Author Archives: slipjk

Cardiff Rare Books Lecture Series – Professor David McKitterick.

On Thursday evening, February 12th, the SCOLAR Reading Room was full, with an audience keen to hear our guest lecture from Cambridge University  Professor, David McKitterick, whose talk, “What shall we do with all these old books”, explored themes from his new book – ‘Old Books, New Technologies: the Representation, Conservation, and Transformation of Books since 1700’.

Professor David McKitterick

Professor David McKitterick

Ranging from the poor state of royal libraries in the 17th century, to the massive output of books in the 19th century, the lecture explored our present relationship with historical book collections today, especially concerning the ongoing digitisation of many older printed works. In a wide ranging talk, raising many questions from the audience afterwards, a key theme was the large amount of information we can still only obtain from the various historical printed book collections which survive today, and the many threats which these face, in public, academic and related libraries.

Before giving his lecture Professor McKitterick had a chance to browse through SCOLAR’s stacks, especially the Cardiff Rare Books Collection, saved from being dispersed by its purchase by Cardiff University in 2010. Having been one of the University supporters in its successful attempt to save the collection, he was extremely pleased that such a rich historical collection had been preserved for current and future researchers, as he noted:

“Each of those mobile stacks that you opened seemed to open up new possibilities, and all kinds of unknown discoveries”.


Rare Special Collections now digitised online

Digitised versions of some of Cardiff University’s rare books and archives have been made available online through the institution’s new DigitalSearch web resource. DigitalSearch was launched during a special event in Special Collections and Archives; during the launch event, colleagues from Special Collections discussed the importance of DigitalSearch and the use and relevance of such online, website, and digitised resources to researchers and libraries alike.

Janet Peters, University Librarian, presenting DigitalSearch

Janet Peters, University Librarian, presenting DigitalSearch

DigitalSearch makes the text, images, photographs, audio, and video, of some of the University’s rare and specialist research library resources available to search and view online. Over 7,500 pages and images from items in three main collections (History of Medicine, Architecture, and Welsh Literature) have been digitised by the University’s Special Collections and Archives team and made available in DigitalSearch, and plans are in place to extend the range of these online resources. See DigitalSearch here –

Ranging from 19th century medical reports with statistics on outbreaks of disease in Cardiff, to modern architectural visions that were never completed, as well as Welsh literary ballad texts, along with the musical version being sung by a ballads singer – DigitalSearch supports a wide range of teaching and research fields in the University.

Pestle and Mortar from the 17th century.

Pestle and Mortar from the 17th century.

Janet Peters, Director of Cardiff University Libraries, said: “By making these rare and valuable resources available to the world via DigitalSearch, we hope to help inform future research. The unique images give an example of how digitised rare works can   add to their research value, often providing an unparalleled view into the past and richly illustrating how these works and images were used, and can now be re-used again!”.




Llenyddiaeth Plant / Children’s Literature: SCOLAR and CUROP (Re-Blog)

Mae Dr Siwan Rosser, a’i myfyriwr Catrin, o Ysgol y Gymraeg, yn trafod manylion prosiect CUROP dros yr haf, a oedd yn seiliedig ar gasgliadau SCOLAR o lenyddiaeth plant dros y ddau gan mlynedd diwethaf…
“Diben y prosiect cylchgronau oedd creu cofnod manwl o sampl o gylchgronau plant cynnar a gwella’n gwybodaeth o gynnwys ac ansawdd y cylchgronau hyn”.

Dwy Ganrif o Lenyddiaeth Plant

Dr Siwan Rosser and her student, Catrin, from the School of Welsh, discuss the details of their CUROP project over the summer, which was based on the SCOLAR collections of children’s literature over the last two centuries…
“The aim of the project was to create a detailed record of a sample early journals for children, and improve our knowledge of the contents and quality of these journals”.

Athraw i Blentyn,  1837

Athraw i Blentyn, 1837

Librarian 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 Special Collections and Archives, 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:

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”.


Peter Keelan at the CILIP Cymru award ceremony, May 2014.

Peter Keelan at the CILIP Cymru award ceremony, 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.”

Representing The War’s End – a student WW1 research project

Representing War’s End; French and British Perspectives of the First World War – Eleanor Quinlan

Having just graduated with a BA in French and Spanish which I thoroughly enjoyed, I jumped at the chance to be a part of a university funded CUROP research project with the School of European Studies, examining French and British perspectives and representations of the First World War, led by Professor Claire Gorrara.

As the project title “Representing War’s End” suggests, my job was to examine the representations of the last few months of WWI, with particular emphasis on the Armistice. So with the help of the SCOLAR collections, I was able to peruse a great number of archive and print sources dating from August to November 1918 in order to provide many contrasting perspectives of the end of the First World War. The SCOLAR collections proved extremely useful in providing British perspectives of the war. Being part of a Welsh institution meant that I could access many Welsh documents, for which I felt very lucky, as they would not necessarily be on offer if research were conducted somewhere else in the UK.

WW1 Flags      WW1 German Image

                                    WW1 Flags  / WW1 German Image

There were a vast quantity of newspapers, from Northern England to South Wales, in formats such as press cuttings and microfilm, as well as heavily illustrated, satirical magazines such as Punch and the Strand, which presented wonderful contrasts between the patriotic British soldier and civilian in the South Wales News, and the “Hun” hating allied forces shown in politically-charged sketches in Punch magazine. [image 1] [image 2].

I was able to gather many graphic images from a publication called “The War Illustrated” as well as Michelin Travel Guides for Northern France published  in the aftermath of the First World War. One of the few French sources that I came across in the SCOLAR collection which interested me very much was a collection of illustrated, short stories for children, with tales of the war, called “La Grande Guerre”. It was fantastic to find a French representation of war, after finding an amazing quantity of British sources, especially as the drawings were in colour, too. I was intrigued by the graphic nature of the illustrations, vividly depicting physical combat and death during the war , which would not be a commonplace children’s book of stories nowadays, the text at the bottom of the page is a piece of patriotic propaganda that permeates through the twelve short stories. [image 3].

WW1 Children's Book

                                          WW1 Children’s Book

 I thoroughly enjoyed this project as it is a period of history that has always been of interest, and having the opportunity to continue my studies in French as well was a huge plus. Having to compile a vast quantity of graphic files and not having excellent IT skills meant that I encountered a few problems when setting up the final database, but the end result was worth the time spent. I would highly recommend being part of a research project if the opportunity arises as it has not only added something a little bit different to my CV, but it was six weeks of perusing rare archives dating back almost a hundred years that few get the opportunity to do, outside places like SCOLAR.

Innovative Historical Conservation in SCOLAR

A seminar in the University Library organized by SCOLAR showcased two new innovative methods of conservation for rare books – one to extend the lifespan of the books, the other to extend our knowledge of the history of those books and their bindings.

A guest speaker from Northampton’s Leather Conservation Centre, Lara Meredith, a professional conservator, outlined a new technique for combating acidification in leather, which causes red dusty rot of the material. The new technique will give at least another generation of life to rare books suffering from ‘red rot’.

A second speaker, Professor Nicholas Pickwoad, of the University of the Arts London, has devised a new methodology for analysing, identifying, and describing the historical physical structure of rare books – in a way which opens up a whole new field for extending our knowledge of the early origins, production, trade, and use of rare books. Such new data will trace the historical and geographical journey of volumes, and chronicle the narrative of their use over the centuries, the ‘archaeology of the book’ as Prof. Pickwoad noted. Such studies based on whole collections could open up whole new layers of historical evidence to enhance our understanding of the material conditions which prevailed in the book trade and libraries, and of individual ownership and use of books since the dawn of printing in the 15th century.

Dr Thanasis Velios, a colleague of Prof. Pickwoad, demonstrated the database he has created to capture the layers of data discovered using the new methodology of analysis of binding structures and materials, and showed the potential to utilize the data for a range of potential research fields across the Humanities.

An external conservation grant from the Colwinston Trust, negotiated via Development and Alumni Relations (DEVAR), has enabled conservation already to begin on the Cardiff Rare Books Collection, and enabled this seminar, which was attended by University academics, librarians, archivists, and staff from the National Museum of Wales Library and Glamorgan Archives, to take place.

Tynged yr Iaith – Darlith Caerdydd

Pum deg mlynedd yn ôl darlledodd y BBC ddarlith gan Saunders Lewis (cyn-aelod o staff Prifysgol Caerdydd), dan y teitl ‘Tynged yr Iaith’: ei fwriad oedd sbarduno Cymry Cymraeg i fynnu eu hawliau i ddefnyddio’r iaith Gymraeg; rhywbeth y honnodd fyddai’n gyfystyr a ‘chwyldro’ . Cyn 1962 nid oedd gan siaradwyr Cymraeg hawliau cyfreithiol i wasanaethau yn yr iaith, ac roedd y cefndir hanesyddol yn un o ragfarn a difaterwch – o’r Ddeddf Uno yn 1536 a waharddodd yr iaith mewn llywodraeth, hyd at yr ugeinfed ganrif.

Saunders Lewis

Mewn arddangosfa yn SCOLAR, yn seiliedig ar ddarlith Saunders Lewis, ac sy’n cynnwys copi o’r Ddeddf Uno 1536, o gyfnod Harri VIII, olrheinir hanes ac effaith y ddarlith ar y gymdeithas Gymraeg o 1962 hyd at 2012: gwelir dogfennau o’r 16 G. hyd at bamffledi gwleidyddol Cymdeithas yr Iaith o’r 1960au hyd at 2002. Mae’n bosibl gweld detholiad o’r arddangosfa ar-lein, ar ein gwefan yma –

[An exhibition based on the 1962 BBC lecture by Saunders Lewis – ‘Tynged yr Iaith’, on the fate of the Welsh language – and its immense effect on society in the fifty years afterwards].

Re-blog: Music Collections at Cardiff – new exhibition

As a contribution to the (JISC funded) Music Cataloguing Project here in Special Collections and Archives a digital selection of texts which are to be catalogued has been produced for our website by Alison Harvey (Assistant Archivist). Alison has been cataloguing Mackworth manuscripts recently, but the web exhibition includes selections also from the Aylward and BBC collections which are part of the Project (and we’ve included a digital section from an archive we hold of a Welsh composer also). Details can be seen on our website here:

Harvard University Librarian visits Special Collections

On Monday 5th December 2011, Professor Robert Darnton, Director of Harvard University Library, delivered Cardiff University’s Distinguished Lecture on the subject of Jefferson’s Taper and the Future of Books; this was one of Cardiff University’s high-profile Distinguished Lecture Series, which brings eminent and influential guest speakers to the University to showcase their work to a wider audience. A leading cultural historian who is internationally recognised for his research into books, digital scholarship and French cultural history, Professor Darnton’s lecture illuminated the campaign to create a Digital Public Library of America.

Professor Robert Darnton. Copyright 2010, Brian Smith/Boston.

Professor Robert Darnton.Copyright 2010, Brian Smith/Boston.

Before his lecture Professor Darnton visited Special Collections and Archives to see some of our special library collections, and talked with Humanities academics who are working with some of these historical rare books sources, including Dr Melanie Bigold’s work on Restoration Drama texts, and Professor Judi Loach’s work with our 19th and 20th century Private Press collections. He was also shown works on the French Revolution from our Salisbury Library Welsh collections, including a 1795 description of the Revolution by a lady dentist, dedicated to the Ladies of Llangollen!

Professor Darnton’s fascinating lecture outlined the major ‘public good’ that a freely accessible library of digital texts would entail for society, without the ‘pay walls’ and other restrictions of commercial publishers and Google type book monopolies. Amongst the guests in the lecture audience were Dame Lynne Brindley, Chief Executive of the British Library, and Mr Rhodri Morgan, previous First Minister/Prif Weinidog of the National Assembly for Wales.

The lecture can be viewed as a videocast here: Robert Darton, Cardiff University Distinguished Lecture, 5 Dec 2011.

Historical Travel Literature – a ‘rough guide’

SCOLAR has just launched a new onsite and online exhibition based on its historical Travel Writing works, and a presentation has been given on this topic in the ongoing Cardiff  Rare Books Lecture Series. Investigation of this topic was spurred by enquiries from the School of European Studies, so an oultine listing was produced of our historical books (1500-1914), and this shows we have around 2,000 volumes in stock for this topic and era (not all yet catalogued though). We have not yet explored our ancient/medieval travel sources amongst our rare books, nor looked at our modern 20th century travels in the Library’s collections.

We have a wide ranging collection of early modern overseas travel works, from Drake and Raleigh, through later sources from Cook and Dampier, up to more recent works by H.M. Stanley, Shackleton and others. However, the main strength in our collections lies in the wide coverage we have of British travels and the ‘Grand Tour’ of the continent in the 18th and 19th centuries; this is supported by our very strong holdings of Welsh travel writers on this topic.

Amongst the well known authors in our collections are Lady Montagu, Mary Wollstonecroft, and Isabella Bird, as well as Addison, Boswell, Sterne, Goethe, Voltaire and Wordsworth. On top of this we hold a multitude of volumes by minor or unknown authors, all providing a barometer of cultural opinion on their travels across the centuries and the continents. Our collections include works from slaves and shipwrecks, missionaries and ambassadors, traders and adventurers, and many by early ‘tourists’ !






( See  our  online digital travel writing exhibition selection at:    )

( See our online listings of Welsh related travel writings at:   )