Posted - 19-02-2018 No Comments

Collections / New Accessions

A story from the diplomatic bag

Some twenty months ago an archive was transferred to the Library and for the past few weeks, I have been given the privileged task of arranging and then listing the papers. They are of the late T. Ifor Rees, the first British Ambassador to Bolivia.

It was expected that the collection would be interesting, not only for the fact that it would fill a number of gaps in the collection of his father, the musician J. T. Rees that was already here. However, whilst arranging his literary works, after removing some papers that were placed in a rusty springback binder that had held everything together for decades, there was a brown envelope placed at the bottom of the bundle.

Although “On His Britannic Majesty’s Service” was clearly marked on the envelope, it was assumed that it contained a further draft or notes belonging to one of the publications of T. Ifor Rees on Mexico, as that was the work in hand. But this envelope was in need of further attention. It was sealed, and that due to it being in a damp place sometime in the past and the glue reactive to re-seal the envelope. Or possibly, the envelope may not have been opened since it was originally sealed.

The envelope had to be opened to ensure that its contents were to be placed in the relevant group. It contained three carbon copies of a typescript letter written from the British Legation in La Paz following an expedition to Sajama. T. Ifor Rees was a British Minister at the time, and as one who enjoyed mountaineering and taking photographs in his leisure time, had the opportunity to walk the highest peak in Bolivia (21,500 feet) with four other companions. According to the report, it seems that this had been somewhat of an adventure to the mid-fifties diplomat from north Cardiganshire, which had a tragic end.

With the urge of finding out more about the event and being aware that he had published a book under the same name as this extinct volcano in 1960, it was somewhat surprising to read that he did not present the story as he did in that original report he wrote within a month of the historic adventure in August 1946.

However, this reminds us that reporting events of the past varies with the passage of time, and that one has to depend on the original sources that were created at the time to ascertain the full story – and ultimately, that’s why archives are so important.

D. Rhys Davies


It is intended to complete the work on this archive shortly and an online discovery resource will be published in the Spring.

Mae’r cofnod hwn hefyd ar gael yn Gymraeg

Posted - 16-02-2018 No Comments

#LoveArt / Collections / Exhibitions / Kyffin Blog

Kyffin Williams – a look behind the frame

The Library is buzzing with activity today as we launch our new exhibition Kyffin Williams: Behind the Frame. So what can you expect?

There are 4 themes in the exhibition ‘Self’, ‘Artist’, ‘People’ and ‘Places’ which is situated in the Gregynog Gallery and Annexe on the second floor of the Library. The artist himself will guide you through the show as many of his own words taken from his diaries, letters and publications are placed around the exhibits. For those who want to delve deeper there is an opportunity to scan selected paintings using the Smartify app; the Library and Oriel Ynys Môn are the first institutions in Wales to use this new technology.

Upon entering, you will be confronted with a miscellany of Kyffin’s image in various guises, from the early sketches of the pensive young man to the more confident older artist whose eyes gaze directly into your own in an almost challenging way. Diaries and letters delve deeper into the character of the artist, one of the highlights being a particularly endearing letter he wrote to his ‘Mummy & Daddy’ when he was at boarding school in Trearddur.

In ‘Artist’ you will see the making of Kyffin and his life-long influences, especially his association with Van Gogh and the parallels he drew with his fellow epileptic. His paintings, ’Sunflowers with Mountains Beyond’ and ‘Crows and Storm coming’, are of particular note, the latter often thematically compared to one of Van Gogh’s most famous works ‘Wheatfield with Crows’, in which Kyffin mimics Van Gogh’s strong colour combinations and the menacing sky which is said to signify the artist’s loneliness. Some of his early works from his time in the Slade are uncharacteristically ‘Kyffin’ but a fascinating insight into how he perfected his craft.

Turn the corner and you immediately feel as if you are being watched by the many eyes in Kyffin’s portraits. His placement of the sitter on his canvases is intentional and intriguing. Kyffin mentioned in his book ‘Portraits’: “The placing of the head within the confines of the canvas can show the personality of the sitter.” Indeed, the larger more confident subjects fill the canvas and look directly at you, whilst the more timid and neurotic subjects tend to be placed to one side and looking away. Our favourite is Miss Parry; a partially invented character representing his fascination with old age, “especially those who sit and wait for the end to come”.

Although he never saw himself as a traditional portrait painter, Kyffin was obsessed with people. He once said: “I feel that the land and its people are almost part of me”. Kyffin grew up among the hills and valleys of north Wales and was drawn to the landscape and its people, especially the figure of the farmer whom is constant in his work and adorns many living rooms and gallery walls. There are a few of his best examples in the exhibition.

‘Places’ is the largest and most significant theme in the show. His work in this genre was so prolific, it was very difficult to boil it down to fit into the space; but with a little help from Kyffin himself (he often listed his favourites in interviews and in his diaries) we have tried to represent the very best of his of works inspired by the mountains and seascape of Wales and beyond.

The large Welsh landscape wall which is hung in a salon style as an acknowledgement to the artist’s appointment as a Royal Academician in 1973 is a fitting finale to the exhibition. A challenging hanging method never before attempted by our team, but has been our personal highlight of the whole exhibition.

It has been some 13 years since we last dedicated an exhibition to Kyffin and we do hope that you will enjoy the experience and find some favourites of your own…maybe even be inspired to try your hand at creating your very own masterpiece! Do let us know what your own personal highlights are on social media using #Kyffin100 [Twitter: @NLWExhibtion] and remember to download the Smartify App before your visit.


Exhibitions Team

Posted - 15-02-2018 No Comments

#LoveMaps / Collections / News and Events

#LoveMaps – Huw Thomas

Huw Thomas, Map Curator at The National Library of Wales takes part in our #LoveMaps Campaign.

The most boring map in the World

When tasked with choosing four maps from the National Library’s map collection to write about I was left with something of a dilemma, the easy option would be to go for some of the famous treasures, however, previous #LoveMaps contributors have already used many of these and those that are left may well excite the interest of future contributors.

So, what to choose? Well, I decided to go for some items which were slightly different and also to try to stick to a theme and what better theme than the Welsh Government’s chosen theme for the year 2018 The Sea.

The National Map Collection holds a large number of fascinating nautical charts, but my first choice is not a nautical chart it is an aeronautical chart. A map for navigating by air and this gives a clue as to why someone would produce a map with absolutely no features on it at all.

This featureless stretch of the Earth’s surface is part of the Pacific Ocean, there are no islands or other features to show where we are, and we are reliant on the titling and coordinate system to provide our location. This is, of course, the whole purpose of this map; it is designed to allow pilots and navigators to plot their course and position accurately on the map, when there are no features on the ground below to allow them to get their bearings. To be able to do this is vital if one is to reach dry land safely when crossing such a vast distance as the Pacific Ocean. Dead reckoning over such a long distance would almost inevitably lead to missing land (which could be a tiny atoll in the midst of the ocean) and then running out of fuel and ditching in the sea, with virtually no chance of being rescued.

Accurate locational information would have been vital during the Second World War when this chart was made. Aircraft flying from the US carrier fleets would need to be able to find their way to the enemy ships and home again without getting lost. Long-range scout planes would need to be able to plot the position of enemy ships in order to relay this information to the carrier groups.
During the Falklands War in 1982 the Royal Air Force was tasked with bombing the airfield outside Port Stanley, in order to do this they needed to fly their Vulcan bombers from Ascension Island to the Falklands a round trip of over 12,000 Kilometres. As nobody had ever expected to need to do this there were no aeronautical charts available of the South Atlantic, so the navigators had to use charts of the Northern hemisphere turned upside down in order to plot their course, with the Azores standing in for the Falklands.

In today’s world most air navigation relies on radio navigation aids and satellite positioning systems, but when such systems fail being able to work out where you are on a map, especially in the middle of an ocean, is still a valuable skill to possess.

So even this most featureless and boring of maps was a useful tool at the time it was produced and as such perhaps it is not as boring as at first it may seem.

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NLW Map Collection

Posted - 12-02-2018 No Comments

Collections / News

The Uk Web Archive: A New Chapter

The beta site of the UK Web Archive was finally launched at the end of 2017 and can be viewed here. This is just the beginning of what will involve a number of exciting developments to the site over 2018, eventually replacing the current web archive.


In order to improve your future user experience, the Legal Deposit Libraries is requesting your valuable assistance! Good or bad we would value your feedback and encourage you to complete a short two minute survey.

What is the UK Web Archive? The UK Web Archive represents all of the UK Legal Deposit Libraries and aims to collect all of the UK Web Space annually. At least once year, an automated “crawl” is performed to capture as many UK websites as we can identify and save, preserve and give access to this material for current and future researchers.

This is an exciting new chapter for the UK Web Archiving at the Legal Deposit Libraries. The National Library of Wales has been archiving websites since 2004, and has collected thousands of sites. From 2004, we had to seek permission from the website owner to archive their website. This was a long and rather frustrating process especially as many did not reply.

This then changed for us all. The terms of the Non-Print Legal Deposit Regulations 2013 allowed the UK Web Archive to archive the whole of the UK web domain. This vast collection is available to view at the Legal Deposit Libraries’ Reading Rooms. Nevertheless, the aim is to provide ‘open access’ to as much of this collection as possible therefore do not be surprised as website owner to  receive an email from us requesting permission to show archived copies of your site outside of the library reading rooms.

Furthermore, much focus is given to collecting websites relating to a specific event or topic and grouping them in a Special Collection. The National Library spent a significant amount of time collecting sites relating to the ‘2017 General Election’ and the ‘Impact of Brexit in Wales’. A collection for 2018 will involve a Special Collection on the Welsh language, a blog on this soon to follow.

What next for the UK Web Archive? A huge amount of sites are to be added to the UK Web Archive over the next 6 month and this is mostly covered in the UK Web Archive’s most recent blog What can you find in the (Beta) UK Web Archive? Further updates will be available from their Twitter feed and of course, a number of new blog posts will appear over the coming months on this blog relating to the UK Web Archive  at the National Library of Wales and the UK Web Archive’s blog.


Aled Betts

Acquisitions Librarian

Posted - 08-02-2018 No Comments

#LoveMaps / Collections / News and Events

#LoveMaps – Gerald Morgan

Gerald Morgan, Historian, Teacher and Author takes part in our #LoveMaps campaign.

Glanystwyth Map 1787

Of all the National Library’s resources, none has given me more pleasure than did the maps of Trawsgoed (Crosswood) and other estates when I researched their history and that of Ceredigion. More than one landsurveyor drew maps for the owners of Trawsgoed: their purpose was to show them how much land they owned and where, showing also the uses made of their fields and their names. A W.W. Matthews surveyed Trawsgoed in 1756, but only the demesne map survives, showing the grounds around the mansion.

The same was done with greater artistic skill by Mercier in 1771, and in 1781 Thomas Lewis made a comprehensive survey of the whole estate in Cardiganshire. These survive in three substantial volumes, and although a few maps have vanished during the intervening years, the collection is particularly valuable to the historian. They also contain a map of Tan-yr-allt, Abermagwr, where the writer lived with his family for fifteen happy years. But a different map is under consideration today.

By the second half of the eighteenth century most of the farms in Cwmystwyth and upper Dyffryn Ystwyth beyond Llanilar were formed a mosaic of two different ownerships, Trawsgoed and Hafod Uchdrud. In 1790 there was a grand exchange of these farms to consolidate their two estates between Wilmot earl of Trawsgoed and Thomas Johnes of Hafod. But one farm in Dyffryn Ystwyth remained with Hafod – Glanystwyth, together with the attached farm, Gwaununfuwch, forming one tenancy.

When Johnes went bankrupt in 1814, dying in the following year, the Hafod estate remained in Chancery until his widow Jane died in 1834. Then the Duke of Newcastle bought the whole estate except for Glanystwyth, which had been sold to the third earl of Lisburne in 1832 for £8,400. The acreage was estimated at 300, and the annual rent was £250. What then of the Glanystwyth map? It’s a complicated story.

Thomas Johnes had commissioned a survey of the Hafod estate in 1787, but alas, apart from a volume of maps of the Llanddewibrefi farms, all were lost some time after 1830. But the Glanystwyth map had gone with the sale of the farm in 1832, and so survives. Unfortunately we cannot show the schedule of fields which belongs to it, but every field has a number corresponding to the schedule: A1-A24 for Glanystwyth, B1-B14 for Gwaununfuwch.

How then does this map relate to today’s geography? We are in the lower Ystwyth, on the northern side of the river, a mile east of Llanilar village. The road shown running from the top to the bottom of the map is today’s B4340 from Aberystwyth to Pontrhydfendigaid. The rivulet shown running from right to left below the fields is the one called today Afon Llanfihangel, but its original name was Afon Pyllu, as shown by the the names Pwlly Uchaf and Pwlly Isaf (at one time the Aberpyllu estate, long vanished). A road is show running above the river Pyllu: this is now a green lane for most of its course.

Glanystwyth itself (A1) appears to the right of the high road. Although the house has been modernised more than once, its massive walls betray its ancient origin. From the point of view of the historian, the most interesting name is at A10, Pentre Du, on the bank of the Pyllu. It is described as ‘Houses, Mill, etc’. Nothing is visible today, but the name is still known to some local people. It’s likely that this was a cluster of earthen houses, possibly built by squatters. The Llanfihangel-y-Creuddyn registers show that in 1801 two girls from houses in Pentre Du died of small-pox. In 1861 there were still three families living in ‘Black Village’; by 1901, only one family remained.

Most of the field names are common ones: Cae Pwll, Cae Bach, Cae Coch and so on. More interesting is A3, Dol y Cappel (Chapel field). What does this refer to? There is no record of any chapel close to Glanystwyth, nor any other institution such as a Sunday School. The same problem occurs on the Tan-yr-allt map, where a Cae Capel is located in 1781: it turned out to be the site of the recently-discovered Roman villa. Field A16 is Cae Ty’n y fron, a good example of the way a larger farm (Glanystwyth) could absorb a smaller property, the tyddyn of Ty’n y fron.

On the bank of the river Pyllu is Dol-y-pandy (A14), literally ‘Fulling-mill meadow’, though the mill itself seems to have gone by 1787. Next to it is A13, land ‘about the Mill Leet’ referring to a channel made for water from the Pyllu to the mill at Pentre Du. There is nothing special about the field names of Gwaununfuwch: the farm name (‘One-Cow Moor’) suggests poor land.

When I first saw the map about thirty years ago I showed a copy to Mr Hugh Tudor, son of Mr Tom Tudor the then owner of Glanystwyth, now owned by his brother Richard. Hugh listed the current names of all the fields, and though many fields had been joined together and lost their old 1787 Welsh names, a good percentage still remained in use. But the use made of the fields had changed dramatically: some ten fields then used for corn had almost all joined the others under pasture.

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NLW Map Collection

Posted - 07-02-2018 No Comments

#LoveArt / Collections / News and Events

#LoveArt – Valériane Leblond

This month, artist Valériane Leblond takes part in our #LoveArt campaign.

She has chosen View from Hen Gaer Castellan by Edrica Huws (1907-1999) as her final choice.

I love how the artist uses the different fabrics in a way a painter would use the colours on a palette. The tones are subtle, and the subject itself is not obvious at first sight. I find it interesting that Edrica Huws uses patchwork, a craft that is not very present in the art world, but which has been a mean for women to express themselves for several centuries, especially in Wales. Her style is unique and the patterns on the fabrics give it an extra dimension.

View from Hen Gaer Castellan

Valériane Leblond

Posted - 06-02-2018 No Comments

Collections / music

Searching for Welsh folk Songs

How would you find a Welsh folk song? Many have been published but there are many more which are less well known. Meredydd Evans and Phyllis Kinney have made detailed studies of Welsh folk songs and tunes and their archive is now available at the National Library. The archive is being catalogued as part of the Welsh Musical Archive Programme. If you would like to come to the Library to see the archive, please contact Nia Mai Daniel on to book an introductory session or contact us on Twitter @musicNLW.

The archive of Merêd (Meredydd Evans 1919-2015) and his wife, the scholar and musician Phyllis Kinney contains over 150 boxes that can be grouped as :

  • Musical papers of Phyllis Kinney
  • Musical papers of Merêd
  • Merêd and Phyllis’s index cards on Welsh traditional music
  • Correspondence of Merêd
  • Merêd’s files on philosophy, literature, campaigns for the Welsh language and more.

We hope to develop a Welsh folk music database based on the Merêd and Phyllis index cards. To achieve this, the cards will be digitized and we will develop a way of making the information easily available online for performers and those who want to explore Welsh folk tunes and songs.

There are index cards for the different categories below

  • Folk songs : Over 1,000 index cards arranged by title A-Z
  • Tunes for ‘Carols’: Notes by Phyllis Kinney on the melody, the manuscript or source of the tune, and the music notation.
  • Words for ‘Carols’ : Notes by Merêd, mostly on the sources of Christmas carols.
  • Nursery rhymes : From the printed collections of O. M Edwards, Ceiriog and Eluned Bebb.
  • ‘Alawon fy Ngwlad’ The lays of my land (1896) : A book of over 500 tunes collected by Nicholas Bennett which is now available online at the Library’s website
  • Mari lwyd: Notes on the traditions of wassailing and seasonal festivities for Phyllis Kinney’s book ‘Welsh Traditional Music’ (2011)
  • J Lloyd Williams : Songs and Tunes from the archive of J Lloyd Williams at NLW who was a folk music collector.
  • Welsh Folk Song Society magazine : Statistics on song sources and tunes in the Magazine during the editorship of J Lloyd Williams.

The cards indicate the tune and words, differing versions, name of places associated with the tunes, and indicate the book or manuscript where they has been found. Many of these sources have been digitized by the Library including important manuscripts by John Jenkins (1770-1829): Melus-seiniau CymruPer Seiniau Cymru and Melus geingciau Deheubarth Cymru and a full list can be found on our page on ‘Welsh Traditional Music‘.

Nia Mai Daniel

Programme Manager, The Welsh Music Archive



See also previous blog on 25-09-2017 ‘Launching the Welsh Music Archive’

Launching the Welsh Music Archive

Posted - No Comments


Vote 100

Today we mark 100 years since the passing of the Representation of the People Act 1918, which gave women the right to vote in UK Parliamentary elections for the first time. This followed a long campaign, reflected in the Library’s collections, for example in the records of the Llangollen Women’s Suffrage Society and David Lloyd George’s correspondence. The campaign contained elements who wanted to make their case within the existing political structures, while others favoured more dramatic action, and in Wales, Lloyd George was often the target.


There had been significant opposition to allowing women to vote in Parliamentary elections but the Great War did much to change attitudes and it came as little surprise when Lloyd George’s government tabled legislation in Parliament to extend the right to vote to include some women which would come into effect in time for the first election after the war.

In that election, only one women stood for a constituency in Wales and the first woman wasn’t elected to Parliament from a Welsh constituency until Megan Lloyd George won the Anglesey seat in 1929. The first time in which women won half the seats in a nationwide election in Wales was in the elections to the National Assembly for Wales in 2003.

As well as holding material related to the women’s suffrage campaign, the Library is also home to the archievs of many prominent women MPs and MEPs including Megan Lloyd George, Baroness Randerson, Eirene White, Ann Clwyd, and Beata Brookes.

Many women were also politically active outside Parliament, for example as part of a political party and in one case, as the leader of a council. Gwenllian Morgan was elected Mayor of Brecon in 1910, 8 years before she was able to vote for her own MP.

Even though the 1918 was an important step forward, it only gave the right to vote to women over 30 years old. Women had to wait another 10 years to gain the right to vote in Parliamentary elections on equal terms with men, when the voting age was equalised at 21.

Rob Phillips

Posted - 05-02-2018 No Comments

Collections / Exhibitions

Curious Traveller: Thomas Pennant and the ‘Home Tour’

“I beg to be considered not as a Topographer but as a curious traveller willing to collect all that a traveller may be supposed to do in his voyage”

In May 1773 the naturalist Thomas Pennant of Downing Hall in Flintshire wrote of his plans for a book of ‘travels at home’. This would become the Tours in Wales, published in three volumes between 1778 and 1783: it was a ground-breaking and profoundly influential work, which would shape people’s ideas about Wales for well over a century.
Pennant was already internationally recognized by the time these Tours appeared. He was known as the author of the beautifully-illustrated British Zoology, as an assiduous correspondent with some of the great naturalists of C18th Europe (including the Comte de Buffon and Carl Linnaeus), and as the adventurous pioneer of two Scottish Tours, which inspired the famous Journey to the Western Isles of Dr Samuel Johnson and James Boswell. Pennant’s partnership with the artist Moses Griffith brought Welsh and Scottish scenes to a much wider audience, and encouraged many hundreds of people to undertake their own ‘Home Tours’.

The National Library of Wales holds a rich collection of Pennant’s published works and manuscripts, as well as many of Griffith’s lovely watercolours, some of which will go on display in the Summers Room (5-9 February 2018). The ‘Curious Travellers’ project, funded by the AHRC and run by the University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies and Glasgow University, has been exploring this wonderful archive, and discovering the delights (and disasters!) of travel in C18th and C19th Wales and Scotland. This is the beginning of modern tourism – and Pennant’s complex legacy is still very much with us today.
To find out more about the project go to:

Mary-Ann Constantine, University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies

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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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