An Claidheamh Soluis : Cardiff Free Library and the Irish revival

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Among publications which were in the old Cardiff Free Library and have come to light recently are several original issues of An Claidheamh Soluis (“The sword of light”), the weekly newspaper of the Gaelic League. It was established in 1899, and had some distinguished editors – Eoin Mac Neill and Padraig Pearse being the first. Our copies come from the years 1912-1913, so they immediately predate some important years in both Irish and European history.  Many of the contributors and the people who feature in the newspaper went on to take part in the Easter Rising of 1916 and the subsequent events.

Most of the text is in Irish, with some articles and most of the advertisements being in English, and although the copies have suffered a little from the passage of time  they are still mostly in good condition. The newspaper was printed on good quality paper for its time, and is illustrated throughout with photographs and cartoons.  This picture of Edwardian ladies practising their shooting is actually of English women (with a suggestion that Irish women should follow their example):

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As with all old newspapers and periodicals the advertisements are another great window on a vanished world: there are many relating to tobacco, for instance (one even claims to be selling Irish-grown tobacco).  The Gaelic League was active in promoting Irish business and developed a trade mark which could be displayed to encourage support of home industries, especially Irish-speaking ones:  claideam3

Cardiff’s officialdom was not traditionally very positive about the Welsh language in the early 20th century – and indeed later – so it is amusing to note that the wrapper which arrived from Dublin fully addressed in Welsh was “corrected” to English by the Cardiff Post Office:claideam5 It is also interesting to note the broad interests of the public library at the time, including reaching out to make connections with other “Celtic” countries and to develop its own collections of material in the sister languages of Welsh.

This paper is a welcome addition to the collection of the Salisbury Library, and is an important source of Irish social history, despite being incomplete. We have a number of other, more recent, Irish language newspapers which will be added to our collection in the coming months.

Beautiful British Books: a South Wales Decorative and Fine Arts Society study day

Special Collections and Archives recently hosted a study day for the South Wales Decorative and Fine Arts Society, with Master Bookbinder Dominic Riley. It was a rare opportunity to learn about contemporary design bindings with one of the leading practitioners of the craft.

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The day began with Dominic’s talk ‘Design Matters’, in which he showed examples of his unique fine bindings, explaining how each design grew from a response to the text and illustrations of the printed book. After the talk, Dominic gave a demonstration of the rarely shown technique of gold tooling onto leather.

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Finally, the group was give a tour of the library, and had the opportunity to examine a range of examples of fine bindings and Private Press books from the Cardiff Rare Books collection.

 

Remembering the Battle of Mametz Wood

Map 1-4-2I have recently finished cataloguing a fascinating collection of letters from World War One soldiers who fought at the Battle of Mametz Wood. An opening move of the Somme offensive, the battle was notorious for its heavy losses. A five day fight for a square mile of land. Over 4,000 members of the 38th (Welsh) Division were killed or wounded in the battle.

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This collection of letters from Welshmen who fought at Mametz was recently donated to Special Collections and Archives via the School of History, Archaeology and Religion. The letters were written in 1974, in response to a notice placed in local newspapers across Wales by the author Colin Hughes. The little advert implored any survivors of the battle to contact him with their memories, to assist with his research.

Portrait 2-18-1Hughes was inundated with responses from across Wales, from privates, gunners, stretcher bearers, sergeant majors, lance corporals and captains. Their letters tell their personal stories of those five days, in their own words. They also enclose diary entries, annotated maps, and photographs.

Hughes’ book was later published as ‘Mametz Wood – Lloyd George’s Welsh Army at the Battle of the Somme’. The archive of letters received by Hughes, and all associated material, is now fully catalogued and available to search and browse on our archives catalogue ArchiveSearch.

Some extracts from the archive:

Letter 2-5a

Letter 2-6-2

Letter 1-11-1a

Letter 2-7-1a

Letter 2-5g

Diary 2-18-1

Letter 2-9-1a

Letter 2-7-2a

Letter 2-7-2b

Letter 2-5f

 

The Cardiff Rare Books Project: historical highlights and favourite finds

IMG_9828The Cardiff Rare Books Collection, acquired by Cardiff University in 2010, includes 14,000 rare and early printed books and pamphlets dating from the 15th to the 20th century. Before arriving here, the collection had been in storage for decades and had never been comprehensively catalogued. The Esmee Fairbairn Foundation kindly agreed to fund a specialist rare books cataloguer to work on the collection over a three year period and I happily took up the role in June 2011. The Cardiff Rare Books Project began with the aim of cataloguing as much of the collection as possible, uncovering hidden treasures and making them accessible to scholars and the general public alike.

Cardiff’s incunabula (books printed before 1501)

During the course of the project, almost five and a half thousand records have been added to the library catalogue and numerous exciting discoveries have ???????????????????????????????been made. The library’s cataloguing team and I have been able to provide access to one of the finest collections of private press books in the UK, as well as a remarkable collection of annotated Restoration dramas which are already attracting considerable interest from researchers. Our 178 incunabula, some of them printed as early as 1470, have been fully described and accurately recorded for the first time.

With so many wonderful discoveries made during the project (many of which I have been able to blog about here), it is hard to pick favourites but a few very special items do come to mind.

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Pietro Duodo’s copy of “Amadis de Gaula” (1582), bound in the olive-brown leather for literary works

I love the story behind the beautiful Duodo bindings I found very early on in the project. These two little volumes were intended to be part of a gentleman’s travelling library for Pietro Duodo (1554-1611), Venetian ambassador to Paris in the late 16th century. The books were sent to a Parisian bindery to be luxuriously bound in gilt-tooled morocco leather, colour-coded by subject and incorporating Duodo’s arms and motto (“She whom I await with longing will not elude me”), but the ambassador never returned to collect his library; suddenly and unexpectedly recalled to Venice, Duodo was forced to leave his beloved books behind.

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You never know what you might find when you pull a book of the shelf in the rare books stack and on a few occasions I was delighted to discover paintings on the fore-edges of books I retrieved for cataloguing. We are lucky to have two examples of the fore-edge paintings produced by John T. Beer, a successful businessman and  book collector who turned to fore-edge painting after his retirement. Beer selected books from his own collection to be decorated and, as with our examples, he often took inspiration from texts themselves.

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Our “Newton book” certainly deserves its place on any list of favourite finds. On opening a copy of John Browne’s Myographia Nova (1698) I discovered two unidentified bookplates together with other evidence of former owners. With a little detective work, I was able to trace all the previous owners and follow the book back into the library of the renowned scientist, Sir Isaac Newton, whose books were dispersed and lost after his death. The discovery of this volume led to an unprecedented level of media interest for Cardiff Special Collections and our rare books. Articles and photographs appeared in national newspapers and I was rushed off to be interviewed live on BBC Radio Wales, an unusual experience indeed for a rare books cataloguer!

A woodcut of me, hard at work on the collection – a cataloguer’s work is never done!

IMG_9467Last but not least, I have had enormous fun rummaging through the collection trying to track down as many manicules as humanly possible. I find these little pointing fingers, created by or for readers to mark noteworthy passages, endlessly fascinating and I have always been delighted to discover new and surprising variations in our early books. I am sure there are many, many more out there.

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I will shortly be moving on to work with an even larger and hopefully equally Smileyinteresting collection at Lambeth Palace Library, as the new cataloguer of the Sion College Collection. The SCOLAR blog will keep going strong as library staff continue to work with the Cardiff Rare Books Collection and share their exciting discoveries. We can be certain there is much more to be revealed about these fascinating books.

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SCOLAR wins national award!

At the May 2014 annual conference of CILIP Cymru, the ‘Welsh Librarian of the Year Award’ was presented to the Head of SCOLAR, Peter Keelan.

Awarded to an individual librarian or information professional, the award champions the achievements, impact and innovation of those who make a significant difference to either the communities which they serve or to the profession in Wales.

Peter was nominated for the award by Janet Peters, Director of University Libraries and University Librarian Information Services, Cardiff University, Janet said

“Peter leads by example, with his passion for the unique and distinctive in ‘special’ collections, and has made major contributions to the promotion of historical materials both in Cardiff University and across Wales. Recognised as an expert in his field, and a strategic thinker, he is a leading light in the WHELF Special Collections Group.”

- See more at: http://www.cilip.org.uk/cilip-cymru-wales/news/winner-welsh-librarian-year-award-announced#sthash.U44nGBb5.dpuf

Awarded to an individual librarian or information professional, the award champions the achievements, impact and innovation of those who make a significant difference to either the communities which they serve or to the profession in Wales (awarded by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals – CILIP Cymru).

Peter was nominated for the award by Janet Peters, Director of University Libraries and University Librarian Information Services, Cardiff University, Janet said:

“Peter leads by example, with his passion for the unique and distinctive in ‘special’ collections, and has made major contributions to the promotion of historical materials both in Cardiff University and across Wales”.

(CILIP Cymru Awards Ceremony, Cardiff, May 2014)

Aled Gruffydd Jones, National Librarian, National Library of Wales and President of CILIP Cymru Wales celebrated the achievements of all the nominees before announcing the winners, and Barbara Pacut on behalf of the sponsors, Sirsi Dynix, presented the awards.

“It is a real honour and surprise to be named Welsh Librarian of the Year,” said Peter. “I work with many inspiring colleagues on projects both within Wales and further afield, and the progress we’ve made collaboratively, especially around digitising archives and making these valuable resources available online, will continue to make a difference to academic research and public education well into the future.”

Building Noah’s Ark: instructions from Thomas Stackhouse’s “A new history of the Holy Bible” (1733)

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Construction begins on the ark as mankind ignores the danger: this engraving from the 1752 edition of Stackhouse’s “A new history of the Holy Bible” clearly shows the three decks, single window and door described in Genesis

These fascinating illustrations come from A new history of the Holy Bible, written by Thomas Stackhouse and first published in 1733. We hold several editions of this work in the Cardiff Rare Books Collection, each containing different engravingsIMG_0973a depicting the design and construction of Noah’s ark as described in the Old Testament. The book of Genesis tells how God decided to undo his creation of the Earth by sending a flood to wash away the wickedness of man. Noah was instructed by God to build an ark, a large waterproof vessel that would save Noah, his family and a sample of the world’s animals from the coming storm that would soon cleanse the Earth.

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The rectangular, box-shaped design is apparent here in the first edition of 1733, but the many (impractical?) windows allow us to view the animals on the decks. In his text, even Stackhouse refers to this depiction as “pure imagination”.

In Genesis 6:14-6:16, God gives Noah detailed directions for the construction of the vessel: “Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood; you shall make the ark with rooms, and shall cover it inside and out with pitch. This is how you shall make it: the length of the ark 300 hundred cubits, its breadth 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits. You shall make a window for the ark, and finish it to a cubit from the top; and set the door of the ark in the side of it; you shall make it with lower, second, and third decks …” The length of a cubit has varied over time but Stackhouse calculated the measurements to correspond roughly to a vessel 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high, which, as Stackhouse readily admits, would make the ark of Noah larger than any wooden vessel ever built.

Although slightly closer to the familiar boat design, this ark also shows the single skylight in the roof as described

A more traditional view of a ship-shaped ark from Weigel's "Biblia ectypa" (1697)

A more traditional view of a ship-shaped ark from Weigel’s “Biblia ectypa” (1697)

Stackhouse and his illustrators depict the ark as having a rectangular box-like design, very different to the traditional sea-going ship with curved keel, bow and rounded hull (the Hebrew word for the ark, “tebah”, actually means box or container, as in the Ark of the Covenant). In Stackhouse’s words, Noah was commanded to “build a kind of vessel, not in the form of ships now in use, but rather inclining to the fashion of a large chest or ark”. As this ark was “intended only for a kind of float, to swim above the water, the flatness of it’s bottom did render it more capacious”. It was, Stackhouse argues, designed for protection and not for navigation.

An earlier illustration of the ark depicting the single door and triple decks (from our 1474 copy of Rolewinck's "Fasciculus temporum")

This earlier illustration of the ark is very similar to the one above and also depicts the single door and triple decks (from our 1474 copy of Rolewinck’s “Fasciculus temporum”)

Surprisingly, the box-shaped ark has resurfaced once again in 2014. Despite the apparent unseaworthiness of the design, film director Darren Aronofsky chose to depict an ark very similar to Stackhouse’s ‘floating container’ for his retelling of the flood narrative, Noah, starring Russell Crowe as the titular prophet.

 

An illuminated manuscript of Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”

IMG_0926In addition to our many private press books and fine bindings, the Cardiff Rare Books Collection also holds a few modern illuminated manuscripts. This beautiful copy of Thomas Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard was written out and hand-illuminated by a man named Sidney Farnsworth in 1910. Mr Farnsworth was a painter, sculptor and illuminator, and also the author of a how-to guide for people wishing to learn the craft, Illumination and its Development in the Present Day (New York: George H. Doran, 1922).

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A well-travelled travel book: tracing former owners of a copy of Sandys’ Travels (1658)

???????????????????????????????George Sandys’ Relation of a journey begun an. Dom. 1610, more commonly known as Sandys’ Travels, relates the author’s wanderings through Europe and the Middle East. Setting off in May 1610, Sandys spent several years touring extensively through France, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Cyprus and Palestine. His narrative of the journey was published in 1615 and was an influential work on geography and ethnology. Sandys was eventually appointed colonial treasurer of the Virginia Company and sailed for the New World in April 1621.

Like Sandys himself, our copy of the 1658 edition of his book has travelled far in its lifetime with several of the book’s previous owners leaving their mark in some way. An inscription on the front free endpaper reads, “Tho Sergeant. 1708. The gift of Joseph Moyle Esqr.” Some research revealed that Joseph Moyle was brother to the English politician, Walter Moyle, who was born in Cornwall in 1672, studied at Oxford and was admitted to Middle Temple in 1691. While a Member of Parliament for Saltash in Cornwall, he also wrote several essays on the forms and laws of government. After Walter’s death in 1721, his brother Joseph arranged for his works to be published and he selected Thomas Sergeant to be the editor. As our copy of the Travels was a gift from Joseph Moyle to Sergeant in 1708, they had apparently known each other for a long time.

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Further evidence of previous ownership can be found pasted onto the rear of the title page: an engraved bookplate of an unusual coat of arms with the caption, “Mr. Smart Lethieullier of Alldersbrook in Com Essex”. Smart Lethieullier (1701-1760) was the son of Sir John Lethieullier, Sheriff of London, and himself rose to the office of High Sheriff of Essex from 1758. He was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Oxford, and developed a lifelong passion for antiquities and fossils. Lethieullier wrote numerous papers on antiquarian topics, including the first English account of the Bayeux Tapestry, and, like Sandys, travelled widely throughout Europe.

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Yet another interesting inscription can be found on the book’s front pastedown which reads, “C. E. Norton. Bought at auction for my father, perhaps in 1847-8″. Some research of the web led me very quickly to an identical autograph of one Charles Eliot Norton (1827-1908), professor of the history of art at Harvard University and a leading American writer and social reformer. So our book, like its author, had also found its way to the New World. Between 1864 and 1868 Norton was editor of the first literary magazine in the United States, the North American Review, alongside his friend, the Romantic poet James Russell Lowell. In 1861 Norton and Lowell had assisted Henry Wadsworth Longfellow with his translation of Dante and together they had founded the Dante Club.

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Norton’s father, Andrews Norton (1786-1853), was professor of sacred literature at Harvard. A renowned preacher and theologian, he was instrumental in bringing liberal Unitarianism to New England. In addition to his duties as a lecturer, Andrews Norton also acted as librarian of Harvard College from 1813-1821.

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There is no evidence in the book to reveal how it made its way back across the Atlantic from the United States to Wales. Cardiff Public Libraries were certainly purchasing many books at auction in the early 1900s in the hope of becoming the Welsh national library, and it is possible that the book was bought at a sale after C. E. Norton’s death in 1908. However it returned to these shores, our copy of the Travels clearly lives up to its name.

 

National Library of Wales Cataloguing Visit 2014

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Our Cataloguing team, who are all helping with the Cardiff Rare Books Collection, enjoyed a research trip up to the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth.

Originally posted on Cataloguers in Wales:

IMG_3826 On Tuesday 18 th March staff at the National Library of Wales welcomed a group of 15 cataloguers, from around Wales, on a visit co-ordinated by the Cataloguers in Wales group.  Cataloguing staff at NLW had arranged a day of presentations to inform us about a variety of practices at the National Library, and we were treated to a fascinating visit with a quick tour behind scenes as well.

We were welcomed by Kathy Murphy (Head of Systems and Mixed Media Workflow) who gave us an overview of cataloguing practices at NLW, and a brief history of how the current workflows had come about.  They had moved from a system where everything was split by material, with separate acquisitions and cataloguing teams, and systems for each type, to a more functional single department and LMS.

IMG_3822As a legal deposit library they are obviously very standards aware, and are responsible for…

View original 686 more words

The high and low adventures of Robert Knox, sailor, prisoner and discoverer of cannabis

Captain Robert Knox (1642-1720)

Among the many books on voyages and exploration in the Cardiff Rare Books Collection is a copy of Robert Knox’s An historical relation of the island Ceylon, in the East Indies. First published in 1681, the work was one of the earliest European accounts of the inhabitants, customs and history of Sri Lanka. How Knox came to write the book is a remarkable tale of adventure, misfortune and daring escapes.

Rajahsinge II, King of the Kandyan Provinces of Ceylon

Rajahsinge II, King of the Kandyan Provinces of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and Knox’s jailer

Robert Knox was just 14 years old in 1655 when he first joined his sea captain father on the ship Anne for a voyage to India. Three years later, the Knoxes set sail again for Persia in the service of the East India Company but had the ill luck to run into a storm which destroyed the ship’s mast and forced them to put ashore in Ceylon for repairs. King Rajasinghe II was suspicious of the Europeans’ intentions and ordered the ship be impounded and the Knoxes taken captive along with sixteen member of their crew.

Knox's "Historical relation of the island Ceylon", complete with a glowing endorsement from Sir Christopher Wren and a Preface by Robert Hooke

Knox’s “Historical relation of the island Ceylon”, complete with a glowing endorsement from Sir Christopher Wren and a Preface by Robert Hooke

The sailors were forbidden to leave the kingdom but otherwise treated fairly, with some of the captives eventually choosing to enter the king’s service. Although Knox refused to work for the king, he was still permitted to become a farmer and make a living. Knox senior died from malaria in February 1661 but Robert remained in captivity for 19 long years before finally making a bid for freedom with a fellow crewman. They managed to reach a Dutch fort on the coast of the island and gain passage to the Dutch East Indies, before at last setting sail for home aboard an English vessel.

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The grisly fate which awaited servants who displeased the king; Knox believed, apparently with good reason, that entering the king’s service would result in his death

Map of Ceylon showing Knox's escape route

Map of Ceylon from “Historical relation…” showing Knox’s escape route

Knox returned to London in September 1680, having spent the journey writing the manuscript for a book about his experiences. When published a year later as An historical relation of the island Ceylon, the book immediately attracted widespread interest, influencing Daniel Defoe’s famous castaway tale Robinson Crusoe and turning Knox into a celebrity. He continued to work for the East India Company for another thirteen years after his return, captaining the Tonqueen Merchant for four further voyages to the East which made him a wealthy man.

A yadda or wild man of Ceylon with pipe

A yadda or wild man of Ceylon with pipe

One final strange adventure in Knox’s remarkable life deserves our attention. Having become close friends with the scientist Robert Hooke, Knox often returned from his travels with gifts and curiosities for Hooke. After one trip, he presented the scientist with the seeds of a plant previously unknown in Europe. This “strange intoxicating herb,” which Knox referred to as ‘Indian hemp’ or ‘bangue’, is  better known today as cannabis indica. In December 1689, Hooke gave a lecture to the Royal Society in which he provided the first detailed description of cannabis in English, praising its “very wholesome” virtues and noting that Knox “has so often experimented it himself, that there is no Cause of Fear, tho’ possibly there may be of Laughter.”