BLOG - Monthly Archives: December 2017

Posted - 27-12-2017 No Comments

#LoveArt / Collections / News and Events

#LoveArt – Tegwen Morris

Tegwen Morris, National Director of Merched y Wawr takes part in our #LoveArt Campaign. She has chosen ‘Ysbryd Erwau Gleision’ by Elwyn Ioan as her first choice.

This is a colourful and lively picture that appeals to me greatly. It depicts a traditional Welsh kitchen with a strong element of humour. I like traditional furniture, and as a farmer’s daughter from the Ffaldybrenin area of Carmarthenshire I enjoy having fun. The Salem painting, the oak clock, the kitchen, the dresser and the glassware and the wooden chair on the traditional red and black floor (as in our Victorian house kitchen) creates a warm and traditional setting with a fire and two mice. (Though I do not like mice!). There is also a Ghost and because I was born on a Halloween this makes it a very relevant painting.

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Catalogue Record

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Posted - 25-12-2017 No Comments


5 Family History Resources

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! The Christmas holidays are traditionally a time when families come together and reminisce. We often see an increase in the number of genealogical enquiries at the beginning of the year as many have been inspired to research their family history. Well, here are 5 resources to help you at the National Library of Wales. If you are following @NLWReading on Twitter you will find many more in our Advent calendar, why not have a look?

The way we gain access to Census Returns, Parish Registers, Electoral Register, School Registers, 1939 Register and much more has changed dramatically over the years as companies such as Findmypast and Ancestry give online access through subscriptions. You can gain free access to both sites within the Library building.

Have you considered joining a Family History Society? The journals and publications for those covering Wales are available on Open Access in the South Reading Room, they are well known for their Monumental Inscriptions and other information that is very often not found elsewhere.

Why not search our collections to see if you find a pedigree roll associated with your family or if someone has researched and wrote about your ancestors in an article, newspaper or book?

You did not have to be rich to leave a will, have you considered searching our probate database online up to 1858 for members of your family?

Remember that we have copies of wills from 1858 to 1940 in some cases that are not accessible online.

If you have been researching and have hit a brick wall and can’t go any further or are considering researching but don’t know where to start, why not book a Family History Information Session? A half hour session with a member of staff to help you further can be booked online. You can also use our Enquiries Service for further assistance

Posted - 21-12-2017 No Comments

#LoveMaps / Collections / News and Events

#LoveMaps – Huw Owen

Huw Owen, former keeper of pictures and maps at The National Library of Wales takes part in our #LoveMaps campaign.

Christopher Saxton, Cambriae (quae nunc vulgo Wallia nuncupatur…) proof for a map of Wales, c. 1580

See a zoomable version of this map

An increased emphasis on national sovereignty, together with the very real fear of an invasion from abroad, form part of the political and military background to the support rendered by the central government to Christopher Saxton’s topographical survey undertaken in the period 1573-8. This survey resulted in the publication of his atlas in 1579 and wall-map of 1583, and also the production of his proof map c. 1580.

Christopher Saxton was employed by Thomas Seckford, the lawyer and civil servant, Master of Requests and Surveyor of the Court of Requests, who financially supported the surveying work of Saxton, described as his ‘servant’. In 1576 magistrates in Wales had been required to provide Saxton with guides ‘such as do best know the cuntry’ and also to ‘ set forth a horseman that can speke both Welsh and Englishe to safe conduct him to the next market towne’.

The maps of the Welsh and English shires seem to have initially been made available as single sheets. They were then published in 1579 as an atlas, with the 13 shires of Wales appearing on seven maps. The large-scale wall-map of England and Wales, published in 1583, and dedicated by Thomas Seckford to Queen Elizabeth, was engraved on to 20 plates to a scale of about seven miles to an inch.

There seems to be a direct relationship between wall-map and the map of Wales: Cambriae…: acquired by the National Library in 1986. The date: 1580: and the name of the surveyor: Christopher Saxton: were provided on this map which was clearly a product of Saxton’s topographical survey of England Wales in 1573-8. The scale was 4 inches to 25 miles and the map, measuring 593 x 480 mm, comprised two double-page sheets with portions cut out from another two sheets. The basic geographical outline of Wales and of the neighbouring English shires was presented with a considerable improvement on the outline presented in earlier maps of Wales, including Humphrey Llwyd’s map published eight years earlier in 1573. For the first time, the correct cartographic representation was provided of Anglesey, St Bride’s Bay, and the Llŷn and Gower Peninsulas.

A comparative study of the 1580 and 1583 maps reveals many identical features but also some significant elements of contrast. These included the use of lower-case forms (in manuscript) for the names of the shires in the 1580 map, and of capital forms in the 1583 wall-map. Tree symbols in the Forest of Dean in Monmouthshire and Gloucestershire did not appear in the 1580 map, whist the names ‘ Dee flu’ and ‘Sabrina flu’ presented in a manuscript format in the 1580 map, were omitted from the later map. Also, the 1580 map contained features presented in both engraved and manuscript formats, such as the distinctive molehills. Some other features, including the geographical outline, county boundaries, town symbols and town and river names were engraved. On the other hand, the eight sailing vessels, tree symbols, scale-bar and dividers, county names (in English) and title (in Latin), within a characteristic cartouche, appeared in manuscript formats.

The 1580 map may well have been a proof for the 1583 wall map of England and Wales. On the other hand, the inclusion of the title, explicitly stating that this was a map of Wales: ‘Cambriae (quae nunc vulgo Wallia nuncupatur)…’ suggests that Saxton’s intention was to produce a separate map of Wales but that this project was never completed. This view is supported by the format of the map. The boundary between Wales and England was clearly marked, and the relevant sections of neighbouring shires were described as ‘ Parte of Lancaster shire’, ‘ Parte of Cheshire’, and Parte of Devon’…

I recall with immense satisfaction my personal involvement in the acquisition of this map in 1986 by the National Library. Having been informed of its inclusion in a forthcoming auction at Sotheby’s saleroom, London, I examined the map at Sotheby’s in the company of a member of the staff of the Map Room at the British Library. In spite of our shared doubts concerning the authenticity of a previously unknown and apparently extremely significant map, we were eventually convinced that it was actually genuine.

An agreement was reached with the British Library that its staff would continue to bid for this map if our resources proved to be inadequate. Financial assistance towards the purchase of the map was provided by the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Friends of the National Library of Wales, and we succeeded in securing its acquisition with a bid of £60,000. Whereas the price of the Library’s purchases was not normally disclosed, there was no alternative in this instance as the auction was filmed by the HTV Wales television company and broadcast on its evening television news programme.

Following the safe delivery of the map at the Library, it was with considerable relief that we received a report from the Library’s Conservation Unit which had subjected the map to a detailed scrutiny. This revealed a watermark which had appeared twice on the map, and which was identified as a watermark of the ‘bunch of grapes’ type which had also been observed in Saxton’s Atlas of England and Wales (1579).

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See a zoomable version of this map

Posted - 20-12-2017 No Comments

#LoveArt / Collections / News and Events

#LoveArt – David Meredith

David Meredith, Chairman of the Sir Kyffin Williams Trust takes part in our #LoveArt Campaign.

Gareth Parry (1951)

A native of Blaenau Ffestiniog, Gwynedd. His charming paintings show his love for his hometown. He once specialized in painting very detailed paintings of birds, wonderful paintings – all feathers in place.
To me he is a champion of capturing a rainy day on a busy street full of people, suffering the elements – when you look at the painting you can feel how wet the rain is!
His paintings are a joy to the eye – moody paintings of beaches and of ships are so real, making one feel the waves and the dance of the waves below.
Gareth has captured the colour of rock face perfectly – the fascinating mold is very simple. I love to ‘go in’ to his paintings.
I am delighted with his work – paintings which are a feast to the eye and the senses.
One does not always wish to transport themselves to those places an artist invites you to visit, but Gareth’s invite is so appealing, it evokes a notion of that is where you wish to be!

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Posted - 18-12-2017 No Comments


Nineteenth-century Welsh women’s writing in English

While working with the nineteenth-century literature section of the Welsh Print Collection, my colleagues and I were struck by the large number of Welsh novels written by women in English during this period. However, during the nineteenth-century these women writers were well known, popular authors, their books selling in large numbers. As Jane Aaron has noted, they also enjoyed “a degree of influence on Welsh culture easily commensurate with that of modern women writers today.”[1] Yet, despite their contemporary influence, these women authors were, for much of the twentieth century absent from discussion of Welsh literary history, until a new generation of literary historians, many of them feminist, brought these women authors back to our attention.


The rich corpus of works by Welsh women authors writing in English in the nineteenth-century covers a number of literary genres, from the romance, to historical fiction, to the industrial novel. These works and the themes they engage with – the role of women, religion, national identity and the nation, anglicisation, industrial and rural politics – provide us with an insight into the varied ways women of different class and cultural backgrounds viewed Welsh society during this period.


The rest of this blog will focus on two of the most successful women writers of the period, Anne Beale (1815-1900) and Amy Dillwyn (1845-1935), both of whom wrote novels about the Rebecca Riots.


Anne Beale, born at Langport, Somerset, settled in Llandeilo in the 1841. A prolific author, her success as a writer would eventually allow here to become a full-time author. Her best known works include Traits and Stories of the Welsh Peasantry (1849) and The Pennant Family (1876).


While her early work is littered with negative stereotypes of the Welsh, Beale become known for her sympathetic portrayals of the Welsh people. This change of perspective was no doubt related to her experience of living within a Welsh community and is best illustrated in the changes made to the different editions of her earliest work, The Vale of Towey; or Sketches in South Wales (1844) (later republished as Traits and Stories of the Welsh Peasantry and Seven Years for Rachel, or, Welsh Pictures Sketched from Life (1886))  which by its third manifestation, had all pejorative references to the Welsh removed.[2] While Beale’s novel Rose Mervyn (1879), set during the Rebecca Riots, offers an explicit defence of the union and British imperialism, as Jane Aaron notes, in her later novels her pro-Welsh stance at least “suggests a critique of imperialism.”[3]


Amy Dillwyn’s novel The Rebecca Rioter (1880) is perhaps her best known work. Dillwyn was from a wealthier background than Beale, the daughter of the Liberal MP and industrialist Lewis Llewelyn Dillwyn, and turned to writing between 1880-87 in reaction to a period of enforced idleness brought on partly by illness and partly by the expectations imposed on her by her role as a Victorian gentlewoman.[4] In contrast to Beale, although she is critical of their use of violence, Dillwyn’s portrayal of the Rebecca rioters is sympathetic, and she is highly critical of the beliefs and attitudes of the higher echelons of Welsh society.[5] While most of Dillwyn’s novels “focus on unconventional, adventurous young women”,[6] unusually The Rebecca Rioter’s protagonist is male, although as Kate Gramich notes through the voice of Evan Williams, Dillwyn “questions some of the cherished truths of her society and invites the reader to join her in that questioning and ultimately subversive attitude.”[7]


As part of our ongoing aim to digitise the Welsh Print Collection we will be making works by these and other nineteenth-century Welsh women authors writing in English available online. We’ll keep you updated as things progress!


Dr Douglas Jones

Published Collections Projects Manager


[1] Aaron, Jane – Nineteenth-Century Women’s Writing in Wales: Nation, Gender and Identity: Cardiff, 2010, p. 6.

[2] Ibid., pp. 124-125.

[3] Ibid., p. 128.

[4] Bohata, Kirsti and Alexandra Jones – ‘Welsh Women’s Industrial Fiction 1880-1910’ in Women’s Writing, 24 (4), 2017, p. 501 ; Gramich, Kate – ‘Introduction’ in Dillwyn, Amy – The Rebecca Rioter, Dinas Powys, 2004, p. viii ; Aaron – Nineteenth-Century Women’s Writing in Wales, p. 129.

[5] Gramich – ‘Introduction’, p. xxi

[6] Bohata and Jones – ‘Welsh Women’s Industrial Fiction’, p. 501

[7] Gramich – ‘Introduction’ p. xi.

Posted - 15-12-2017 No Comments

#LoveArt / Collections / News and Events

#LoveArt – David Meredith

David Meredith, Chairman of the Sir Kyffin Williams Trust takes part in our #LoveArt Campaign.

Sir Kyffin Williams 1918-2006

The National Library holds the largest collection of works by Sir Kyffin, John Kyffin Williams or Kyffin as he would like to be called.

There was no stopping on his creativity, he painted continuously for 60 years – landscapes, portraits, people were very important to him, magnificent paintings and the sea and it’s mighty waves (as Jan Morris said – the sea was in his blood ‘), cartoons and and magnificent lino cuts.

Come to the National Library to enjoy his work. To me there is no one like Kyffin Williams for capturing ‘the moment’ – clouds in a lonely valley, a foggy mountain, a sheepdog jumping over a stone wall, or the image of a child or adult.

A miraculous element about Kyffin’s paintings is that they constantly change as light strike them. To me, he is the champion of our art, the best ambassador of Welsh art in the world. He put the mountains of Wales and it’s people on a pedestal and his paintings of Patagonia (a collection that I am very fond of) are a treasure to remind us of our fellow Welsh people in Patagonia and teaching us about the Guanaco, the birds and the prairie.

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The Kyffin Williams Bequest

Posted - 14-12-2017 No Comments

#LoveMaps / Collections / News and Events

#LoveMaps – Huw Owen

Huw Owen, former keeper of pictures and maps at The National Library of Wales takes part in our #LoveMaps campaign.

Humphrey Llwyd, Cambriae Typus, 1573

See a zoomable version of this map

Printed maps of Wales produced in the sixteenth century represented a considerable improvement on the manuscript maps created in the Middle Ages. Humphrey Llwyd’s Cambriae Typus, the earliest printed map to denote Wales as a separate country, was incorporated, together with his map of England and Wales, in the Additamentum, a supplement to Abraham Ortelius’s Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, published at Antwerp in 1573. This was the first modern geographical atlas, compiled, edited and published by Ortelius in 1570, with 42 folio editions of the atlas published between 1570 and 1612.

Llwyd, a prominent Renaissance scholar, had been born at Denbigh, one of the major towns in sixteenth-century Wales, and which he represented as its Member of Parliament. Ortelius had probably been informed of the work of Llwyd by Sir Richard Clough, the merchant who worked in Antwerp, and who, like Llwyd, was also a native of Denbigh. Llwyd’s local associations probably explain the improved presentation of the coast and rivers of north Wales in his map of Wales.

Cambriae Typus was finely engraved, and measuring 456 x 348mm, the scale of 1 inch to 8.2 miles was displayed in the lower left hand corner. Other decorative features included the title, lettering and illustrations of a ship with three masts in Cardigan Bay and a sea creature near Fishguard. Mountains and forests were depicted pictorially. The outline of the Welsh coast was a considerable improvement on those shown in earlier maps, but defects included the failure to denote Gower, the mere suggestion only of St Bride’s Bay, and a distortion of the Llŷn Peninsula, Anglesey and Milford Haven, In contrast to the accurate representation of rivers in north wales, those entering the Bristol Channel were shown in diagrammatic form, and in west Wales the names of the rivers Rheidol and Ystwyth were transposed.

On the whole towns were accurately located. Place-names appearing in a bilingual format included ‘Trenewidd’ / ‘Newthon’, ‘Abertyvi’ / ‘Cardigan’; and ‘Abertawy’ / ‘Swansey’. The names of the traditional Welsh kingdoms, such as ‘Dehenbartia’ (Deheubarth), Povisia (Powys) and ‘Venoditia’ (Gwynedd) were presented in capital letters, whilst others, including ‘Meridnia’ (Meirionnydd), ‘Ceretica’ (Ceredigion) and ‘Morgannuc’ (Morgannwg) appeared in lower-case letters. Errors or inconsistencies may possibly be explained by the employment of foreign artists or engravers.

The words ‘Auctoris patria’ which appear on the map next to the place-name ‘Denbigh’ draw attention to Humphrey Llwyd’s family associations. These are of considerable personal interest in that he is believed to have been a descendant of Harry Rossendale, whose name reflects his Lancastrian family background. He was one of a number of persons from north-west England granted lands in the lordship of Denbigh, established in 1282 following the Edwardian Conquest of Wales. The survival of traditional elements in this area; upheaval caused by the re-settlement of native families and the consequent territorial and tenurial reorganisation; and movement to this locality of several families with a similar background to that of the Rossendale family are themes which have been examined by me in several publications, and in a forthcoming volume concentrating on the medieval lordship of Denbigh.

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Posted - 11-12-2017 No Comments

Collections / News and Events

Gareth Vaughan Jones and the Holodomor

Gareth Vaughan Jones may not be a name familiar to many people in Wales in the 21st century, but the Welsh journalist who was killed in Inner Mongolia in 1935 was a prominent figure during the inter-war years and is widely respected in Ukraine due to his reporting of the Great Famine or Holodomor (1932-33). His papers, including diaries of his visit to Ukraine in which he described the famine and now held at the National Library of Wales.

On November 23rd, a delegation from the Ukrainian Embassy to the United Kingdom, including Minister-Counsellor Andriy Marchenko and Gareth Jones’s great nephew, Mr Nigel Colley visited Aberystwyth to lay a wreath at the plaque commemorating Gareth Jones at the University, where he had been a student. The delegation then visited the National Library to see the original documents describing the terrible conditions in Ukraine during the Holodomor. Gareth’s description was refuted by the Soviet authorities as well as Western journalists based in Moscow, but he stood by his reports and in a rebuttal noted that they were based on his own observations, rather than the public comments of officials. His diaries are the original record of his visit to Ukraine, which he made at great risk to his own safety.

Other material in this valuable collection includes diaries from Gareth Jones’s Around the World Tour, and his visit to Germany in 1933 in which he describes Hitler’s influence on the country as well as papers related to his suspicious death at the hands of ‘bandits’ in Inner Mongolia in 1935.

Gareth Jones gained a First Class Honours in French from Aberystwyth University in 1926 before going on to graduate in French, German and Russian from Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1929. In 1930, he was appointed as a foreign affairs advisor to former Prime Minister David Lloyd George and subsequently wrote widely on international issued for a series of newspapers including The Times, The Manchester Guardian and the Western Mail.

Rob Phillips


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Posted - 08-12-2017 No Comments

#LoveArt / Collections / Exhibitions / Kyffin Blog

Framing the Future Campaign – Kyffin Williams

The need to conserve, preserve, catalogue and interpret our collections is a vital element of the work of the National Library of Wales, thereby making them available to the public. As the Library is home to a significant number of Kyffin Williams’ most prominent paintings and as we celebrate his life in 2018, safeguarding these and ensuring that they are correctly framed is an integral part of the conservation process.

Not only does a frame protect a painting from damage, but it also affects the presentation of the finished work. Indeed a good frame choice can greatly enhance a work of art and elevate the experience of the individual viewing the contents. Selecting the right frame for a work of art is a skill in itself. Kyffin had very definite ideas about how to frame his paintings, and the Library has embarked on a new conservation project to re-frame some of its works with the aim to honour the artist’s original vision.

The Framing the Future Fundraising Campaign will fund this key conservation project to enable Kyffin’s work to be cared for and appreciated by future generations.

Framing one art work will cost in the region of £2,000 and the generous support of our supporters will allow us to do more of the work. Every contribution will make a real difference and safeguard these iconic works for the future.


Rhian Haf Evans, Fund Raising Officer

Posted - 06-12-2017 No Comments

#LoveArt / Collections / News and Events

#LoveArt – David Meredith

David Meredith, Chairman of the Sir Kyffin Williams Trust takes part in our #LoveArt Campaign.

Thomas Jones, Pencerrig 1743 – 1803

Thomas Jones was born in Trefonnen, Llandrindod Wells, Radnorshire.
Thomas Jones was a pupil of the renowned Richard Wilson, Machynlleth and was a prominent commentator in the art world. He painted in Italy. In 1954 his oil paintings of Radnorshire appeared on the art market. I love his paintings and sketches e.g rocket pools near Pen Cerrig, Carnedde mountains, paintings of cattle, fields and trees.
I am particularly interested in his work as I lived for a while in Llandrindod Wells and saw the views he painted as I wandered his hometown, Radnorshire.
Italy and Radnorshire
Thomas Jones worked and lived in beautiful places. In his work you’ll feel tranquility and silence – you’ll be amazed with his work. And the colours of his paintings? There is no better contrast between the linen walls of the Napoli buildings and the green fields and trees of Pencerrig estate, Radnorshire.

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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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