanda-Jane Doran provided an analysis of First World War newspaper adverts. Jo Elsworth from the Bristol Theatre Archive discussed the use of gaming technologies in exhibitions and displays. Sally Williams and Louise Rytter showed how the National Art Library has supported the blockbuster Alexander McQueen exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Richard Morris closed the talks by describing how Cardiff School of Art & Design undertook the huge task of relocating from Howard Gardens, their home for 150 years, to a new building in Llandaff.

My talk gave an overview of the art collections of the National Library. It was quite a challenge – the library has over 50,000 works of art in all kinds of media in its collection – so a lot to fit in to a 30 minute talk! The Library collects Welsh landscapes, works by Welsh artists and portraits of Welsh people. One of the ‘stars’ of the collection is Richard Wilson, best known as the ‘father of British landscape painting.’ A lesser known fact is that Wilson was also an occasional librarian – as one of the founders of the Royal Academy, he was appointed its librarian in 1776.

Cathrine JonesEven though he is most known for his landscapes, the Library has several portraits by Wilson, including one of his cousin, Catherine Jones of Colomendy. Wilson is best known for his large landscape works, but this small, early work shows his skill in portraiture. The work has an element of pathos – in his later years, Wilson’s reputation declined and he suffered ill health. During this period, Catherine cared for the artist when he was dependent on the charity of family. Although not as famous as his landscape works, the portrait helps build a full picture of the artist’s life.

Next year’s conference will be held in Dublin.

Lloyd Roderick

Posted - 08-07-2015 No Comments

Exhibitions / Uncategorized

Philip Jones Griffiths

The National Library of Wales has just opened a new exhibition celebrating the life and work of one of the great documentary photographers of recent times, Philip Jones Griffiths. He became renowned for his incisive and conscience-driven photographs and for using his camera to champion the underdog. In a tribute to Griffiths soon after his death, journalist John Pilger said:

“I never met a foreigner who cared as wisely for the Vietnamese, or about ordinary people everywhere under the heel of great power, as Philip Jones Griffiths. He was the greatest photographer and one of the finest journalists of my lifetime, and a humanitarian to match…. His photographs of ordinary people, from his beloved Wales to Vietnam and the shadows of Cambodia, make you realise who the true heroes are. He was one of them.”


A Welsh Focus on War and Peace, a joint exhibition between the National Library of Wales and the Philip Jones Griffiths Foundation, opens on June 27th. For the first time many of his cameras, documents, personal papers and artefacts will be on display alongside his photographs.

The exhibition runs until December 12th 2015.


Gallery Talk
Join the curator, William Troughton, as he guides you through this fascinating photographic exhibition. Free admission by ticket.

Lens 2015: Philip Jones Griffiths
An essential photography festival that no-one with an interest in photography should miss, which will focus this year on Philip Jones Griffiths and his work.


Click here for a full list of current exhibitions.

Posted - 02-07-2015 No Comments

Collections / News and Events

The Secret workings of nature : Robert Hooke and early science

The famous drawing of a flea in Micrographia

The famous drawing of a flea in Micrographia

Micrographia was written by Robert Hooke and published by the Royal Society in 1665, and was a best-seller of the period in Britain. This exhibition will show the significance of the book 350 years after it’s publication. Other items from the Library’s collections will also be used to demonstrate some of the main themes of the book.


Robert Hooke (1635-1703) was one of the leading figures of the scientific revolution at the end of the 17th century, and along with other scientists such as Robert Boyle and Isaac Newton, he was one of the founders of the Royal Society. The society pioneered two revolutionary concepts:


  • The development of the early scientific method: one which depends on experimentation and observation to collect evidence, instead of the subjective instincts of the early Greeks.
  • The Popularisation of science, by publishing books in English (instead of Latin), aimed at a lay audience. The public understanding of science remains a subject of importance.


A compound microscope

A compound microscope

Hooke worked in the Royal Society as Head of Experiments and his scientific interests were wide. Perhaps one of his most well-known contribution to science was the law of elasticity, known as Hooke’s Law, which states that the extension of a spring (or wire) caused by an applied force is proportional to the force. But he made several other influential and pioneering contributions. For example, he used the compound microscope in his experiments to show detailed drawings of creatures and plants. Micrographia contains many of his observations drawn on impressive copper-plated illustrations, for example, the flea, which opens to four times the size of a page of the book. Another famous image is his study of cork under a microscope. Through this, he was the first, though without realising it initially, to discover the structure of plants cells.


The pictures of fossils under a microscope persuaded Hooke that fossils originate, not from stones, but from creatures that lived many centuries before. This was a novel theory, proposed at a time when it was not realised that the Earth was as old as it is and that different creatures lived on it at different periods. This is another example of Hooke’s far-sighted vision and ideas.


The moon, planets and stars in Micrographia

The moon, planets and stars in Micrographia

Despite the fact that the book is better known for its descriptions using the microscope, Micrographia also describes distant planets and discusses the theory of light waves.


In the exhibition there will be items by a number of other scientists, including Welshmen such as Edward Lhuyd, Thomas Pennant, Robert Recorde, William Jones and Lewis Morris. Also works by scientists of international renown such as Euclid, Descartes, Galileo, Isaac Newton and Robert Boyle will be included. A microscope and telescope from the period of Robert Hooke will be on display with the intention of giving a visual experience of the kinds of instruments that were used by Hooke and Newton when they made their discoveries.


Additionally, a programme of lectures has been organised to coincide with the exhibition. The details are shown below:


8 July : Dr Gareth Griffith (Aberystwyth University) : Robert Hooke and Micrographia (Welsh with translation).

2 September : Dr. Paul Evans : Thomas Pennant: the leading British zoologist after Ray and before Darwin (English).

11 September : Lord Rees of Ludlow, Astronomer Royal : Life and the cosmos: four centuries of expanding horizons (English).

7 October : Professor Gareth Ffowc Roberts and Dr Rowland Wynne : Copenhagen and Wales (Welsh with translation).

4 November : Dr Matthew Francis (Aberystwyth University) : ‘How Much Small There Is’: Robert Hooke’s Micrographia for the modern reader (English).

2 December : Professor Deri Tomos (Bangor University) : Opening life’s door. What exactly did Robert Hooke discover by identifying the cell? (Welsh with translation).

6 January : Sarah Hutton, Honorary Visiting Professor (University of York) : Stranger than fiction: Robert Hooke, Margaret Cavendish and satire on seventeenth-century science (English).


The exhibition will be displayed in Hengwrt gallery of the National Library from July 7th – January 9th.



Hywel Lloyd.

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ArAgor / Collections / News and Events

Uncovering the past with the new Welsh Newspapers Online website

Historical newspapers; column after column of minute and unimposing text interspersed with what, presumably, were meant to be images. Until recent times searching old news for something specific was like searching for a proverbial needle in a hay stack. In Wales that all changed in 2013 when the National Library of Wales launched a beta version of its free Welsh Newspapers Online website. Using the latest technology the text of hundreds of newspaper titles were thrust into the digital sphere. Long forgotten tit-bits and obituaries, headlines and controversies were made fully searchable, unlocking a vast vault of knowledge.

Now the National Library has replaced the beta version with a slick new interface with plenty of new features and an additional 400,000 pages, bringing the total to over 1 million. To test the power of this immense archive I performed a simple search for one of my Victorian ancestors. The little I knew about him came from my Grandmother who recalls childhood stories of her great grandfather, the son of an Irish immigrant, a watchman on Barry Docks who whistled whilst he worked, and a man she claimed hung himself on the back of his bedroom door, because he thought God had forgotten him. What could all this technology tell me about dear old Tom Foley?

The new interface for the Welsh Newspapers website

The new interface for the Welsh Newspapers website

I searched for ‘Thomas Foley’ and limited my search to Glamorgan papers and found myself with hundreds of possible hits. Some were not relevant but I had definitely found my Great Great Great Grandfather. Working through the results chronologically the earliest record I found was 1890. He was a rigger living in Penarth, and a member of the Cardiff Riggers and Boatman Union. In a letter to the Western Mail he bemoaned that a recent meeting was ‘more like a bedlam than a meeting of sane men’


But quarrelsome men were soon the least of Foley’s problems. On April 3rd 1891 the Barry Dock news reported a ‘Serious accident to a rigger at Barry Dock’. Some months later Foley gave his own account of the accident;


‘On the day after Good Friday I was working on the SS. Emilie in Barry Dock, when I accidentally fell from a ventilator backwards down the empty bunker hatch, from the top to the bottom…When I recovered consciousness I found myself on the deck with a number of men around me’


A panoramic view of Barry Docks 1901.

A panoramic view of Barry Docks 1901. NLW tir03330

Foley had survived his fall but would never work as a rigger again. He was taken at once to Cardiff infirmary where he was diagnosed with a fractured hip. Then, he complains;


‘I lay there for a fortnight without any further examination, or even a lotion or liniment, or anything whatever to alleviate my pain, although I was complaining daily’.


The poor man was then discharged and lay bed-bound for several months with one of his legs ‘two inches longer than the other’. Thankfully for us, his affliction gave him even more time to write, as his letters to the Barry Dock News come thick and fast. Following the horrors he faced at the Cardiff Infirmary he began to campaign for a local hospital to serve the busy and dangerous docks.


He wrote to thank the manager of the SS. Emile who presented him with £25 to start him in some kind of business. But instead he found work as a Watchman, just like my Grandmother recalled. I figure he spent the money on books, as he soon begins quoting Greek history and Shakespeare in his prolific contributions to the local press. He even donated antique books to Barry Library – all diligently reported in the local papers. In December 1891 he even composed a poem following news that a collection had been raised to support the widows of two friends lost at sea.

A poem written by Thomas Foley in 1891.

A poem written by Thomas Foley in 1891.


In 1895 a report on the ‘Grand Eisteddfod at Barry’ describes the occasion that Foley won a ‘special prize’ in the short hand competition, having taught himself just two months earlier. ‘Mr Foley was enthusiastically greeted as he ascended the platform….and the president remarked that Mr Foley had….emulated some of the most famous scholars of Greece and Rome (Cheers)’. He certainly possessed the Greeks passion for politics. Following his attendance of a political debate Foley lambasted the politicians in a lively open letter. ‘If I am to judge from the observations of the three speakers the conservatives are a most contemptible class, and the liberal unionists is the lowest animal in the scale of creation’ He goes on, in as plain a tongue as you could imagine, to describe the Tories as ‘a very naughty lot of people’.


My search revealed so much material that I could probably write a small book about the trials and tribulations of Mr Foley, and it pains me to omit so much, but every story must have its ending. Everything points to a passionate and driven man. I see him, through my rose tinted specs, as a working class hero, a self-educated immigrant breaking down long established social barriers. So would such a man have taken his own life? Did he really hang from his bedroom door?


In fact, he did not, but the truth is sadly very near to the mark. On Boxing Day 1910, reports the Barry Dock News, Foley hanged himself from his bedpost with a handkerchief. But that is not all. His son, my Great Great Grandfather found his body, and fearing the shame a suicide would bring on the family, cut him down and, with his friend, put him to bed and suggested his father’s ‘weak heart’ was to blame for his demise. The very words spoken in the inquest are recorded in the paper, and the Coroner warned the son that his ‘foolish behavior’ could well see him stand trial for murder. Thankfully though he was eventually cleared and went on to become the Dock Master for Great Western Railways at Barry Docks – another story for another day.


I recon there must be tens if not hundreds of thousands of stories waiting to be discovered amongst metadata and algorithms of one of Wales’ richest and most diverse digital archives. Search for your story today at


Jason Evans

Wikipedian in Residence, National Library of Wales

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What’s new? 6 new features you will find on the Welsh Newspapers Online website

The new Welsh Newspapers Online website has recently been unveiled, but what has changed? Here are 6 things that have been added to the new website:


1.  More pages

The new website contains 400,000 additional pages of digitised newspapers, some in new titles and others added to titles that were already on the website. If you would like to know which titles and content are new to the website, go to the project’s About page.





2.  A design that responds to your device

The website now adapts to the size of the screen that you’re using. This will improve the experience of using the resource on a tablet or mobile phone.


3.  Browse images

It is now possible for you to browse images in the newspapers based on five sub-categories: cartoons, graphs, illustrations, maps and photographs. It’s a great way of discovering content that is visually striking, and we expect this to be a very popular feature on the new website.




4.  Advanced search

The advanced search allows you to set paramaters on your search from the outset, and enables ‘boolean’ searching. For more information on undertaking a boolean search, go to the new website’s Help page.


5.  Cite on Wikipedia

Now you can link articles in the newspapers to one of the most popular websites in the world by using the ‘Cite on Wikiedia’ button which features under each article title to the right of the page viewer. This will give you a code which can then be inserted into a Wikipedia page to cite the article as a source.





6. Separating content according to language (Welsh/English)

It is now possible to restrict searches based on language for the first time, which will facilitate the use of the resource for users who cannot read Welsh. Please note that this distinction has been based on the language of the publication’s title rather than at article level, and Welsh language content may therefore slip through the filter when limiting the search only to English publications.


We will continue to look at ways of improving Welsh Newspapers Online resource and would welcome your comments and suggestions. Please let us know what you think about the site using the ‘Contact Us‘ link located on the bottom of every page.


Dafydd Tudur

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About this blog

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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