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
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 and is one of the Welsh Government sponsored bodies. It is the biggest library in Wales, holding over 6.5 million books and periodicals, and the largest collections of archives, portraits, maps and photographic images in Wales. The Library is also home to the national collection of Welsh manuscripts, the National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales, and the most comprehensive collection of paintings and topographical prints in Wales.[1][2] As the primary research library and archive in Wales[3] and one of the largest research libraries in the United Kingdom, the National Library is a member of Research Libraries UK (RLUK)[4] and the Consortium of European Research Libraries (CERL).[5]

Welsh is its main medium of communication. However, it aims to deliver all public services in Welsh and English.[6] 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.[7][8]


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 to establish a National Library and a National Museum of Wales, and the Privy Council appointed a committee to decide on the location of the two institutions.[9] David Lloyd George, who later became Prime Minister, supported the effort to establish the National Library in Aberystwyth,[10] which 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. Funds for both the National Library and the National Museum were contributed by the subscriptions of the working classes, which was unusual in the establishment of such institutions. In a Prefatory Note to A List of Subscribers to the Building Fund (1924), the first librarian, John Ballinger, estimates that there were almost 110,000 contributors.[10] The Library and Museum were established by Royal Charter on 19 March 1907.[9][11] The Charter stipulated that if the National Library of Wales should be removed from Aberystwyth then the manuscripts donated by Sir John Williams will become the property of the University College.[10][12] A new Royal Charter was granted in 2006.

The National Library of Wales was granted the privilege of legal deposit under the 1911 Copyright Act. Initially, however, the Library could only claim material deemed to be of Welsh and Celtic interest without any restrictions on expensive or limited edition publications.[13] In 1987, the last of these restrictions were removed to make the legal deposit entitlement of the National Library of Wales equal to those of the Bodleian Library, Cambridge University Library, Trinity College Library, Dublin and the National Library of Scotland.[14]


On 15 July 1911 King George V and Queen Mary laid the foundation stone of the National Library of Wales.[15] Designed by architect Sidney Greenslade, who won the competition to design the building in 1909, the building at Grogythan,[16] off Penglais Hill, was ready for occupation in August 1915 but the task of transferring the collections was not completed until 1 March 1916, St. David's Day.[10] The central block, or corps de logis, was added by Charles Holden to a modified version of Greenslade's design. It was completed in 1937.[15] A six-storey bookstack, which was completed in 1931, was built to increase storage space for the rapidly expanding book collection.[15] A second bookstack was officially opened in March 1982.[15] In 1996, the Third Library Building was opened, doubling the storage capacity of the Library.[15] In recent years many changes have been made to the front part of the building. The second phase of the building 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.[17][18] Restoration was assisted by a government grant of £625,000.[19]

Wartime sanctuary[edit]

During the Second World War, many of Britain's most valuable artworks and manuscripts were stored in the National Library of Wales, which provided the evacuated treasures with a refuge from enemy bombing raids.[10][20] The architect Charles Holden was instructed to design a tunnel for this purpose in the outcrop of rock close to the main building, with the British Museum sharing in the costs that this incurred. The tunnel was heated and ventilated to ensure the preservation of vellum, papyri and paper during its use from 18 July 1940 until 23 May 1945. In addition to an extensive consignment from the British Museum,[10] which weighed over one hundred tons,[21] the Library received forty-six boxes of manuscript and printed books from Corpus Christi College, Cambridge and over a thousand pictures, eighty-two boxes of books and twenty members of staff from the National Gallery.[10] The Library also received irreplaceable items from other prestigious institutions such as the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, Dulwich College and the Royal Society.[22]

A number of distinguished scholars from the British Museum accompanied the collections to Aberystwyth.[10] Their senior member of staff was Deputy Keeper of Printed Books, Victor Scholderer, who responded to a letter from the Director, Sir John Forsdyke, by insisting that he and his colleagues would continue to sleep in the Library so that the tunnel could be checked during the night to ensure that the air conditioning was functioning properly.[21] Scholderer, an expert on incunabula, produced A Handlist of Incunabula in the National Library of Wales in gratitude to the hospitality that was afforded to them by the Library.[10] Likewise, Arthur E. Popham, Keeper of Prints and Drawings, dedicated The Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci ″To the Librarian and staff of the National Library of Wales″.[10][22] Several other institutions donated funds to the Library as an expression of their gratitude.[22]

The artefacts that spent World War II in the care of the National Library include the Magna Carta,[20] drawings by Leonardo da Vinci,[20] paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens and Velásquez from Dulwich College,[10] letters of the kings and queens of England,[20] and manuscripts written by William Shakespeare.[20]


Library collections[edit]

The collections of the National Library of Wales consist over 6.5 million printed volumes,[1] including the first book printed in Welsh, Yny lhyvyr hwnn (1546).[24] In addition to the printed book collections, there are approximately 25,000 manuscripts in the holdings.[25] The archival collections at the Library include the Welsh Political Archive[26] and National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales.[27] The Library also keeps maps,[28] photographs,[29] paintings, topographical and landscape prints,[30] periodicals and newspapers.[31][32] In 2010, the Peniarth Manuscript collection and The Life Story of David Lloyd George were amongst the first ten inscriptions on the UK Memory of the World Register, a UNESCO record of documentary heritage of cultural significance.[33]

Collection development is focused on materials relating to the people of Wales, in the Welsh-language and resources for Celtic studies,[2][3] but other materials are collected for the purposes of education, and literary and scientific research.[3] As a legal deposit library, the National Library is entitled to request a copy of every work published in the United Kingdom and Ireland.[34][35][36] The acquisition of material through legal deposit has been supplemented by purchases, international exchanges, donations and bequests.[13]

The online catalogue of the National Library is available to search using AquaBrowser. The Library's holdings can also be found in the European Library[37] and Copac[38] union catalogues.


The National Library of Wales keeps many rare and important manuscripts including the Black Book of Carmarthen[39] (the earliest surviving manuscript entirely in Welsh), the Book of Taliesin,[40] the Hendregadredd Manuscript,[41] and a manuscript of the works of Geoffrey Chaucer.[42]

Peniarth Manuscripts[edit]

Laws of Hywel Dda (f.1.v) King Hywel

The Peniarth Manuscript collection is considered to be of global significance and the most important collection of manuscripts in the National Library of Wales. In 2010, it was included on the UK Memory of the World Register of documentary heritage.[33][43] Of the five hundred and sixty-one volumes of manuscripts in the Peniarth collection, some four-fifths were collected by Robert Vaughan (c.1592-1667) for his library in Hengwrt, Meirioneth.[10][33][43] Three of the Four Ancient Books of Wales are part of the Peniarth collection and this is indicative of the overall quality of the manuscripts and their importance as part of Welsh heritage. There are, however, also manuscripts in Cornish, Latin and English that are themselves noteworthy.[10][43] The collection includes:

  • The Black Book of Carmarthen (c. 1250), the earliest manuscript in Welsh (Peniarth MS 1).[10][43]
  • The Book of Taliesin (c. 1350-1400) contains the oldest Welsh verse by the sixth-century poet Taliesin (Peniarth MS 2).[10][43][44]
  • The White Book of Rhydderch (c. 1350), a composite volume that contains the earliest version of the Mabinogion (Peniarth MS 4).[10][43]
  • Ystoryaeu Seint Greal [Tales of the Holy Grail] (c. 1300), transcribed by Hywel Fychan, is the finest in a series of romance manuscripts. A letter addressed to Lady Charlotte Guest concerning access this text to have it copied is loose inside the volume (Peniarth MS 11).[10][45]
  • Chronicle of the Princes (c. 1330), one of the two main versions of Brut y Tywysogion, the other being the Red Book of Hergest, which is in the Bodleian Library, Oxford (Peniarth MS 20).[46]
  • The Laws of Hywel Dda (c. 1300-1350), the earliest extant text (in Latin) of native Welsh law (Peniarth MS 28).[10][47]
  • Llyfr Du'r Waun (mid-13th century), also known as the Black Book of Chirk, the earliest Welsh text of the laws of Hywel Dda (Peniarth MS 29).[10]
  • Barddoniaeth Hywel Dafi (c. 1483-1500), a volume of poetry most by and possibly in the hand of Howel Davi.[48][49] Other poets included in this volume are Bedo Brwynllys, Dafydd Llwyd, Llywelyn ap Morgan, Dafydd ap Gwilym and Ieuan ap Howel. The assumption that this manuscript was written by Howel Davi is challenged by evidence, such as slips of the pen that occur in poems of Davi's composition, that suggest the scribe was copying these poems. With the exception of two sections (42 and 43), which are an attempt at transcription by an unskilled hand, the entire manuscript appears to be the work of one scribe (Peniarth MS 67).[49]
  • Beunans Meriasek [The Life Of St. Meriasek](1504), the earliest surviving manuscript in the Cornish language (Peniarth MS 105B).[10][43][50] It is believed to have been completed by Radolphus Ton in 1504, who was a canon during the final efflorescence of Cornish literature at Glasney College, Penryn. This play, which is set in Camborne, is a celebration of the life and work of St Meriasek that depicts the cultural links between Cornwall and Brittany.[50][51] Beunans Meriasek was rediscovered by W. W. E. Wynne in the 1860s among the volumes from the Hengwrt Library that had been bequeathed to him in 1859.[10][50] It is the most important extant Cornish manuscript.[10]
  • Over forty manuscripts in the hand of John Jones of Gellilyfdy, embellished with initial capital letters and head- and tail-pieces that demonstrate his calligraphic talent.[10]
  • A bound volume containing books by Giovanni Battista Palatino and Ugo da Carpi, both notable Italian masters of the sixteenth century, which is assumed to have been owned by John Jones of Gellilyfdy (Peniarth MS 522).[10]
  • The Hengwrt Chaucer (c. 1400-10), a folio volume of Canterbury Tales produced by the scribe Adam Pinkhurst. One of the treasures of the National Library of Wales and by far the most important of the Peniarth Manuscripts in English (Peniarth MS 392D).[10][52]
  • Bede's De natura rerum (12th century), a scientific treatise in Latin that is believed to have been written in Wales. Contains decorative initials, including three that have a zoomorphic design similar to those found in Irish manuscripts from this time (Peniarth MS 540B).[53]

Llanstephan Manuscripts[edit]

The Llanstephan Collection of manuscripts was donated to the National Library of Wales by Sir John Williams in 1909. It had been the personal collection of Sir John, which he kept in the library of his home, Llanstephan mansion, Carmarthenshire. The collection is composed from the 154 manuscripts that were purchased from Shirburn Castle, Oxfordshire and other manuscripts collected by Sir John. Medieval Welsh prose is well represented in the Shirburn Castle collection, with chronicles, legends, fables, theological tracts and collections of works by eminent poets of the period. These manuscripts include a Welsh translation of Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia from the thirteenth century, the Gutun Owain Manuscript and the Red Book of Talgarth.[10][54]

General Manuscript Collection[edit]

Llanbeblig Hours (f. 2r.) The Annunciation, The Virgin Mary enthroned under a green canopy.

In addition to the Peniarth and Llanstephan manuscripts, the collection that Sir John Williams donated to the National Library included five hundred manuscripts of the general collection (NLW MS 1-500). These manuscripts are an amalgamation of the various purchases that Sir John made between 1894 and 1899, including groups of manuscripts from the Welsh philologist Egerton Phillimore, Sir Thomas Phillipps of Middle Hill, the Ashburn library and Sir Edmund Buckley of Plas Dinas Mawddwy. A description of four hundred and forty-six of these manuscripts is provided by J. H. Davies in Additional Manuscripts in the Collections of Sir John Williams.[10]

A volume of medieval astronomy texts is the oldest scientific manuscript in the National Library (NLW MS 735C). The first section of the volume was written around 1000 and the second dates from c.1150. Both sections were copied in the Limoges region in France. The Latin text describes the constellations with the aid of diagrams and colour illustrations of zodiac images.[11][55]

The Black Book of Basingwerk (NLW MS 7006D) is a fifteenth-century manuscript containing a version of Brut y Brenhinedd, a Welsh translation of Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae. Particular features of interest include the medieval wooden board binding and the decorated initials embellished with gold.[11][56]

The Llywarch Reynolds Manuscripts (NLW MS 970 to 997) are the twenty-eight volumes that Llywarch Owain Reynolds bequeathed to the Library in 1916. The most notable among them is the seventeenth century collection of Welsh poetry Llyuyr Hir Llywarch Reynolds.[57]

The Llanbeblig Book of Hours (NLW MS 17520A) is a small manuscript book that was compiled around 1390. The manuscript has a number of entries in the calendar that connect it to Wales, including a celebration of the dedication of the church of Saint Peblig, Caernarfon. Isabella Godynogh (d. 1413) was possibly the original owner of the Llanbeblig Hours. The full-page miniatures, illuminated with gold, and the fine lettering indicate the value of the book.[11][58]

The Tintern Abbey Bible (NLW MS 22631C) is a thirteenth-century Bible that has a known association with the medieval library of the Cistercian monastery at Tintern, Monmouthshire. It was purchased by the National Library for £30,000 in a Christie's sale in December 1988[11][59] and is the second known book to have survived from the Tintern library.[59] Under ultraviolet light the erased fifteenth-century inscription Ista biblia olim Abbathie de Tinternie (This Bible used to belong to Tintern Abbey) is visible to confirm the provenance of the manuscript.[59]

Beunans Ke (NLW MS 23849D) is a sixteenth century Cornish manuscript that was discovered among the papers of Professor J. E. Caerwyn Williams after they were deposited in the National Library in 2000.[60]

Rare Books[edit]

There are many rare books in the National Library of Wales including the three earliest books printed in Welsh,[12] Yny lhyvyr hwnn (1546),[12][24] Oll synnwyr pen Kembero ygyd (1547)[12] and A Dictionary in Englyshe and Welshe (1547) by William Salesbury.[12] The Library also holds the first Welsh translation of the complete Bible (1588).[61] The National Library's rare books include collections of incunabula, sixteenth-century European imprints, private press publications, bindings and scientific works.[13]

Sir John Williams Collection[edit]

Yny Lhyvyr hwnn. Attributed to Sir John Price, 1546

The Sir John Williams Collection forms the core of the Library's printed books collection. The collection of approximately 23,360 volumes contains many items of importance to the history of Welsh printing, which were donated to the Library when it was established in 1907. Nineteen of the first twenty-two books published in Welsh are present,[12] of which fourteen were acquired from the Shirburn Castle library with the Llanstephan Manuscripts. The collection from Shirburn Castle comprises 193 printed books and pamphlets that were all printed before 1750; a superb miscellany of books from the first century of Welsh printing.[10] Some of the particularly significant items are:

  • Yny lhyvyr hwnn ... [In this book ...] (1546) by Sir John Price, the only known copy of the first book printed in Welsh.[10][12]
  • Oll synnwyr pen Kembero ygyd by Gruffudd Hiraethog (1547).[10][12]
  • William Salesbury's A Dictionary in Englyshe and Welshe (1547).[10]
  • A translation of the New Testament by Salesbury (1567).[10] The difficulty of reading Salesbury's pendantic translation prompted William Morgan, vicar of Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant, to begin his translation of the Bible in 1578.[11]
  • The first Welsh translation of the complete Bible by William Morgan (1588).[10] Morgan's Bible not only strengthened the hold of the Protestant faith in Wales, it also created a new and accessible prose.[11]
  • Cân o senn iw hên Feistr Tobacco [A Diatribe against Tobacco], the only extant copy.[10]


The National Library has a collection of about 250 incunabula, which are predominantly German, Italian and French imprints. Sixty-six of the incunabula, including seven different editions of the Roman de la Rose, are part Francis William Bourdillon's collection that was purchased by the Library in 1922. Notable incunabules in the Library are the Astronomica by Marcus Manilius (1474) with illuminated initials and borders, and Hartmann Schedel's 'Liber Chronicarum (1493).[13]

Sixteenth-century Imprints[edit]

There are approximately 2,500 sixteenth-century European imprints in the Library. Works from the leading scholar-printers of the early sixteenth-century are represented in the collection. These include Johann Froben (Basle), Jodocus Badius (Lyons and Paris), Robert Estienne (Paris) and Aldus Manutius (Venice). Aldus Manutius of Venice, who is known for his dolphin and anchor printer's device, was the finest of the Italian printers of this period and about a hundred examples of his works, known as Aldines, are in the National Library. The Library's also owns works from the sixteenth-century Antwerp press of Christophe Plantin and his son-in-law, Balthasar Moretus, who published De Symbolis Heroicis (1634) with its title-page designed by Peter Paul Rubens.[13]

Private Presses[edit]

The Library has a substantial collection of modern private press volumes, some 1,200 in total, including comprehensive holdings of the works of the Gregynog Press. The collection of ordinary and special bindings of the Gregynog Press books, along with the reference collection from Gregynog, form the core of the National Library's collection private press editions. However, the Kelmscott Press volumes that Sir John Williams donated are also noteworthy.[13]

Fine bindings[edit]

The National Library has many examples of books with fine bindings in its holdings. These include under-painted vellum, Victorian carved wood and papier-mâché bindings, French art nouveau bookbinding and bindings by Bernard C. Middleton and the Gregynog Press binder, George Fisher. In the late 1970s, the library acquired an archive recording the work of the Birdsall bindery, Northampton.[13]

The Euclid Collection[edit]

The National Library's collection of more than 300 editions of Euclid's Elements has been developed by adding to the 39 volumes that Sir Charles Thomas-Stanford donated in 1927. It is considered to be an important reference point for Euclidean bibliographical studies.[13][62]


The National Library of Wales is home to the largest collection of archival material in Wales.[1] Around 2,500 archives of various sizes have been collected since the library was founded.[63] These archives contain many different types of document, such as charters, estate records, correspondence, literary drafts and digital materials, which range from the medieval to contemporary periods. Many of the earlier archives are those of the landed gentry and their estates, which developed over many centuries, but these are supplemented by corporate archives including the Church of Wales archive and the archive of the Court of Great Sessions that the Library has received. The Library collects corporate archives, which are the records of institutions, societies and public bodies, and the personal archives of individuals who have played a significant role in the life of the nation. Personal archives contain a variety of material that is related to the life and work of notable individuals and families.[64] For example, the papers of Celtic scholar Sir Idris Foster include correspondence, personal papers, scholarly and academic notes, and papers relating to organisations and societies, such as the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion, the University of Wales and the Church in Wales.[65]

Modern Literary Archives[edit]

The Modern Literary Archives are home to the work of some of the most important Welsh poets and authors.[11][66] An insight into the creation of prose and poetry is provided by the letters, manuscript and typescript drafts,[11][66] notebooks, proofs and other personal papers of 20th and 21st century writers.[66] Archives belonging to Welsh-language authors,[11][66] Welsh authors writing in English[11][66] and literary organisations are deposited in the National Library.[66]

Papers and manuscripts belonging to Welsh authors who achieved their fame in during the 20th century have been collected by the Library. The Archives of Welsh Authors include the work of authors, poets, playwrights, scholars, journalists and archdruids of the Gorsedd. Significant holding from these archives include draft copies of novels: Cysgod y Cryman [The Shadow of the Sickle] by Islwyn Ffowc Elis, Y Stafell Ddirgel [The Secret Room] by Marion Eames and Cyfres Rwdlan by Angharad Tomos; Saunders Lewis' letters, and the correspondence between Rhydwen Williams and Alwyn D. Rees; the diaries of Caradog Prichard and Euros Bowen; and, manuscript copies of poetry, such as Y Mynach by Gwenallt, Y Mynydd by T. H. Parry-Williams and Cerddi'r Gaeaf by R. Williams Parry.[66] Parry-Williams and Williams Parry were both first cousins of Thomas Parry, the National Librarian.[67]

Dylan Thomas is the most prominent name amongst the Anglo-Welsh authors and the Library has a large collection of his papers. Other important items in the Archives of Welsh Writers in English are Raymond Williams' drafts of the novels Border Country and People of the Black Mountains and the papers of David Jones, which include draft copies of In Parenthesis and The Anathemata.[66]

Prominent holdings in the Archives of Literary Organisations, Journals and Publishers are the National Eisteddfod of Wales, BBC Wales, the Welsh Arts Council and the Welsh Academy.[66] The archive of the National Eisteddfod of Wales contains the central office records, compositions, adjudications and criticisms from 1886 onwards.[68] The Eisteddfod is a unique institution and an important part of the literary tradition of Wales that celebrates poetry, song and the Welsh language.[11] The substantial archive of BBC Wales includes radio drama scripts and talks by well-known authors.[66] A further collection of Welsh authors archives are gathered together in the papers of the Welsh Arts Council.[66]

National Screen and Sound Archive[edit]

The National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales[27] contains The Life Story of David Lloyd George, a 1918 biographical film, which is thought to be the first feature-length biopic of a living politician. It was include on the UK Memory of the World Register in 2010.[33]


J.M.W. Turner - Dolbadarn Castle

The charter of the National Library of Wales states that pictures should be collected which portray places in Wales or people of Welsh background.[11][69] Images in a number of different media are collected including paintings, drawings, prints and digital formats.[69] The collection contains over 4000 framed paintings and drawings including paintings of Dolbadarn Castle and Aberdulais Mill by J.M.W. Turner[11][70] and examples of the work of the landscape artist Richard Wilson,[11][70] who influenced Turner, and Wilson's pupil, Thomas Jones Pencerrig.[70]

There are around 15,000 Welsh portraits in various media and a further 50,000 photographs and negatives in the Library's collection. Portraits include those of prominent Welsh individuals including David Lloyd George and Hwfa Môn or by artists with a connection to Wales, such as Hugh Hughes, William Roos and Christopher Williams. Self-portraits by modern Welsh artists are also collected and include Keith Andrew, David Jones, Charles Tunnicliffe and Kyffin Williams.[69]

There is a large collection of the iconic work of Kyffin Williams in the Library, which includes his paintings of north Wales, sketches and watercolours of the Welsh colony in Patagonia and caricature portraits.[11][70] Kyffin Williams bequeathed a significant part of his estate, including his own works and archives, to the National Library when he died in 2006.[71]


CND rally, Aberystwyth
John Talbot Dillwyn Llewelyn carrying a gun.

The Library holds a collection of more than 800,000 photographs,[72] including the earliest-known photograph in Wales.[11] The daguerreotype of Margam Castle, made by Reverend Calvert Richard Jones, dates from 1841.[11] Many other examples of photography from the 1840's and 1850's, such as the Early Swansea Photography of the Dillwyn Llewelyn family, are kept in the National Collection of Welsh Photographs. This collection also contains mounted portraits by high street photographers, topographic views by John Thomas and scenic postcard photography by Francis Frith that are connected to Wales.[72]

During his career as a photojournalist, Geoff Charles produced an photographic archive that records life in Wales from the 1930s until the 1970s. The Geoff Charles Photographic Collection is the largest individual collection in the Library with 120,000 negatives. This unique contribution to Welsh photography is being preserved and digitised by the National Library of Wales with sponsorship from the Big Lottery Fund.[73]


There are over a million maps in the collections of the National Library of Wales.[74] 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.[75][76]

A complete set of tithe maps, covering almost the whole of Wales, is housed in the National Library.[77][78] The Welsh Church Commission Collection, which, in 1944, was deposited in the Library,[78] includes the diocesan copies of the tithe maps that were transferred to the Commission in 1920 following the disestablishment of the Church of Wales.[77][78] They are an important source for the study of mid-nineteenth century Wales and, therefore, are the most frequently used collection of maps and one of the most consulted categories of documents in the Library.[77] The Cynefin Project is digitising over 1100 tithe maps and transcribing the appointment documents to link them together. The project will be completed by September 2016.[79]


The National Library of Wales 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.

Between 1909 and 1984, the Library published Bibliotheca Celtica in fulfilment of the terms of its charter to keep a register of books printed in Welsh and other Celtic languages or relating to Wales and the Celtic nations. In 1985 Bibliotheca Celtica was merged with the Subject Index to Welsh Periodicals to form A Bibliography of Wales (Llyfryddiaeth Cymru). In 1987, the retrospective bibliography Libri Walliae: a catalogue of Welsh books and books printed in Wales 1546-1820 was published by the National Library.[13]

Digital content[edit]

Dr Dafydd Tudur, Rights and Information Manager, holding Wikimedia UK's GLAM of the Year Award, 2013.

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.[80]

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

The Library has experience of sharing content from its collections under open content licences on platforms such as Wikipedia (e.g. the John Thomas photographic collection) and Flickr. 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 awarded the Wikimedia UK 'GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) of the Year Award', for being 'a reliable supporter of the Wikimedia movement aims.’

The 'Cynefin: Mapping Wales’ sense of Place' Project has created a unified tithe map of Wales by digitising over a thousand tithe maps.[78][79][81] Cynefin is a partnership between Archives Wales, the National Library of Wales and People’s Collection Wales[79] that was launched in November 2014.[81] A valuable online tool for historical research is being produced by crowdsourcing the contributions of volunteers through the Cynefin website to transcribe the apportionment documents and link them to the digitised tithe maps.[81][82]

The Kyffin Williams Bequest Project was set up to catalogue and digitise the material that Kyffin Williams bequeathed to the National Library of Wales on his death in 2006. In addition to the collection of artwork, the bequest also included funds to cover this project. The cataloguing work began in 2008 and the digitisation started in 2009.[71]

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.[83]

The fifty titles include:[84][85]

Welsh Newspapers Online[edit]

The Cardigan Bay Visitor Jun 24 1887
The Visitor's List and Guide June 22 1887
The Illustrated Usk Observer Jul 7 1855
Y Dydd Jun 5 1868

Welsh Newspapers Online is an open access database of Welsh regional newspapers that has been created from the National Library of Wales' collection of historical newspapers.[86][87] The database includes nearly 120 newspapers titles and provides access to over 1,100,000 pages from the years before 1919. Content relating to the First World War that has been digitised is also included in the database.[87] The following publications are included:[87]

  • Aberdare Leader 1902–1910; 1913–1919
  • Aberdare Times 1861–1902
  • Abergavenny Chronicle 1909–1910; 1914–1919
  • Abergavenny Mail 1914
  • Aberystwyth Observer 1858–1861; 1864–1900; 1902–1910
  • Aberystwyth Times 1868–1870
  • Aberystwyth Visitor's List and Guide 1887
  • Adsain 1906; 1914–1919
  • Amman Valley Chronicle 1913–1919
  • Amserau 1846–59
  • Baner ac Amserau Cymru 1857–1910; 1914–1919
  • Barmouth and County Advertiser 1914–1917
  • Barry Dock News 1889–1910; 1914–1918
  • Barry Herald 1896–1910
  • Brecon and Radnor Express 1914–1918
  • Brecon County Times 1866–1869; 1900; 1905–1910; 1913–1919
  • Brecon Reporter 1865–1867
  • Brython (newspaper) (Lerpwl) 1914–1919
  • Brython Cymreig 1892–1901; 1906–1910
  • Carnarvon and Denbigh Herald 1836–1910
  • Cambrian Daily Leader 1913; 1914–1918; 1919
  • Cambrian 1804–1860; 1870–1910
  • Cambrian News 1860–1910; 1914–1919
  • Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian 1845–1874
  • Cardiff Times 1858–1910
  • Cardigan Bay Visitor 1887–1905
  • Cardigan Observer 1878–1897
  • Carmarthen Journal 1810–1812; 1828–1831; 1889–1893; 1901–1910; 1913–1919
  • Carmarthen Weekly Reporter 1860–1910; 1913–1919
  • Celt 1878–1879; 1881–1906
  • Cheshire Observer 1901–1908
  • Chester Courant 1897–1908
  • Clorianydd 1897–1907; 1909–1910; 1914–1919
  • Colwyn Bay & North Wales Weekly News 1892; 1894–1907
  • County Echo [Pembrokeshire] 1893–1896; 1901–1910
  • County Observer and Monmouthshire Central Advertiser 1867–1878; 1881–1884; 1899–1908
  • Cymro a'r Celt Llundain 1907–1910
  • Cymro [Lerpwl a'r Wyddgrug] 1890–1907; 1914–1919
  • Darian 1914–1919
  • Demetian Mirror 1840
  • Denbighshire Free Press 1882–1910; 1914–1919
  • Dinesydd Cymreig 1914–1919
  • Drafod 1913–1919
  • Drych 1875–1878; 1881–1900; 1914–1919
  • Dydd 1868–1870; 1872–1890; 1892–1910; 1914–1919
  • Evening Express1891–1899; 1900–1910 1900–1910
  • Flintshire Observer 1864–1900; 1907–1910; 1913–1915
  • Genedl 1914–1917
  • Genedl Gymreig 1877–1900
  • Glamorgan Free Press 1897–1899
  • Glamorgan Gazette 1894–1895; 1906–1910; 1914–1919
  • Glamorgan, Monmouth and Brecon Gazette 1832–1843
  • Goleuad 1869–1910; 1914–1919 1869–1910
  • Gwalia 1883; 1897–1910
  • Gwladgarwr 1858–1882
  • Gwyliedydd 1877–1908
  • Gwyliedydd Newydd 1910; 1914–1919
  • Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph1857–1910; 1914–1919
  • Herald Cymraeg 1901–1910; 1914–1919
  • Herald of Wales and Monmouthshire Recorder 1897; 1914–1919
  • Illustrated Usk Observer 1855–1866
  • Llais y Wlad 1874–1884
  • Llais Llafur 1914–1919
  • Llan 1881–1910; 1913–1919
  • Llandudno Advertiser and List of Visitors 1896–1910
  • Llanelly Mercury 1897; 1909–1910
  • Llanelly Star 1910; 1914–1919
  • Llangollen Advertiser 1868–1873; 1875–1903; 1905–1908; 1909–1910; 1914–1919
  • London Kelt – Celt Llundain 1895–1904
  • London Welshman – Cymro Llundain 1904–1906
  • Merthyr Express 1864–1869; 1909–1910
  • Merthyr Pioneer 1914–1919
  • Merthyr Telegraph 1855–1881
  • Merthyr Times 1895–1897
  • Monmouth Guardian 1914–1919
  • Monmouthshire Merlin 1829–1884
  • Montgomery County Times 1893–1900
  • Montgomeryshire Express and Radnor Times 1892–1908
  • Negesydd 1895–1909
  • North Wales Chronicle 1827–1900; 1914–1919
  • North Wales Express 1878–1910
  • North Wales Gazette 1808–1816; 1823–1825
  • North Wales Times 1897–1900
  • North Wales Weekly News 1909–1910
  • Papur Pawb 1893–1904; 1909–1910
  • Pembroke County Guardian 1898–1910
  • Pembrokeshire Herald 1844–1891; 1901–1910
  • Penarth Chronicle 1895
  • Pontypool Free Press 1859–1869; 1872–1893
  • Pontypridd Chronicle 1881–1883; 1886–1905
  • Potter's Electric News 1859–1868
  • Prestatyn Weekly 1905–1910
  • Principality 1848–1850
  • Rhedegydd 1878–1879; 1886; 1889; 1893–1910
  • Rhondda Leader 1899–1910
  • Rhos Herald 1909–1910
  • Rhyl Advertiser 1878–1887; 1893
  • Rhyl Journal 1889–1910
  • Rhyl Record and Advertiser 1888–1910
  • Seren Cymru 1851–1852; 1856–1857; 1860–1910; 1913; 1914–1918; 1919
  • Seren Gomer 1814–1815
  • South Wales Daily News 1872–1900
  • South Wales Daily Post 1893–1900; 1910
  • South Wales Echo 1880–1882; 1885–1900
  • South Wales Star 1891–1894
  • South Wales Weekly Post 1914–1919
  • Swansea Gazette and Daily Shipping Register 1909–1910
  • Tarian y Gweithiwr 1875–1910
  • Tenby Observer 1854–1860; 1867–1889; 1909–1910
  • Towyn on Sea and Merioneth County Times 1897–1905
  • Tyst a'r Dydd 1871–1891
  • Tyst Cymreig 1867–1870
  • Tyst 1892–1910; 1914–1917
  • Udgorn 1913–1918
  • Weekly Mail 1879–1910
  • Welsh Coast Pioneer 1900–1910
  • Welsh Gazette 1899–1910
  • Welshman 1835–1910
  • Werin 1885–1900
  • Western Mail 1869–1900
  • Wrexham Guardian 1875–1879
  • Wrexham Weekly Advertiser 1854–1900
  • Wythnos a'r Eryr 1899–1903; 1909–1910


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Further reading[edit]

  • Davies, J. H. (1921) The National Library of Wales: Catalogue of Manuscripts Vol. 1. Additional Manuscripts in the Collections of Sir John Williams. Aberystwyth: The National Library of Wales.
  • Fishlock, Trevor (2007) In this place: The National Library of Wales. Aberystwyth: The National Library of Wales. ISBN 978-1-86225-054-3
  • Jenkins, David (2002) A Refuge in Peace and War: The National Library of Wales to 1952. Aberystwyth: The National Library of Wales. ISBN 1-86225-034-0
  • Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru (the University of Wales Dictionary of the Welsh Language)

External links[edit]