Posted - 30-05-2016 No Comments

Collections / Exhibitions

Half Term at the Library

What better way to spend the half term holiday than by visiting some of our exhibitions?

Adventure is just a page away…

Go on an adventure to the world of the book in the company of Welsh literature’s most adventurous characters.  You’ll meet Twm Siôn Cati, Eric Jones, Bilbo Baggins and James and his giant peach and see exciting items from the Library’s collections such as a first edition copy of The Hobbit and clips from the popular cartoon, SuperTed.

Discover your own adventure in our reading wigwam, see if you can complete the activity book and try some of our new interactive games.

Or how about creating your very own adventure over in Hafan?  Create a masterpiece on the giant blackboard, play with words on the magnetic notepad and create your own film clip at the animation station.  Be it on land, in the sky, under the sea or in space (and in the Library!), adventure is just a page away…


Pushing Boundaries

Another exhibition that’s worth a visit is Girlguiding Cymru: Pushing Boundaries.  It traces the dynamic history of Girlguiding Cymru from its establishment in 1910 to the present day through the Girlguiding Cymru archive and the Library’s collections.  You’ll see some Kyffin Williams paintings, old and new uniforms, photographs and video clips as well as a beautiful tapestry created especially for the exhibition by the Trefoil Guild.

Join us in looking at how the movement has pushed boundaries and continues to impact on the lives of girl today.  Learn how to fold a tie like on the old uniforms, or how to communicate through semaphore.  Pick up a Rainbow activity booklet or a Brownie passport and see if you can finish them all.  If you’re a little older, why not try our test card?  Whatever your age, there’s an activity for you.


Posted - 27-05-2016 No Comments


James Ward, ‘An Overshot Mill in Wales’

Europeana 280 is a joint initiative by Europeana, Europe’s digital platform for cultural heritage, and the European Commission that involved the 28 European Ministries of Culture working with their national cultural institutions to select at least 10 paintings that represented their country’s contribution to Europe’s art history. The aim is to celebrate the diverse and magnificent artworks that tell a unique story of how Europe’s art heritage has evolved over time, and to show people how their country is part of a shared art heritage. The 10 works the National Library has chosen to be included in the project portrays the richness of the visual history of Wales and emphasizes that Wales boasts a great artistic tradition.

Central to the canon of Welsh art history is, naturally, its magnificent landscape. Due to the Napoleonic Wars people could no longer travel to Europe (especially for the ‘Grand Tour’) and so artists turned their attention to Britain. Wales with its mountainous landscape full of castles and its unique language and myths attracted artists from across Britain. The art historian Peter Lord argued in his work Gwenllian: ‘…Wales was perceived by English intellectuals as a strange and ancient place with the customs, dress and language of the people belonging to another age, these qualities were considered attractive’. As a result of works such as Richard Wilson’s landscapes (1712/13-1782) and Thomas Pennant’s Tours in Wales (1726-1798), Wales became very popular amongst artists.

James Ward (1769-1859) is viewed as one of the leading artists of the British Romantic movement and his work of ‘Aberdulais Mill’ is a fine example of how Wales attracted artists from across Britain during the 18th and 19th centuries in search of the ‘picturesque’.

James Ward was a great colourist, a highly skilled draughtsman, printmaker and was also an outstanding animal painter. He is viewed as one of the leading artists of the British Romantic movement. He was elected to the Royal Academy in 1811 and produced thousands of works in an array of media and subjects from landscapes, portraits, animal studies, to genre and history paintings. As stated by the author Edward. J. Nygren his works reveal ‘… an extraordinary range of visual and emotional expression … both the ordinary and the unusual engaged Ward’s eye. Whether rag mops or ragweed, crumbling barns or decaying ruins, gnarled trees or craggy men, trotting horses or sleeping Cossacks-nothing escaped his notice’. Using his rapid brushstrokes he was able to bring life into his works.

As can be seen in this work of Aberdulais Mill which is situated on the River Dulais, Aberdulais near Neath in South Wales he was a Romantic painter and one can see that he was a master in the portrayal of light. His attention to detail in this work is beyond compare and his great expertise in painting the animal form is plain to see.

Aberdulais Mill drew a number of artists to record its picturesque setting including the great artist J.M.W. Turner in 1796. Since 1584 power had been drawn from this waterfall when it was used in the manufacturing of copper which ceased in the 17th century. It was later used for corn-milling and later in the production of tinplate works. Ward had an eclectic style for his influences varied from Classical Artists to Old Masters and contemporary painters. He also created works such as his masterpiece ‘Gordale Scar’, from 1815 in search of the sublime.

Posted - 26-05-2016 No Comments

News and Events / Reader Services

“Digitisation has made a big difference…reading hundreds of newspapers would be very time consuming”

Libraries gave us power, sang the Manic Street Preachers, but what really happens behind the bookshelves at Wales’ own cultural powerhouse, the National Library of Wales?

From novelists to genealogists, PhD students and poets, we spoke to some of the many and varied readers of the National Library of Wales to find out what they are up to behind the bookshelves.

Ifor ap Glyn, National Poet of Wales and television producer, director and presenter.

“I’m currently working on a book which is based on a unique resource held at the National Library of Wales; the world’s most extensive collection of letters in Welsh,  written from the first part of the First World War.

There is a fascinating collection of 60-odd letters written by Captain Dafydd Jones from Carmarthenshire who was killed in Mametz Wood.

The book I’m writing is part factual, historical and part personal response and travelogue, as I am visiting all the places Captain Jones visited and describes in his letters, beginning at a hotel in Rhyl, one of the places where Welsh battalions were raised and trained. His first letters see him apologising to his parents for leaving his degree in Aberystwyth University to join the Army, but it’s what most of his contemporaries did at the time. I’m about halfway through the journey and the second leg will be the journey to the Somme. Researching the locations is not a completely straightforward task as censorship of letters meant many of the exact locations have been taken out.

“I first came across the collection of letters when I was working on a programme for S4C in 2008 called ‘Lleisiau o’r rhyfel mawr’ or ‘Voices of the Great War” and saw that these letters were one of the most comprehensive collections of the era.

“Researching and visiting the National Library in Aberystwyth is always interesting, and I’ve done lots of work there in the past using the screen archive when I researched the first Welsh language film Y Chwarelwr (The Quarryman). However I have to say since digitisation and resources there recently being made available online, it has made the access process far easier. Not only does it mean I don’t always have to travel down from Caernarfon, the wordsearch facility means I don’t have to physically trawl through hundreds of copies of the Carmarthen Journal held there to find Caption Jones’ name, that would be hugely time consuming.”







Posted - 24-05-2016 No Comments

Collections / News and Events

The History of Wales in 12 Maps

They say a picture is worth a thousand words and this is never truer than when it comes to maps. Maps predate the written word and it has even been suggested that they may predate speech itself and form part of our evolutionary history as humans.

Every map tells a story about the place it shows, which goes well beyond the mere content and purpose of the map to reveal the very roots of the society in which it was made and maps of Wales are no exception

Daearlen “Excelsior” Bacon Cymru / golygydd Timothy Lewis (ca. 1913)

That a nation’s history is determined by its geography is never truer than when looking at Wales. The abundance of West-East trending valleys and the mountainous country dividing North from South have helped invaders from the East while at the same time hindering communication and cooperation within the country itself.

Ptolemaic map of the British Isles (2nd Century, printed in 1486)

The first people to bring Britain into the historical and cartographical record were the Greeks and Romans. This map produced from the work of 2nd Century Greco-Egyptian Geographer Claudius Ptolemaeus includes one of the earliest extant depictions of what we now know as Wales.


Cambriae Typus by Humphrey Llwyd (1573)

This is the first published map of Wales as a nation, but the Wales it depicts is a historical nation of independent principalities and not the country conquered and annexed by the English.


Wales by John Speed (1610)

This map shows the 13 counties into which Wales was divided under the Act of Union in 1536. It is also notable for the views of county towns which shows the development of urbanisation beginning in this period.

A plan of the Mannor of Perveth commonly called Cwmmwd y Perveth by Lewis Morris (1744)

For much of its history Wales has been exploited for its mineral wealth by outsiders, this map shows the mineral workings in the Crown Manor of Perfedd, claimed by the author to be one of the “most fruitful in mines in all his majesty’s dominions”

Inclosure of Cors Fochno – Manor of Generglyn Map B Roads and allotments (1847)

It was not only the mineral wealth of the country which was exploited, the land was also exploited. Common land was fenced in or enclosed and often the best lands were granted to the gentry while the ordinary people were given the less fertile plots.

Tithe map of Llangynfelyn by Richard Morgan of Talybont (1844)

Not only were the gentry enclosing the common land and thus denying access to the ordinary people, after the reformation they were often the main beneficiaries of the tithe payments.

Great Western Railway map of system / GWR (1925)

One of the greatest changes to the geography of Wales in the 19th century was the advent of the railways, now goods could be transported to the industrial heartlands of England much more quickly. This affected both the extractive industries and the agrarian economy as well as helping to fuel urbanisation across Britain.

Isovol map of the South Wales Coalfield / Dept. of Scientific & Industrial Research (1944)

The railways fuelled the demand for coal as their primary power source and also improved access to other markets such as industrial and domestic fuel. Towards the end of the 19th century and throughout the first 3 quarters of the 20th century South Wales and coal were inextricably linked.

Trawsfynydd artillery training / War Office (1915)

During the 20th Century many social changes were brought about as a result of war. The First World War caused the death of many thousands of Welsh people, including the poet Hedd Wyn whose house can be found on this map, within the sound of the practising artillery guns.

Stadtplan von Newport / German Army General Staff (1942)

During the Second World War Wales was in the front line as it had never been before, when German bombers devastated a number of Welsh cities. This map was prepared by the Germans to help with targeting for air raids and also in preparation for the invasion of Britain, which never happened.

Tryweryn flow-regulating scheme / Liverpool Corporation Water Works (1956)

After the two World Wars people were more willing to question and less willing to accept what they were told by those in power. When the village of Capel Celyn was flooded to provide water for Liverpool it caused great resentment in Wales and fuelled the growing sense of nationalism in the county.




Posted - 23-05-2016 No Comments

Collections / News and Events

Carto-Cymru – The Wales Map Symposium 2016 – Shaping the Nation


The 27th of May sees the inauguration of a new event at the National Library of Wales, Carto-Cymru the Wales Map Symposium. If this year’s symposium is a success we are hoping that it will become a regular fixture in the future.


The event is being held in association with the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales and is a fitting way to mark the move of the Commission to new offices in the Library building.


This year’s theme is ‘Shaping the Nation’ and will examine the role of maps in both depicting and creating the nation both as an entity on the ground and also as a perception in the minds of people.


We have a very exciting line-up of speakers:

  • Keith Lilley, Professor of Historical Geography at Queen’s University, Belfast will be talking about Mapping the Marches.
  • Chris Fleet, Map Curator at the National Library of Scotland will be looking at the mapping of Scotland.
  • Yolande Hodson, Map Historian, will be giving us an insight into the Military Map Collection of George III.
  • Rhys Jones, Head of the Geography Department at the University of Aberystwyth will discuss linguistic mapping in Wales.
  • Huw Thomas, Map Curator at the National Library of Wales, will tell the story of Humphrey Llwyd and the first published map of Wales.
  • Tom Pert, On-line Development Manager, at the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales will be showing us how the Royal Commission use maps in their work.


We are fortunate to have been able to get such an excellent group of speakers together for the event and it promises to be a day full of interesting presentations.


This is the first time that we have organised a major cartographic event like this in the Library and it has been quite experience learning about everything that is needed for such a major event. The help and support of staff from both the Library and the Commission has been invaluable and it has been a good example of cooperation between our two organisations, one which we hope to repeat in the future.


Huw Thomas

Map Curator

Posted - 19-05-2016 No Comments

News and Events / Reader Services

‘It’s easy to dream up stories here.”

Libraries gave us power, sang the Manic Street Preachers, but what really happens behind the bookshelves at Wales’ own cultural powerhouse, the National Library of Wales?

From novelists to genealogists, PhD students and poets, we spoke to some of the many and varied readers of the National Library of Wales to find out what they are up to behind the bookshelves.

Sarah Taylor, Author of Arthur and Me, winner of Firefly Children’s Book Prize 2014.

“When I was doing my PhD (looking at the Presentation of Aggression in Seventeenth Century British Ballad Literature) I spent every day in the gorgeous National Library of Wales. It’s a wonderful place, a huge open space with bookshelves rising up on two sides of the main reading room and a view out to sea at the end. The staff are lovely and as it’s a copyright library it has an immense collection, including manuscripts, maps and a fabulous sound and video archive.

“I have loved the library since I was a teenager and was actually given special permission to access the manuscripts  library to use church records as part of my A-level work. As soon as I could, I got my own reading card and loved using the library as an undergraduate. After I finished the PhD I worked at York University as a research associate and again the library was a great source of additional material to help with my work.

“As it holds so many birth and death records it’s very popular with genealogists and I used to run into quite a few of them. Their dedication to uncovering every tiny bit of their family’s history was inspiring and I had some great chats with them about the forensic style of that branch of historical research.

One day I got chatting to a lovely lady in the canteen over lunch and she said ‘I wonder if you could help me, being a Welsh girl.’ Well, eager to do my best I said I’d help if I could. ‘I’m a bit confused as to why there were so many dog breeders in Wales,’ she said. I was a bit confused too, so I offered to take a look at the document she was using, although what I know about genealogy you could write on a postage stamp. After lunch we went upstairs and she showed me the records she was using…..and I had to explain as tactfully as I could that that wasn’t quite what ‘collier’ meant.


To this day I am very sure she was winding me up – there was definitely a twinkle in her eye.

When I began writing a children’s book, I I knew that I wanted to write about one of the great heroes of Wales. We are lucky to have so many fascinating folk tales and legends.

“I still find the library it is a wonderful place to plan a book, especially from the seat overlooking the sea. The exhibitions are very inspiring too, and it’s easy to dream up stories when being told stories from Wales’ past in the exhibition halls.”

Posted - 12-05-2016 No Comments

Reader Services

“There is nothing better than getting a box of documents from the archive and reading through people’s letters and diaries.”

Libraries gave us power, sang the Manic Street Preachers, but what really happens behind the bookshelves at Wales’ own cultural powerhouse, the National Library of Wales?
From novelists to genealogists, PhD students and poets, we spoke to some of the many and varied readers of the National Library of Wales to find out what they are up to behind the bookshelves.

“There is nothing better than getting a box of documents from the archive and reading through people’s letters and diaries.”   

Calista Williams, Open University PhD student.

“I am studying for a PhD in history at the Open University in collaboration with the National Library of Wales (NLW). My thesis explores the development of the NLW and examines how it was established, organised and managed in the late Victorian and early Edwardian era. The thesis also evaluates the impact of the library’s services and explores the connection between the NLW and Welsh national identity during this period.

I grew up in Hampshire and Buckinghamshire and then at 18 I came to Aberystwyth University to study Drama. After finishing my degree, I worked at Aberystwyth University Bookshop but I suppose I still wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do. On a whim I decided to start volunteering with the National Trust as a gardener which I loved, and I was given the opportunity to run children’s workshops and help plan events. The staff at Llanerchaeron were so supportive and they encouraged me to apply to do a Masters in History and Heritage at Aberystwyth University. It started from there really. I began the MA part-time and loved it and, at the same time, I also started to volunteer at the NLW. I worked on a volunteer project entitled ‘Corporate Records’ which involved sorting through some of the library’s own archival material  and transcribing it – looking at acquisition records to sheep grazing rights! This was when my interest in the library’s history was piqued and I began to develop a PhD proposal. I was then lucky enough to secure a studentship at the OU in 2013.

Luckily, I only live 10 minutes’ walk from the NLW – the downside is it’s up a steep hill, so I usually arrive red-faced and out of breath! I spilt my time between my desk, which the library has kindly provided for me and the public reading rooms. A couple of days a week I work with a group of library volunteers who have been helping me enter information into a database on the first subscribers to the library building fund and the early readers. I often have lunch in the library café with friends or, if it’s warm, sit outside and enjoy the beautiful views. During the first half of my PhD I spent a lot of time working in the reading rooms looking at archival documents but now I spend more time writing up my thesis. There is really nothing better than getting a box of documents from the archive and reading through people’s letters and diaries – history really comes alive in those moments.

I love the fact that this huge building and archival resource – usually situated in a city – sits above a Victorian seaside town looking out on the Welsh countryside – it is very much unique in that respect. It is special to me personally as it’s where I discovered a real passion for history and since then I have uncovered so many interesting things about the library and its history.




Posted - 11-05-2016 No Comments


A walk through Milk Wood


International Dylan Thomas Day is celebrated each year on 14 May, the date ‘Under Milk Wood’ was first performed in 1953 at The Poetry Center, New York. It is appropriate that the Library this year marks the event with a week-long exhibition focusing on the theme, ‘Under Milk Wood’.

Drawing on our rich and diverse collections, the exhibition is an opportunity for all to view items which reflect the enduring popularity of this work from early performances to the present day. We hope that the exhibition gives visitors an insight into how ‘Under Milk Wood’ was created, and how the work has been adapted and interpreted over the years on stage and through film, animation and audio recordings. Among the items on display is the famous sketch map by Dylan Thomas of the fictional village Llareggub, included by popular demand following a recent online poll, together with a letter from Dylan to his literary agent in August 1953 where he discusses the rewriting of ‘Under Milk Wood’, a script of the radio play, and the musical score by his childhood friend Daniel Jones. Some of the items can be viewed on our online exhibition.

During the past decade the Library has made considerable efforts to enhance its collection of Dylan Thomas manuscripts, and houses a wealth of material in various formats. These, we hope, will assist researchers wishing to learn more about the poet and his work. In particular, drafts of his works, word lists and letters from Dylan reveal much about the way he wrote and demonstrate his exceptional ability as a writer.

The manuscripts on display include a letter, recently purchased by the Library, from Dylan Thomas to Elizabeth Reitell. The letter, addressed from the Boat House, Laugharne, was sent in June 1953, soon after Dylan’s return from a tour of America, and less than five months before his death. There is evidence, from the case in which it arrived, that this manuscript and another already held among our archives were previously owned by the same collector, and we’re extremely glad to be able to reuinte items which have become separated over the years.

The exhibition commences Saturday, 14th May, and is open to visitors until 21st May; admission is free of charge.

Join us for a walk through Milk Wood…

Sian Bowyer

Posted - 10-05-2016 No Comments

Reader Services

Family and Local History Fair


Hanes teulu 2


Thought about starting your own family history? Don’t know where to start? Why not pay a visit to the Family and Local History Fair to be held here at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth on Saturday, 14 May. It is the ideal place for a beginner to gain some knowledge of how to start researching, where to go and what is available.

This will be the third Fair held at the Library and again there will be over twenty stands in attendance in the Gregynog Gallery. As well as family history experts from the Library, county family history societies will be there to share their wealth of local knowledge, to sell their transcripts and indexes to parish registers, census returns and memorial inscriptions. Others will specialise in local history and the history of Wales. There will be plenty of books for sale – new ones relating to family and local history research, but also second hand books and maps. If you need help with photographs that is also covered as is photo restoration if yours have seen better days.


Hanes teulu 1


Two talks will be available during the day, free admission by ticket booked at

‘Sources for local and family history in Wales’ by Michael Freeman, sharing his knowledge and expertise as a researcher.

‘Identifying and Interpreting Family Photographs’ by William Troughton, the Library’s Visual Images Librarian takes you on a tour of discovery in identifying those essential clues in dating and identifying old photographs.


Beryl Evans

Research Services Manager

Posted - 05-05-2016 No Comments

News and Events / Reader Services

“It’s one of the only places in the world where you can find absolute silence”

Libraries gave us power, sang the Manic Street Preachers, but what really happens behind the bookshelves at Wales’ own cultural powerhouse, the National Library of Wales?

Matthew Rees, PhD candidate at Aberystwyth University’s International Politics department.

“I’m at the National Library most days. The variety of books, wonderful working environment with excellent light, desks at the right height – for someone who’s 6 foot 6, this is a real benefit –  and really helpful and friendly staff are what attract me. The fact that all the staff speak Welsh, but I don’t think it’s an intimidating environment for my non-Welsh speaking friends, is also excellent, as it’s one of the few places I can use Welsh all day.

I’m originally from Cardiff and was brought up in an English-speaking home, but went to a Welsh medium school. I then went to the University of Warwick to do my first degree in politics. After this I returned to Cardiff to do a masters at Cardiff University. At this time, I became very interested in the relationship between religion and politics, and decided to pursue this interest through research. I arrived in Aberystwyth in 2012 to study for my doctorate. My research looks at faith-based political engagement in the devolved regions of the UK. Religious organisations and faith-based organisations traditionally wielded a large amount of power in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland but their influence declined during the 20th century.

The National Library has been such a gift over the past three years of research. Being able to work in a library with almost every book ever published in the UK is such a privilege when studying the devolved regions of the UK. The library’s archives have also been helpful when it came to the primary research on Wales, the very helpful and friendly staff have gone out of their way to give me access to difficult to find sources.

“I usually walk up Penglais hill at around 9 and pop into the International politics department for around half an hour before heading down to the library. I then put my things into one of the lockers, show the porters my readers card and enter the library. I normally sit in the same spot in the North room at the end of the reading room.

“The North room is so beautiful. In a strange way it’s very modern despite also having a grand old feel about it. The library has done a very good job of creating a library space which is fit for modern research, but it keeps its feel as an old institution at the same time. You really feel the sense of history in the place, while at the same time feeling like it’s your library to use and come up with something new.

I like silence to work, with no distractions- that’s why I go to the National Library. It’s one of the few places in the world where you genuinely get that!

Reading and writing a for a thesis takes huge concentration and really drains energy and makes eyes weary, so it’s important to take routine breaks, especially when you’re doing it day in, day out and often on weekends for four years.  The library’s Café Pendinas comes in handy at these points, the coffee shop feels as much like a lounge as a business establishment.

The library staff here are all genuinely interested in what you’re doing. The porters often ask how things are going and you get to know these people after a while. It’s a really iconic place to work, whilst keeping a friendly feel about it at the same time.”

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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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