Posted - 19-03-2018 No Comments


The Great War and the world of the Gogerddan estate

From Gogerddan letter book Vol. 1584
There have been innumerable events to commemorate the First World War, spotlighting the horrors of the battlefields and life in the trenches. Deep in rural Cardiganshire the Gogerddan estate was enduring its own siege, a relentless onslaught of economic demands. George Rice Pryse was agent of the Gogerddan estate for his brother, Sir Edward Webley Parry Pryse. The letter books show that it was a job with heavy responsibilities. George and the two succeeding agents were beleaguered by tenants wanting property repairs and the gardeners demanding more pay. Rationing was in place and the departure of soldiers to the front meant that labour was in short supply. Proposals to get the Gogerddan lead mines operational were fraught with difficulties as this letter of October 1918 describes:

There is very little labour left in the country now and it would be difficult to get 40 miners. Of course you might be able to get some released from the Army. I quite agree that German prisoners might well be employed in the mines, especially to clear adits etc., and so make it easier to make a survey of the old workings.

On the land, also, the agricultural labourers had gone and the financial stringencies bit deep into the rural economy. By July 1919 Gogerddan had purchased a mowing machine:

I have spent an hour again on the mowing machine and it is useless – it is strained somehow, I think, so that it will not go into gear properly.

For all its unreliability, it portended the future mechanisation of farming, when the old world of the estate changed forever.

Hiliary Peters


Posted - 15-03-2018 No Comments

#LoveMaps / Collections / News and Events

#LoveMaps – Professor Mark Whitehead

Professor Mark Whitehead, Aberystwyth University takes part in our #LoveMaps Campaign.

Why I don’t always love maps!

It is customary when writing a blog of this kind to begin with an account of one’s personal devotion to maps and the wider cartographic sciences (particularly when you are geographer by profession, as I am). However, if I am to be candid, I have never really been “in to maps”. I don’t collect Ordinance Survey sheets, nor do I spend a lot of time reading maps—I am even a little fuzzy about the particular virtues of different mapping projections. The invitation to write this series of blogs has thus involved a certain degree of soul searching, as I ponder why I am not always inspired by maps. Asking this question has inevitably also helped me articulate more clearly why at other times I find maps just about the most interesting things there are to read.

This blog focuses on a map sequence of the Birmingham and Black Country Conurbation. These three maps depict urban development in the West Midlands from the 19th Century through to 1962. When considered in isolation these maps are fairly unremarkable. The first map shows Birmingham as a small town, flanked on the north west by a series of isolated industrial communities including Wolverhampton, Bilston, and Walsall. Between these early industrial settlements are large tracts of open space and farmland. The second sheet shows Birmingham in the first half of the twentieth century, now much expanded and beginning to merge with Oldbury and Smethwick to the west and Erdington to the north east. By 1962 we find a fully-fledged, multi-centred urban agglomeration stretching down to communities as far south as Redditch and fully integrated with the industrial centres of the Black Country. These three maps chart the transformation of small urban communities (each probably no more than 2 miles in diameter) into a continuous agglomeration of some 15 miles in width. For me, this is when maps become most interesting.

I think one of the reasons I have never been a cartophile is because when taken in isolation maps can appear to offer very settled depictions of the human and physical worlds. As a Marxist geographer by training I have always been encouraged to think of the world, and its constituent parts, not as things, but rather as processes. This distinction between things and processes is captured nicely in the distinction between the individual maps of Birmingham and the Black Country and the sequence of three maps taken to together. In isolation, each map provides only a static snapshot of urban geography in the West Midlands. But in sequence these maps offer insights into the processes of urbanization. These are processes of geographical change that appear to be connected to the emergence of modern industrial capitalism in the West Midlands that attracted ever more migrants to the emerging economies of the area. They are also processes that concern the emergence of suburbs and the often overlooked, but increasingly powerful, land economy of cities.

Each year I take my third-year urban geography students to Birmingham. I begin the field activities atop the Library of Birmingham from where it is possible to get a sense of the vast scale of this modern conurbation. This year, as ever, I will encourage them to think of the city less as a thing and more as a set of ongoing processes. When understood in this way, it is possible to connect the processes of industrial urbanization that began in Birmingham with the historically unparalleled rates of urbanization that are now evident in China, India and Nigeria at the moment. Now that is why I love maps.

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Posted - 14-03-2018 No Comments

Digitisation / Research

The David Hawkes Collection

Amongst the National Library of Wales’s most important Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic collections is the David Hawkes collection, a rich collection of mainly Chinese books and books of Chinese interest. The collection also includes a smaller set of Japanese books and books of Japanese interest.


David Hawkes (1923-2009) was a celebrated Sinologist and translator, best known for his translations of Cao Xueqin’s The Story of the Stone, one of China’s ‘four great novels’, and of the poetry anthology The Song of the South. Hawkes’s translation of The Story of the Stone has rightly been recognised  as one of the finest examples of the translators art, which made the work more accessible to English-language readers while remaining sensitive and faithful to the language, meaning and poetry of the original.


The David Hawkes Collection is his working library which Hawkes donated to the National Library in 1983-84 and is one of the most important collections of Chinese books in the UK. The collection is comprised of 1,710 titles in 4,400 volumes including a large number of works on Chinese literature, alongside works on Chinese philosophy, religion, history, music, art and archaeology. The collection also includes annotated works from the collection of another renowned Sinologist and translator, Arthur Waley, who was a friend and mentor to Hawkes.


In 1989 The Hawkes Collection was catalogued on to cards by Dr Wu Jianzhong, later Director of Shanghai Library, as part of his training whilst studying at Aberystwyth for a research degree. At present the collection is only accessible via this card catalogue, however the Library is currently in the process of developing a project with the aim of making the collection accessible via our online catalogue as well as digitising some of the  works in the collection.


Dr Douglas Jones

Published Collections Projects Manager

Posted - 08-03-2018 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.

Why cataloguing matters – Portolan Chart by Domenico Vigliarolo, 1592

This rather damaged chart is one of the greatest, and also one of the least well known, treasures of the National Map Collection.

It is a portolan chart, an early navigation chart drawn using compass directions and distances estimated by sailors on their travels. Unlike modern charts they are not based on systematic survey and are not based on any map projection. The oldest known portolan charts date from the 13th and 14th centuries; dating from 1592 this chart is quite a late example. Portolan charts were so important as navigational aids that they were considered to be state secrets by many European governments at the time.

The chart shows the East coast of the Americas and West coast of Europe and Africa and it was designed for navigating the Atlantic Ocean, prominently named on the chart as Mar Oceano. One of the interesting things about the chart is the relative accuracy achieved by the mapmaker based only on compass observations and dead reckoning.

So why does accurate cataloguing matter? When I first came across the catalogue record for this chart the author was given as Dom Domingo. Unfortunately, this incomplete rendering of the name meant that this chart was not identified as being the work of Vigliarolo and consequently left out of published bibliographies of his work. It took me a fair deal of research to discover who Dom Domingo actually was.

In order for scholars and other users to be able to access the wealth of resources held in a repository such as the National Library accurate catalogues are important, otherwise items are not found by researchers and their work is then incomplete. Cataloguing is one of those back office functions that most people don’t really think about, until they can’t find what they are looking for, but it is a vital part of our work.
Producing accurate records which help users find what they need is part of my job in which I take great pride, so next time you look at a catalogue record remember the work that went into producing it.

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#LoveArt / Collections / Exhibitions / Kyffin Blog

Kyffin Williams 100: Smooth Face of a Girl

At the height of his popularity Kyffin was commissioned to paint a succession of portraits, but by his own admission he preferred to turn to portraiture for pleasure.

In our current exhibition Kyffin Williams: Behind the Frame, a variety of portraits are shown from the Kyffin collection, ranging from his early life studies created while a student, to the later commissions of an established artist, but more interesting are the portraits which he painted purely for delight.

Amongst the items on show is a good selection of female portraits. Kyffin admitted that painting women didn’t come easy to him; it took him about twenty years to be happy painting the smooth face of a girl:

“The reason for this was my use of the palette knife for, painting in broad rough areas of paint; it was difficult to achieve the delicacy necessary”.

Norma Lopez was a favourite sitter of his in Trevelin while he visited Patagonia in 1968/69. Kyffin described Norma as an excitable girl “smiling through two large brown eyes”. Norma, who was about 8 years old, loved to tease the artist and when not playing with her brother Paulino enjoyed sitting for her portrait. Kyffin painted her several times, but could never paint her in oils once back in London as the paint didn’t capture her fun and light character.

Kyffin was obsessed by people, the people of his native Anglesey, the ones he observed as a young boy visiting parishioners with his cleric father. That probably explains why he often turned to portray the people around him, like the sketch “Woman with Duster” held in the collection (finished paintings Mrs Hughes (private collection) and Mrs Rowlands (Anglesey County Council)). She’s a composite portrait of many women the artist had known on the island who would patiently and cheerfully go about their cleaning duties.

Kyffin’s paintings are full of emotion, while working on a portrait he’d be happy to catch the likeness of his sitter but just as important was the mood the work would convey, preferring to catch melancholy rather than a smile. In his portrait of Miss Parry he depicts old age and what he summed up as the feelings and thoughts of an older generation “tired and waiting for rest”.

There’s a chance to enjoy these portraits on the walls in Gregynog Gallery until 1st September 2018, come in to see the anonymous nun, Michelle, Norma Lopez, Miss Parry and many more.


Lona Mason – Head of Graphic, Screen and Sound

Posted - 06-03-2018 No Comments

Collections / music

Welsh Women Musicians

Women’s History Month in March and International Women’s Day on Thursday 8th March are opportunities to highlight some of the archives of the women in Wales who have excelled as composers, musicians and performers.

This year we will be celebrating the centenary of the birth of the composer, Dilys Elwyn Edwards (1918 – 2012) at the National Library with a lecture by Geraint Lewis on “Celebrating Dilys: The Queen of Our Song” on 11 July. Dilys’s archive is at the Library and we have digitised and published some of her most famous compositions on the Tŷ Cerdd website ‘Discover Welsh Music’. Also on the website are works by Morfydd Owen (1891-1918) and we will mark the anniversary of the untimely death of Morfydd Llwyn Owen later this year in collaboration with the Gregynog Music Festival.

The National Library of Wales also holds the archive of Grace Williams (1906-77) one of the first Welsh professional composers in the twentieth century to win significant national prestige. She was a pupil of Vaughan Williams and a friend of Benjamin Britten, and her archive includes a large collection of compositions. Among the comtemporary classical composers we collect is Hilary Tann who is from Wales but now lives in America.

Within the folk music scene, many women have made their mark, including Phyllis Kinney who is one of the leading authorities on our folk music. One early reference is by Walter Davies to tunes known to Gwen verch Wiliam, a singer from Drev Rhiwaedog, circa 1550. Maria Jane Williams (c.1795 – 1873) published ‘The Ancient National Airs of Gwent and Glamorgan’ in 1844. The mezzo-soprano Mary Davies (1855-1930) was co-founder of the Welsh Folk-Song Society and the first President of the society. Women were very active in the Welsh Folk-Song Society and the archive of J Lloyd Williams includes manuscripts collected by Mary Richards Darowen, Jane Catherine Lloyd, Ruth Lewis and Jennie Williams. Ruth Herbert Lewis was a pioneer – the first person to collect the songs with Edison’s phonograph in Wales, and Dora Herbert Jones and Grace Gwyneddon Davies were also active within the Society. Later on Eunice Bryn Williams (d. 1991) was associated with the work of the Welsh Song Society, Cymdeithas Cerdd Dant Cymru, and local and national eisteddfodau; and many melodies were arranged and published by E. Olwen Jones.

As well as composers we also collect the archives of performers, and hold the archives of the opera singer Leila Meganne, letters from Adelina Patti, scrapbooks of the singer Clara Novello Davies, the papers of the singer Ceinwen Rowlands and most recently the first tranche of the archive of celebrated harpists Llio Rhydderch.

Here’s a taster of the archives at the Library. We continue to collect so please contact us if you know of archives of any other Welsh women musician.



Nia Mai Daniel

Rheolwr Rhaglen			Programme Manager 
Yr Archif Gerddorol Gymreig	The Welsh Music Archive
@CerddLLGC			@MusicNLW

Posted - 05-03-2018 No Comments


Winter in Llantrisant, 1830

Thinking about last week’s seasonal weather brought to mind a letter in the Bute Estate Records. On 10 January 1830, R. F. Rickards of Llantrisant wrote to Lord Bute, including:

“The weather here has been extremely severe, almost continued frost & snow for the last month, the thermometer at 15 & likely to continue, the poor suffer a good deal from it, our poor rates have not increas’d much as yet, but I fear from the very deplorable state of the iron trade, that rioting & pauperism will follow, the former is very threatening, which must keep me at my post, tho’ in utter solitude for all my family are at Clifton. I wish I could give you a better account of them; in addition to their former maladies, they have very severe colds & coughs, which has attack’d the whole family including servants, excepting myself, who seem to have weather’d this pityless season, like a piece of bar iron, which tho’ the surface may rust, is inwardly sound; not so my house, which is empty alike with my surrounding neighbours.”


The thermometer would have been in degrees Fahrenheit. For those too young to remember “proper” measurements, water freezes at 32˚F, so 15˚F degrees is 17 degrees of frost, or about -9.5˚C. If that was the temperature of Rickards’s study, that’s cold. Other letters in the same file detail the distress in agriculture and industry, including from another correspondent that, excepting 1812-13, this was the worst winter for twenty three years.

Rickards was a J.P. at Llantrisant, and already or soon to become the senior magistrate for the hundred of Miskin. Part of his duty would have been to keep a lid on any unrest. It’s difficult to know what to make of Rickards comparing himself to a piece of bar iron. It’s tempting to see him as a member of the 1% who saw the 99% in a time of extremis as potential burdens on the poor rate and potential rioters. And clearly not a man to entertain the idea of “man-flu”.

Incidentally, likely search terms looking for this letter in the catalogue? How about snow, frost and storm? Most of the hits in the Bute correspondence are on Joseph Snow, editor of the Merthyr Guardian, John Frost the Chartist, and David Storm, bankrupt contractor for building the Bute Docks. Three possibly more likeable characters.


Stephen Benham,

Assistant Archivist

Posted - 01-03-2018 No Comments

#LoveMaps / Collections / News

#LoveMaps – Huw Thomas

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

The Ordnance Survey Six-Inch Maps



Being a Map Curator one sees a large number of maps of all different varieties, but there are few map series which match the Ordnance Survey Six-inch maps either for their continued usefulness or their aesthetic appeal.

The use of the six-inch scale goes back to the very beginnings of the OS when some of the early surveys were carried out at this scale. In 1824 it was adopted as the survey scale for the survey of Ireland and the success of this led to it being used for surveys in Great Britain. In 1854 when it was decided to survey cultivated areas at the 25-inch scale the six-inch scale was still retained for uncultivated areas, but regardless of the survey scale all areas were published at the 6-inch scale as well.

The earliest published sheets at this scale were engraved full sheets such as this example of Pembrokeshire sheet XXXIX originally published in 1869. The fine detail of the engraving of these maps makes them some of the most beautiful maps ever produced by the OS; however, by this time engraving on copper plates was beginning to be superseded by more cost effective methods of printing.
From the 1880s onwards most of the six-inch maps were produced using a process called photo-zincography, a printing method pioneered by the Ordnance Survey which allowed them to produce maps much more cheaply. The sheets were now published as quarter sheets such as the second map shown here, Pembrokeshire XX.NE published in 1891.
Although the photozincographed quarter sheets lack the fine detail of the engraved full sheets they are still items of beauty in their own right and in one aspect improve on the engravings in that the water features are coloured blue. As photozincography was not a colour printing process the blue was added by hand by boys employed at the Ordnance Survey Office in Southampton.
Beyond their aesthetic appeal the six-inch maps are still proving useful today, in my work I use them on an almost daily basis for the valuable information they provide about the historical landscape.

Looking at the content of the maps, it can be seen that the first shows part of Milford Haven and includes the town of Pembroke Dock. Pembroke Dock owes its existence to the Royal Naval Dockyard built at the site; it was for this reason that Southern Pembrokeshire was the first part of Wales to be mapped by the original Ordnance Survey in 1809-10 and also the first part to be mapped on the 6-inch scale starting in 1860.

On closer examination one curious feature of the map can be seen, the naval dockyard is shown as a blank white area. It was common practice for the OS not to show military establishments and other sensitive locations, a practice which continued until the 1990s.

If the first map was chosen to show one of the earliest areas to be mapped the second was chosen instead for its location. Today is March the First, the feast of St David and this map shows the City and Cathedral which bear his name.

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus!

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Posted - 28-02-2018 No Comments


Wales & LGBT+ History Month

This is a guest post by one of our users, Mair Jones.

You are welcome to submit posts for our consideration in Welsh or English. All posts must be in relation to either the Library’s work or collections, the Welsh Language or Wales. We will keep full editorial control over any posts published. Please send your posts through the Enquiries Service.

Wales & LGBT+ History Month

For fifteen years, February has been regarded as the month to celebrate the histories of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people, and anybody else who may fit into the LGBT+ umbrella. LGBT+ History Month 2018 has seen the most events in Wales yet – such as Pride Cymru’s event at the Senedd.

From studying the LGBT History of Wales, I’ve found that the National Library is a hive of secondary and primary resources into Welsh LGBT Histories. Anyone who has used their archives will know it is a great resource to uncover personal histories – such as Welsh women’s histories. Similarly, Welsh LGBT+ people’s histories are still being uncovered. This month, or any other month, read the history of a Welsh LGBT+ person, celebrate them, and maybe help uncover the history of Welsh LGBT+ people.

Here are fourteen key figures in Welsh LGBT+ history who can be researched at the National Library of Wales – to be celebrated this month, and hopefully to always be celebrated in Welsh history.

1. The Ladies of Llangollen are the most well-known Welsh LGBT+ figures. They were Sarah Ponsonby [1755-1831] and Eleanor Butler [1739-1829], two Irish women who escaped their family to live their lives together at Plas Newydd in Llangollen. Much has been written about them, which can be read at the National Library. Archives related to the Ladies at the Library include portraits, letters, facsimiles of their account books, electronic resources and other papers.
NLW MS 21682C – Letters from Ladies of Llangollen
NLW MS 23699E, ff. 135-137. – Letters of the Ladies of Llangollen
NLW MS 23980F, ff. 24-25. – Ladies of Llangollen letters
NLW MS 22768D. – Ladies of Llangollen letters
Cardiff MS 2.908. – Ladies of Llangollen
Bodrhyddan Estate Papers, Deeds and Documents 57 – Letter: Sarah Ponsonby to Miss Williams Wynn. Endorsed ‘Last Letter from Miss Ponsonby’
NLW Facs 18. – ‘Ladies of Llangollen’ account book
NLW Facs 19. – ‘Ladies of Llangollen’ account book
NLW MS 19697B. – A personal and household account book of the ‘Ladies of Llangollen’ in the hand of Sarah Ponsonby
Other writings on the Ladies includes accounts on them from the period, Ceridwen Lloyd-Morgan’s Papers of the ‘Ladies of Llangollen’ and Susan Valladares’ article on Anne Lister’s meeting with the Ladies.

2. Katherine Philips [1631-1664] was an Anglo-Welsh poet who Norena Shopland has uncovered as ‘The Welsh Sappho.’ Philips is one of the earliest examples of poetry around her ‘romantic friendships.’
NLW MS 775B. – Katherine Philips poetry
NLW MS 776B. – Katherine Philips poetry
NLW Facs 739. – Katherine Philips poem
NLW Films 943-6 – Katherine Philips Microfilms
NLW MS 21702E. – Barddoniaeth amrywiol

3. Frances Power Cobbe [1822-1904] and Mary Charlotte Lloyd [1819-1896], like the Ladies of Llangollen lived in Wales together. Cobbe was a well-known suffragette, campaigner and writer – Mary Lloyd was a Welsh sculptor who lived as her partner. Sources on Lloyd are mainly from Cobbe’s writings.
Minor Deposit 1309-15. – Manuscripts of Frances Power Cobbe of Hengwrt, Dolgellau, religious philosopher, &c
NLW ex 1865-7 – Frances Power Cobbe Bequest

4. Sarah Jane Rees (Cranogwen) [1839-1916] was a writer, editor, sailor, lecturer, and editor of Y Frythones, and was in a lifelong lesbian relationship, as written by Jane Aaron in Queer Wales.
Sarah Jane Rees (‘Cranogwen’)
Cerddi i Maggie Eurona gan Cranogwen.
NLW MS 23895A. – Anerchiad gan Cranogwen
Sarah Jane Rees (‘Cranogwen’) poetry

5. Amy Dillwyn [1845-1935] was an industrialist and feminist who also published novels with lesbian and cross-dressing themes. The novels published by Honno, her biography David Painting and other writings about her by Kirsti Bohata can be read at the Library.
Amy Dillwyn papers

6. Gwen John [1876-1939] is probably the most well-known female Welsh artist – less well-known is her relationships with women, such as Véra Oumançoff.
Gwen John manuscripts

7. Margaret Haig Mackworth, 2nd Viscountess of Rhondda, [1883-1958] also had relationships with men and women and is well-known as a suffragette. Books by and about her (i.e. Angela John) can be found in the Library.

8. George E. J. Powell of Nanteos [1842-82], has been written about by Harry Heuser in Queer Wales and New Welsh Reader.
NLW Facs 417. – Letters to George E. J. Powell, Nanteos
Minor Deposits 1394-97. – Letters to George E. J. Powell from A.C. Swinburne

9. Nina Hamnett [1890-1956] was the ‘Queen of Bohemia,’ a bisexual artist from Wales who was linked to the Bloomsbury Group.
Search Nina Hamnett in the catalogue.

10. Ivor Novello [1893-1951] was a popular 20th century entertainer from Cardiff.
NLW MS 23204D. – Ivor Novello papers
NLW MS 23696E. – Ivor Novello letters

11. Rhys Davies [1901-1978]
Rhys Davies Papers

12. Kate Roberts [1891-1985], known as the Queen of our Literature, was married to Morris T. Williams [1900-1946], while he had an affair with Edward Prosser Rhys [1901-1945]. E. Prosser Rhys is best known for his winning poem ‘Atgof’ in the 1924 Eisteddfod, exploring his bisexual relationships. Alan Llwyd, in his autobiography of Roberts, theorised that she may have also been bisexual.
Papurau Kate Roberts

13. Margiad Evans [1909-1958] was a novelist who again was married, but it is more well known that she had a relationship with Ruth Farr, while her novelists explore themes of sexuality. Her novels, manuscripts and autobiography are at the Library, as well as writings on her, such as by Ceridwen Lloyd-Morgan, and her archived papers and letters:
NLW Facs 870 – Margiad Evans Diary
NLW ex 2790 (i & ii) – Margiad Evans family papers
Margiad Evans Papers
Margiad Evans Manuscripts
NLW MS 23893E. – Margiad Evans Letters
NLW MS 23994F. – Poems by Margiad Evans

14. Jan Morris. [1926-] is a Welsh writer and historian, and trans woman. She wrote Conundrum on her experiences with gender transition, as well as books on Wales, and is an important and influential Welsh LGBT figure.
Jan Morris Papers

There are many more LGBT+ people from Wales increasingly being written about in queer history and Welsh history. John Davies was a leading Welsh historian who was LGBT and Jeffrey Weeks is a leading sexuality historian from the Rhondda. Other sources used by Welsh LGBT historians, such as Shopland, are newspaper articles, such as those available through the Welsh Newspapers Online.

Mair Jones,
MA History of Wales, Aberystwyth University.

Further Reading
Osborne, Huw. Queer Wales.
Shopland, Norena. Forbidden Lives.
Tate, Tim. Pride.
Weeks, Jeffrey.
Icons & Allies.

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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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