BLOG - Monthly Archives: January 2018

Posted - 31-01-2018 No Comments

#LoveArt / Collections / News and Events

#LoveArt – Valériane Leblond

This month, artist Valériane Leblond takes part in our #LoveArt campaign.
She has chosen Pictorial dictionary by Eliza Pughe (c.1831-1850) as her third choice.

This is a very cute piece of work. I used to create tiny books when I was a child, and I have always found illustrated alphabets and educational posters interesting. Eliza Pughe has been illustrating in a simple and efficient way everyday objects and actions, and has been writing the words for them in both Welsh and English. The story around the artist is touching as well, as she was deaf and mute from birth, she must have found a way of expressing herself through pictorial art.

Pictorial dictionary by Eliza Pughe (c.1831-1850)

Valériane Leblond

Posted - 26-01-2018 No Comments

#LoveArt / Collections / Exhibitions / Kyffin Blog

Kyffin Williams: Celebrating a Centenary

Our exhibitions team are very busy now as we are gearing up for our major exhibition ‘Kyffin Williams: Behind the Frame’ which opens on 16th February. There are so many amazing collections to choose from – not just his paintings, but his letters, diaries and ephemera from a previously unseen archive. It has been an immense yet enjoyable task; there is enough material to fill our extensive gallery over and over again!

At the same time we have been preparing almost 70 items for an exhibition at Oriel Ynys Môn entitled ‘Kyffin Williams: Celebrating a Centenary’ which opens on 3rd February. In return there are few little gems coming here on loan from the collection of Oriel Ynys Môn, which you can see on display at the Library. One of which is an emotive depiction of a storm across the Menai Strait which is the same view of an oil painting in our collection entitled ‘Storm Approaching’. It was Ian Jones, Buildings and Collections Manager at Oriel Môn, who noticed the link between their drawing and our oil painting: “Kyffin called the work ‘Beaumaris’, but it’s a view of the Menai Strait and Eryri beyond from Glanrafon, near Llangoed. Beaumaris is in the middle of the drawing behind the trees on the shore of the Menai.”

Kyffin was a staunch supporter of the Library and Oriel Ynys Môn and he would be thrilled to know that we continue to work together to share his collections with the nation.

For regular updates on the progress of the exhibition, follow us on
Twitter: @nlwexhibition
Instagram: @nlwales


Exhibitions Team

Posted - 25-01-2018 No Comments

#LoveMaps / Collections / News and Events

#LoveMaps – Gerald Morgan

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

Darluniad y Ddaear 1677

Before the 20th century Welsh-language maps are scarce. To readers before 1900 the most familiar maps using Welsh are those published in Bibles from 1717 onwards, showing Palestine and the journeys of St Paul through the Mediterranean. Alas, many have been torn out or mutilated by long usage through the years. Only stumps remain in my own copies of the Bibles edited by Moses Williams (1717-8) and Richard Morris (1746 and 1752). The same thing has happened to almost every copy of the remarkable first-ever map using the Welsh language.

This is ‘Darluniad y Ddaear’ (An Illustration of the World), a map of the two hemispheres printed in 1677 as part of the third edition of Y Ffydd Ddi-ffuant, a history of Christianity, the masterpiece of Charles Edwards. The first edition (1667) was at 89 pages only a foretaste of the second edition (240 pages). By 1677 Edwards had extended the text to 422 pages. He has commissioned artists to illustrate the new edition with gruesome pictures of the sufferings of Christian martyrs, who comment on their agonies in Welsh bubbles. The ways to Heaven and Hell are also illustrated. Above all, there is the map. It seems odd that the text doesn’t really need the maps, since they bear little relation to the text. But Charles Edwards wanted the monoglot Welsh to know about world geography.

The map illustrates as well the way eclipses of the sun and moon are caused, and demonstrates the tropical, moderate and frigid zones of the world’s climates. The engraver was Richard Palmer, an Englishman working in London. He was using earlier maps by John Speed and Robert Vaughan, but his map is an original creation for Charles Edwards. It’s not an English map with overprints in Welsh, but a new creation. Every placename, every explanation, is in Welsh.

As one would expect, the map is far from correct. California appears as an island, India is much too skinny, while Malaysia looks like a fish-hook. Huge continents cover the north and south Poles. The course of the river Nile is shown remarkably correctly, considering that no one knew where its source actually was. The Niger however is far from accurate. Another Welsh map of the world did not appear until 1805, the much more correct map of Robert Roberts of Holyhead, in Thomas Charles of Bala’s Geiriadur Ysgrythyrol (Scriptural Dictionary).

Alas, although I have a copy of Y Ffydd Ddi-ffuant, with some of the illustrations, the map is missing, as it is in most copies of the book in the National Library. It appeared again in the fourth edition of 1722, but again, it’s absent in my copy. Considering the importance of this map, it’s surprising that no scholar took notice of it until 2003.

Remarkably, the copper plate made by Richard Palmer survives in the Rawlinson collection in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. By sheer coincidence the copper place for the Robert Roberts map of 1805 also survives, in the National Library of Wales.

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NLW Map Collection

Posted - 24-01-2018 No Comments

#LoveArt / Collections / News and Events

#LoveArt – Valériane Leblond

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

She has chosen Drawing volume DV56 of Welsh Primitive Art  as her second choice.

These pictures are really fascinating, and I am so grateful to the National Library I got to see the originals. These paintings are very mysterious – who is the artist? A woman, a man? What age? What background? We can only guess. The technique is far from being academically perfect, but it conveys a unique feeling. The places depicted are local to Aberystwyth area, and the subjects are everyday activities of that time (drawing water from the fountain, fishing, working at the mill…). There are children playing, women with babies, farm animals grazing, and the pictures are both full of life and calm peaceful scenes.

Drawing volume DV56 of Welsh Primitive Art (PA6784)

Valériane Leblond

Posted - 22-01-2018 No Comments


A Forgotten Cottage Industry

Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant is a picturesque village in Montgomeryshire and as such has excited the interest of a number of photographers. The National Library of Wales has thirty early views by John Thomas dating from the 1880s. Seventy years later Geoff Charles visited the village and recorded a number of the small businesses that thrived there including Miss Hughes who still baked bread in an ancient wood burning oven.


A recent donation of ninety-seven glass negatives dovetails neatly into the era between the visits of these two stalwarts of Welsh photography.  Thomas John Lloyd ran a printing and stationers business in the village for forty years, finally selling up in 1939. In Edwardian trades directories he is listed as “Lloyd, T.J. Printer, Stationer & Newsagent, dealer in China and Earthenware, Bank House. A choice stock of local view postcards (Wholesale & Retail).” It was from these ninety-seven glass negatives that his local view postcards were produced. In fact we know exactly which ones were published as postcards and how many of each. The majority of these negatives were in their original envelopes, dog-eared and torn but containing details of which local views were to be used for postcards, usually to be printed in quantities of 500 as brown collotype cards. Occasionally smaller quantities of more expensive real photographic cards were printed. The negatives were the work of local photographer Edwin Charles Burns who had premises in Church Street, Llanrhaeadr. These two entrepreneurs were players in an industry that was replicated in towns and villages all over Wales in the 1900s. Whereas many postcards survive as evidence of this cottage industry it is rare to find the corresponding negatives with so much information relating to their subsequent use.


Will Troughton

Curator of Photography

Posted - 18-01-2018 No Comments

#LoveMaps / Collections / News and Events

#LoveMaps – Gerald Morgan

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


This historic map, six inches to the mile, shows my father’s fatherland in the parish of Llangyfelach north of Swansea. What you see on the screen is a deception, because it’s a composite of the corners of two different but contiguous maps melded into one. On screen it’s hard to read, but a printout gives a clear copy.

To the left, two-thirds up from the bottom, you can see the farm of Cwm-cilau-fach – Cwm-cile today. In 1843 the farm was the property and home of my great-great-grandfather Morgan Morgan, his wife Ester and a number of their children, including their daughter Margaret and son John (my great-grandfather) and his brothers Mathew, Henry and Rees. The family worshipped at Salem chapel, which you can see one-third of the way up the map and one-third in from the left margin. Many of the family were buried there. Near the foot of the map on the right is Rhyd-y-pandy, where there was a toll-gate with cottage where all passers-through had to pay. This was an additional burden on farmers who already paid Church tithes and taxes.

By July 1843 the Rebecca riots had spread from Pembrokeshire to Cardiganshire and Carmarthenshire, and by Thursday the 20th they had reached into Glamorgan. That night about forty men approached the gate at Rhyd-y-pandy, among them two sons of Cwm-cile, Mathew and Henry. Another who claimed to be present as the crowd destroyed the gate was John Jones, one of the wretched of the area. He had built a tŷ unnos, a one-night squatter’s house of turf, on Mynydd-y-Darren, the common where Morgan Morgan pastured his sheep and cattle, but the Morgans had destroyed the place and driven John Jones away.

Seeking revenge on the Morgan family, John Jones went on the Saturday to Swansea to inform the new Police authority about the Morgan brothers’ presence at the riot. At dawn next day the Chief Constable, Captain Napier, with an inspector and two constables, set off for Cwm-cile. On the way they arrested Mathew Morgan and left him in the hands of the two constables. On went the two officers and arrived at the farm to arrest Henry. The family resented such disturbance on a Sunday – were they not good Baptists? Henry tried to escape, so the two officers grabbed his arms, and a skirmish developed. John Morgan seized a pitchfork to threaten Captain Napier and Rees appeared with a hatchet. Napier drew his pistol and shot John Morgan in the stomach, while Henry vanished. The conflict worsened, but ceased when Napier fired a second time.

Mathew and John were taken to Swansea prison, and before long the whole family were in the hands of the police, though Morgan Morgan and his wife were released on bail. A special court was held in Cardiff in September 1843 to try the family for creating an affray. The parents were dismissed with promises to keep the peace, while Margaret was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment in Swansea and Rees and John (who had survived his shooting) to twelve months each. In March 1844 Henry and Matthew appeared at the assizes accused of rioting, and doubtless they would have been punished with exile to Australia. But the case collapsed, since John Jones had disappeared, while his wife and brother swore to the police that he could not possibly have been at Rhyd-y-pandy on the night of the riot.

Twenty years later the sons of Morgan Morgan had sold Cwm-cile to the Thomas family, who are still there. John Morgan invested his share in a row of houses in the Swansea valley. Doubtless his wound shortened his life, since he died quite young. The houses were divided among his sons, including my grandfather Henry Harries Morgan of Pontardawe. He promised his respectable wife that he would never tell the story to his children, and my father grew up without knowing anything of it But another branch of the family were proud of what had happened, namely the descendants of Hannah Morgan, eldest daughter of Cwm-cile, who had married Morgan Rees, a Baptist preacher. Among their descendants are the late Rhodri Morgan, Welsh First Minister, his brother Professor Prys Morgan, and the late Professor Morgan Watkin, who told the story to my father’s brothers.

By now I’m inclined to forgive Captain Napier for his part in the story, though the family believed that the police had started the violence. A pitchfork is an alarming weapon in the hands of a strong young man. Napier went on to found the Glamorgan Cricket Club, which I followed for years, and saw them in their heyday in 1968 beat Australia.

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NLW Map Collection

Posted - 17-01-2018 No Comments

#LoveArt / Collections / News and Events

#LoveArt – Valériane Leblond

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

She has chosen ‘Cottage loaves baked in an ancient oven at Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant’ by Geoff Charles, January 1955 as her first choice.

I love how Geoff Charles allows us to enter people’s houses and learn more about their everyday lives. It takes a special talent to make people feel comfortable and natural in their own homes, especially if they are from a humble background. I have chosen this picture where Miss E Hughes seems so proud of showing how to bake a loaf of bread – bread is essential! – but there are many more by Geoff Charles of families, kitchens and hearths that are really interesting too.

‘Cottage loaves baked in an ancient oven at Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant’

The National Collection of Welsh Photographs

Valériane Leblond

Posted - 12-01-2018 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.

John Speed, Theatre of the Empire of Great Britain, 1611,  ‘ The Second Booke’, Carmarthen.

See a Zoomable version of this map

John Speed’s celebrated Theatre of the Empire of Great Britain was published in 1611. This contained a map of Wales and maps of the thirteen Welsh shires, with comments on administrative divisions, geographical features and historical aspects. By trade a tailor, as also had been his father, Speed’s main interests were history and cartography. He commented that he had ‘ put my sickle into other mens corne’ and acknowledged his indebtedness to other cartographers and antiquaries. The latter probably included his fellow members of the Society of Antiquaries, established in 1586. One of these was John Jones, Gelli Lyfdi, Ysgeifiog, Flintshire, the renowned calligrapher and manuscript copyist, who with his brother, Thomas Jones, Common Sergeant of London, issued a request in 1621 for information which might assist John Speed. At this time Speed was revising his Atlas, published in 1611, which had referred to the paucity of information regarding the six counties of north Wales.

John Speed drew attention to his own original work, especially in the compilation of the town-plans, which accompanied the map of Wales and his county maps in the Theatre, and represented one of his most significant achievements. His map of Wales was accompanied by 16 town-views: the predominant town in twelve shires with Monmouthshire excluded;  and one for each of the four episcopal centres. Speed claimed to be responsible for the majority of the 73 inset town-plans and views in the four books of the Theatre: ‘some have bene performed by others, without Scale annexed, the rest by mine owne travels…’ The town-plans and views were therefore undoubtedly based upon Speed’s observations on his journeys to every part of England and Wales: in some cases he was also assisted by persons who possessed detailed local knowledge.

Speed’s county map of Carmarthenshire and town plan of Carmarthen: Caermarden, emphasised the dominant position of the castle. Military and strategic factors governed the selection of the site for the construction of the second Norman castle built in the early twelfth century and converted in the following century into a large well – defended stone structure. At this time Carmarthen also became a significant commercial centre with the thriving town granted a charter, and thereby borough status in the middle of the century.

This area comprising the castle and borough was known as the ‘new town’ of Carmarthen, in contrast to the ‘old ‘ Carmarthen’. Here, the fort and town of Moridunum had been established by the Roman rulers, aware of the advantages of its site in the fertile Towy valley and in close proximity to the coast. The Roman fort had been built in the late-70s A.D., probably in the area later extending between St. Peter’s church and the medieval castle, and covered by King Street and Spilman Street. In the twelfth century ‘Old’ Carmarthen was granted by the king, Henry II, to the Augustinian priory of St. John the Evangelist, whose location was shown on Speed’s town plan.

The Act of Union, 1543 enacted that Carmarthen would become the  judicial headquarters of the Court of Great Sessions for the shires of  Cardigan, Carmarthen and Pembroke. Towards the end of this century Carmarthen was described by William Camden as ‘ the chief citie of the countrie’ and by George Owen as ‘ the largest town in Wales, fair and in good state’.

Whereas the castle and priory represented significant buildings in medieval Carmarthen St Peter’s Church is considered to be the town’s oldest building still in use for its original purpose. It functions today as the town’s parish church, and a major restoration programme was carried out here at the beginning of the present century, Also, several streets denoted on Speed’s plan continue to feature on the present-day street plan of the town, namely King’s Street, Priory Street, Spilman Street, St. Peter’s Street, Water street, and Quay Street: the latter was listed on Speed’s plan as ‘ Key Street’.

The selection of Carmarthen as the example of Speed’s town plans of Wales was partly influenced by my personal connection with the town.  I was born at the Priory Street Infirmary, which has been described as one of Carmarthen’s most iconic buildings. Having been closed and unused for more than two decades, it has in 2017 been renovated and reopened as the Plas y Milwr complex of apartments, advertised as a ‘luxury and exclusive development’.

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Posted - 10-01-2018 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 View of Aberystwyth Harbour, 1944 Eric Beardsworth 1881 – 1961 as her third choice.

I really like this lovely painting, which shows so many different elements. The setting has rarely changed to date – the beautiful boats, mountains and harbour in Aberystwyth. I often walk here – and there’s something different to see every day – the fishing boats, the big storms rush the water and the families who are crab fishing. What I really like about this painting is the white clothes drying on the clothes line. As a girl who was raised in the mountains but who now lives near the sea, this picture shows the perfect combination.

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Posted - 08-01-2018 No Comments

Collections / Events / News and Events

William Robert Grove: a Victorian Scientist

On Wednesday, 10 January, Professor Iwan Morus will present a lunchtime talk on William Robert Grove.


Grove was a scientist from Swansea who was brought up during the ferment of the Victorian industrial revolution. During this period the appreciation of the importance of science and its use in everyday life gathered pace. Grove’s neighbours included the botanist Lewis Weston Dillwyn and the industrialist John Henry Vivian. Both became Fellows of the Royal Society, as Grove did himself: evidence of Wales’ scientific heritage from the period.


Grove studied in Brasenose College, Oxford, before moving to London to commence a career in the law. His interest turned to science and specifically to the chemical reactions that produce electricity. He discovered the acid nitrate battery (the Grove cell) and he attracted the attention of Faraday. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1840 and he was appointed a Professor in the London Institute a year later.


Grove’s vision was for such batteries to be used in the future to power transportation. Indeed, the German engineer, Moritz Hermann van Jacobi used a series of Grove batteries to power an electromagnetic motor boat on the river Neva in St. Pertersburg. The technology was also used by the telegraph industry in America.


When Grove experimented further he developed the gas battery by placing tubes of Oxygen and Hydrogen alternately in dilute sulphuric acid and connecting them with Platina foil. The battery transformed Oxygen and Hydrogen to electricity and water. This was the forerunner of the modern fuel cell. He also introduced early ideas on the Conservation of Energy.


By Grove’s death in 1896 a future was foreseen where electricity would be all-powerful. Though the complete dream was not realized (coal and gas came to prominence), battery technology has developed rapidly, and is essential to many aspects of modern life. If a new and clean technology can be developed, the debt  to this notable man from Swansea would be considerable.


Interestingly, Grove returned to the  law later in his life;, he became a QC  and  was appointed a judge


To order a ticket to hear Professor Morus’s lecture follow this link.


The University of Wales Press published a book by Professor Iwan Morus on William Robert Grove last year in the series on Welsh scientists. You can read the book in the Library by ordering it here.


Hywel Lloyd

Assistant Librarian



Acknowledgement is made  to an article written by Professor Iwan Morus which appeared on the websites of  The Conversation and Aberystwyth University.

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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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