National Library of Wales

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Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru
(The National Library of Wales)
National Library of Wales.jpg
The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth
Type National Library
Established 1907
Reference to legal mandate Established by Royal Charter on 19 March 1907. Supplemental Charters were given to the Library in 1911, 1978 and 2006
Location Aberystwyth
Coordinates 52°24′52″N 4°4′8″W / 52.41444°N 4.06889°W / 52.41444; -4.06889Coordinates: 52°24′52″N 4°4′8″W / 52.41444°N 4.06889°W / 52.41444; -4.06889
Items collected Printed Works, Maps, Archives, Manuscripts, Audio Visual Material, Photographs, Paintings
Size 5M Books, 1M Maps, 800,000 Photographs, 50,000 Works of Art
Criteria for collection Acquisition through purchase, bequest and legal deposit
Legal deposit Yes
Access and use
Access requirements Library open to all. Access to reading rooms restricted to over 16s without prior permission.
Other information
Director Aled Gruffydd Jones
Staff around 300 FTE
Dr Dafydd Tudur, Rights and Information Manager, holding Wikimedia UK's GLAM of the Year Award, 2013.
Jason Evans, full-time Wikipedian in Residence at the Library; 2015

The National Library of Wales (Welsh: Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru), Aberystwyth, is the national legal deposit library of Wales; one of the Welsh Government sponsored bodies.

Welsh is its main medium of communication. However, it aims to deliver all public services in Welsh and English.[1] In January 2015 the Library in partnership with Wikimedia UK appointed a full-time Wikipedian in Residence with the aim of developing further its resources on an open licence, to a world-wide audience.[2][3]

History and buildings[edit]

In 1873, a committee was set up to collect Welsh material and house it at University College, Aberystwyth. In 1905, the government promised money in its Budget, and the Privy Council appointed a committee to decide on the location of the two institutions. Aberystwyth was selected as the location of the library after a bitter fight with Cardiff, partly because a collection was already available in the College. Sir John Williams, physician and book collector, had also said he would present his collection (in particular, the Peniarth collection of manuscripts) to the library if it were established in Aberystwyth. He also eventually gave £20,000 to build and establish the library. Cardiff was eventually selected as the location of the National Museum of Wales. The library and museum were established by Royal Charter on 19 March 1907.[4]

Designed by architect Sidney Greenslade who won the competition to design the building in 1909, the building at Grogythan,[5] off Penglais Hill, was first occupied in 1916. The central block, or corps de logis, was added by Charles Holden to a modified version of Greenslade's design. In 1996, a large new storage building was opened, and in recent years many changes have been made to the front part of the building. A new Royal Charter was granted in 2006. The second phase of the build was built by T. Alun Evans (Aberystwyth) Ltd.

A fire on 26 April 2013 destroyed a section of roofing in an office area of the building.[6][7] Restoration was assisted by a government grant of £625,000.[8]


Library collections[edit]

The building houses over 4 million printed volumes, including many rare books such as the first book printed in Welsh (Yny lhyvyr hwnn, 1546)[10] and the first Welsh translation of the complete Bible[11] (1588). It also keeps many rare and important manuscripts including the Black Book of Carmarthen[12] (the earliest surviving manuscript entirely in Welsh), the Book of Taliesin,[13] and a manuscript of the works of Geoffrey Chaucer.[14] As a copyright depository, it is entitled to receive a copy of every published work from the United Kingdom and Ireland. Its collecting policy is focused on Wales, Welsh-language and Celtic material.

The Library also contains the Welsh Political Archive[15] and National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales.[16] It also keeps maps,[17] photographs,[18] paintings, topographical and landscape prints,[19] periodicals and newspapers.[20][21] It also holds the largest collection of archival material in Wales.

In 2000, Peter Bellwood stole at least fifty antique maps from the library, which were sold to private collectors for £70,000. Arrested in 2004, he was jailed for four and a half years.[22][23]


The Library has published a series of books about its history and collections, including manuscript catalogues, a bibliography of Welsh publications, Parish Registers of Wales, and academic studies of Gwen John, Kyffin Williams and others. The Library also publishes the National Library of Wales Journal.

Digital content[edit]

The Library releases metadata into the public domain using the CC0 licence.

In April 2012, the Library made a policy decision not to claim ownership of copyright in digital reproductions. This meant that the rights information attached to digital representations of works would reflect the copyright status of the original (i.e. that originals in the public domain would remain in the public domain in their digital form). The Library has applied this policy to projects delivered since then (the Welsh Journals Online and Cymru1914) and is still in the process of updating rights information for its pre-2012 projects.

In February 2013, the Library contributed 50 images relating to Monmouthshire to Wikipedia, a successful Pilot project with Wikimedia UK. The following month, they became one of the cultural heritage organisations that partnered with Wikimedia Nederland, Wikimedia UK and Wikimedia France, together with Europeana, to be part of as part of their collaboration to provide a set of tools to mass upload material from GLAM institutions onto Wikimedia Commons.

Also in 2013, the Library was the winner of the Wikimedia UK 'GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) of the Year Award', as being 'a reliable supporter of the Wikimedia movement aims.’

The Library also has experience of sharing content from its collections under open content licences on platforms such as Wikipedia (e.g. from the John Thomas photographic collection) and Flickr. Many of the most important manuscripts and books at the Library have been digitised and made freely available to view on the library's website in its Digital Mirror.[24] The Library intends to have digitised much of its image, sound and print collections by 2018.[25]

Welsh Journals Online[edit]

The National Library of Wales has digitised the back-numbers of 50 journals relating to Wales, in Welsh and English, in the Welsh Journals Online project funded by Jisc. It forms the largest body of Welsh text on the Web, and as well as allowing free access for all to scholarly articles on history, literature and science, and poems and book reviews. OCR of the page scans was undertaken to create TEI searchable text versions. The website contains a total of 400,000 pages. It is intended to add new issues of the titles as they emerge from the embargo period agreed with the publisher.[26]

The fifty titles include:[27][28]


  1. ^ Welsh Language Scheme: 2006 at NLW Official website. Retrieved 27 April 2013
  2. ^ National Library of Wales website; accessed 20 January 2015
  3. ^ Library of Wales with a birthday gift to Wikipedia Wikimedia UK blog; accessed 20 January 2015
  4. ^ "About NLW". NLW official website. 
  5. ^ Wmffre, Iwan, 'National Library', The Place-Names of Cardiganshire, Vol. III, pp. 980–981 (BRA British Series 379 (III), 2004, ISBN 1-84171-665-0)
  6. ^ National Library of Wales fire investigation to begin BBC news, Mid Wales, 27 April 2013]
  7. ^ Fire at National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth BBC News 26 April 2013
  8. ^ a b NLW Board Minutes, 27 September 2013 at official website
  9. ^ 'New National Librarian' – University of Aberystwyth Newsletter – 25 February 2013
  10. ^ "The first printed Welsh book: Yny lhyvyr hwnn (1546)". NLW official website. 
  11. ^ "Welsh Bible 1588". NLW official website. 
  12. ^ "The Black Book of Carmarthen". NLW official website. 
  13. ^ "The book of Taliesin : digital version". NLW official website. 
  14. ^ "The Hengwrt Chaucer". NLW official website. 
  15. ^ "The Welsh Political Archive". NLW official website. 
  16. ^ "National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales". at NLW official website. 
  17. ^ "The Map Collection". NLW official website. 
  18. ^ "The National Collection of Welsh Photographs". NLW official website. 
  19. ^ "The Picture Collection". NLW official website. 
  20. ^ "Welsh Newspapers Online". NLW official website. 
  21. ^ "List of the newspapers that have been identified for digitisation". NLW official website. 
  22. ^ "Man stole 50 maps from library". BBC News. 8 October 2004. 
  23. ^ "£70,000 rare map thief is jailed". BBC News. 22 December 2004. 
  24. ^ "Digital Mirror". NLW official website. 
  25. ^ "Wales politics Library's £20m digital project". BBC News. 1 October 2008. 
  26. ^ Welsh Journals Online at NLW official website
  27. ^ Publications available at NLW official website
  28. ^ List of the journals that have been identified for digitisation at NLW official website

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]