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Guest Post: The Inscriptions of Herbert Scylla Mallalieu

Today’s guest post comes from Lauren O’Hagan, who has been diligently cataloguing the Janet Powney Collection of Children’s Literature.

When asked why I have dedicated the last ten years of my life to investigating book inscriptions, I always answer with the same response. No, it is not because I am an admirer of old handwriting (although I am!) or even that I am nosy (well, maybe there is an element of that!); rather, it is I am fascinated by the fact that they act as thousands of threads which, together, weave the tapestries of life. Book inscriptions have an ability to stop time, to bring an emotional immediacy to the people who once walked this earth, to transform the book from a commercial object into a personalised item that forms the life soul of families…

Those of you who have been following my guest blog posts will know that for the past four years, I have been researching and helping to catalogue the Janet Powney Collection – a wonderful assortment of Victorian and Edwardian children’s books in Cardiff University’s Special Collections. While each book stands out for its beautiful covers and stunning illustrations, it is the inscriptions inside that most intrigue me. And last Thursday, I came across a real gem.


Publisher’s binding of The Poetical Works of Mrs Felicia Hemans.

After a long session of cataloguing, I picked up the final book of the day: an 1894 edition of The Poetical Works of Mrs Felicia Hemans. As I turned to the front endpapers, I came across a lovely inscription in black ink stating, “Herbert Mallalieu A birthday gift from his loving sister Pollie.” “September 1896” had been added in pencil below. The unusual surname immediately struck me. That would surely be easy to track down in census records! And indeed, it was! But what I didn’t expect was the sheer amount of ‘hidden history’ that it would unlock about Herbert and his family.

Herbert Scylla Mallalieu was born in 1879 in Coventry, England. He was the son of William Mallalieu (1845-1927) and Margaret Smith (1846-1919). Herbert had two older brothers, George (1873-1948) and William (1884-1937), and a younger sister Pollie (née Mary, 1880-1944). Herbert came from a family of professional actors and comedians. His parents were famous stars of the Victorian music hall. They also brought up their younger children to perform with them. For a reason that is sadly now lost to time, Herbert was the only member of his family not to join them on the stage. Census records show that he was not “deaf, dumb, blind, lunatic, imbecile or idiot,” so we can only assume that it was a personal choice on his part.


Mallalieu’s ownership inscription on the front fly-leaf.

This meant that Herbert spent most of his childhood on his own lodging throughout the UK with a wide range of strangers, while the rest of his family constantly moved around and performed. The 1891 census records him as living with the Wall family in Wells, Somerset and attending the local cathedral school. It was during his time in Wells on the occasion of his 17th birthday that he received The Poetical Works of Mrs Felicia Hemans from his sister Pollie. Meanwhile, his family were based in Bath where they regularly took the stage at the Theatre Royal. Reviews in the Western Daily Press praise the Mallalieus’ talent, particularly young Pollie who stood out as a child star.

Pollie caught the eye of Lewis Carroll after seeing her perform in The Silver King in Brighton in October 1891. From this date on, he struck up a regular correspondence with Pollie’s parents. A surviving letter dated June 22nd 1892 that recently sold at auction asks Pollie’s mother whether he can take Pollie to the New Gallery, luncheon at a friend’s house and German Reed’s entertainment. We know from Carroll’s diary records that he did indeed take Pollie out and that he thought she was “a lovable child, ladylike and speaking good English.” Pollie also stayed at Carroll’s house in Eastbourne on several occasions and he even paid for a custom-made pair of boots for her.

By the time of the 1901 census, William Mallalieu had set up his own acting company in Leicester. The company was incredibly successful and brought much fame and fortune to the family. The company’s location may explain why Herbert is also based in Leicester on the 1901 census, although he is living alone in a boarding house run by Elizabeth Fox and working as a “land agent clerk.” Herbert’s brother George, on the other hand, known by the stage name Aubrey Mallalieu, had now found success on the stage in Australia and New Zealand. He would later go on to appear in hundreds of films throughout the 1930s usually as a respectable elderly gentleman of the establishment. He was described as having a “Dickensian appearance” with combed-over white hair and spectacles. Herbert’s other brother, William, left acting in 1901 and joined the Cheshire Regiment. He saw active service in the Anglo-Boer War and the First World War.

While Herbert’s parents and sister are recorded as living in Heston, London on the 1911 census, Herbert cannot be found with them. An inspection of emigration records shows that he moved to New York in the early 1900s for business purposes before returning to the UK where he married Elsie Blythe, a dairy maid, in 1913. The newly-weds then moved back to the USA, this time to Orange, New Jersey, where she gave birth to a son, Herbert Blythe Mallalieu (1914-1988). Herbert Blythe Mallalieu went on to serve in the Second World War and gained renown as a war poet. Julian Symons described him as “one of the best known of the younger British poets before the Second World War.” He published several poetry collections in his lifetime, including Letter in Wartime (1940) and On the Berlin Lakes (1988).


A second enigmatic inscription, dated 33 years after the first.

Unfortunately, Herbert and Edith’s marriage did not work out. Just a few years later, Herbert returned to the UK with his son and filed for a divorce. In 1923, he got remarried to Edith F. Curteis, a grocer’s cashier. On July 5th 1929, Edith gave birth to a little girl, Paula. Sadly, Paula was stillborn. In a remarkable yet sad twist of fate, the event is recorded in Herbert’s poetry volume. As I flicked through the pages, I was astounded to come across an inscription tucked away on the flyleaf clearly added by Herbert 33 years on from his sister’s original message: “He never smiled again pg. 128 July v/29.” Turning avidly to page 128, I discovered that it was a direct quote from a poem in the collection about King Henry I’s grief over his son William’s death. Clearly, Herbert had remembered the quote and drew parallels with his own tragic situation. Feeling so upset about the premature death of his only daughter, he recorded the date in his poetry book alongside this quote. The book he had kept since he was given it as a young boy by his estranged younger sister had now become embedded with a new inscription that marked this important event in Herbert’s life.

Herbert and Edith never had any further children. They lived a quiet life together in Croydon, Surrey until his death in 1957. Herbert outlived all of his other family members.


Behind the two seemingly insignificant inscriptions in The Poetical Works of Mrs Felicia Hemans lies the untold story of Herbert Mallalieu and his family. In just a few written words, we can learn so much about his life, his loves, his losses. It is stories like this that make me so thankful for the work I do and the opportunity I have to keep these memories alive for future generations.


Dathlu 50 mlynedd o Innovate Trust: Cartref Cefnogol cyntaf y DU

Mae Innovate Trust yn dathlu eu pen blwydd yn 50 eleni. Mae’r elusen annibynnol hon wedi newid bywydau nifer o bobl anabl ar draws y byd – a dechreuodd y cwbl yma, ym Mhrifysgol Caerdydd. Eleni, mae gwirfoddolwyr sy’n anabl wedi bod yn chwilota yn hanesion cynnar y sefydliad, i’w rhannu mewn arddangosfa newydd.

Swyddogaeth Innovate Trust yw i gefnogi oedolion gydag anableddau dysgu, anableddau corfforol, nam ar synnwyr neu gyflwr iechyd meddwl. Mae’n nhw’n cyflenwi gwasanaethau cartrefi cefnogol, yn ogystal â hyfforddiant, cyfleoedd gwaith a chyfleoedd i gymdeithasu.

Dechrau’r daith ar gyfer yr elusen oedd fel prosiect o’r enw ‘Cardiff Universities Social Services’, ac ers ei sefydlu, mae wedi datblygu i fod yn gorff yn hynod o ddylanwadol, sydd wedi brwydro dros hawliau ac urddas pobl anabl.


Dyddiau Cynnar 1967 – 1973

Ym 1967, penderfynodd grwp o fyfyrwyr o Gaerdydd herio’r drefn. Roedd ganddyn nhw ddamcaniaeth, y gallai pobl anabl ffynnu a byw’n annibynnol, petaent yn cael cefnogaeth addas.

Roedd cyfyngu pobl ag anableddau dysgu i ysbytai yn gyffredin iawn yn y cyfnod hwn. Roedd ‘sgandal Ysbyty Trelai’ yn y 1960au wedi datguddio bod gofal pobl anabl yng Nghaerdydd yn wael, ac yn gallu bod yn greulon. Damcaniaeth y myfyrwyr oedd y gallem ni, fel cymdeithas, wneud yn llawer gwell – a gyda hynny, ganed prosiect C.U.S.S..

Gweithiodd gwirfoddolwyr C.U.S.S. gyda 25 o oedolion gydag anableddau dysgu oedd yn byw yn Ysbyty Trelai. Darparodd y prosiect dripiau dydd, cyfleon hyfforddi, a chyfleon i gymdeithasu.

Llun du a gwyn o ddau ddyn, eu dwylo'n cyffwrdd. Mae'n nhw'n gwenu ac yn edrych yn hapus

Prof Jim Mansell, CBE, un o hoelion wyth y prosiect, gyda John O’Brien (1953-2011). John oedd un o’r bobl gynta i ymuno â chartref cefnogol CUSS. Yn Ysbyty Trelai, roedd ganddo enw drwg fel dyn ifanc byr-ei-dymer, a fyddai’n ‘creu trwbwl’. Mae ei ffrindiau a’i gyd-weithwyr yn Innovate Trust yn ei gofio fel dyn addfwyn ac amyneddgar, oedd yn meddu ar synnwyr digrifwch hoffus.


“Creu Trwbwl” – neu ddysgu sgiliau newydd?

Roedd y prosiect yn llwyddiant, a roedd nifer o drigolion yr ysbyty yn teimlo’n fwy hyderus ac annibynnol. Un diwrnod, penderfynodd dau ddyn ifanc oedd wedi bod yn rhan o’r prosiect, eu bod am fynd i nofio – a gadael yr ysbyty gyda’i gilydd i ymweld â’r pwll lleol.

Fe welodd nyrs nad oedd ar ddyletswydd nhw yn cerdded, a dychwelodd nhw i’r ysbyty, ble cawson nhw bryd o dafod. Yn dawel bach, roedd gwirfoddolwyr prosiect C.U.S.S. yn falch iawn o glywed bod y ddau ohonynt wedi cyrraedd mor bell ar eu pennau’u hunain.


Cartref Cefnogol Cyntaf Prydain – 1974

Wrth astudio effeithiau’r fenter gyntaf, teimlai’r myfyrwyr y gallent wneud mwy i wella ansawdd bywyd pobl ag anableddau dysgu.

Wedi cryn baratoi, lansiwyd y Cartref Cefnogol cyntaf yn y DU, gyda chefnogaeth gan Gyngor Caerdydd ac Ysbyty Trelai. Symudodd pump o oedolion ag anableddau dysgu o Ysbyty Trelai a thri o wirfoddolwyr oedd yn astudio ym Mhrifysgol Caerdydd i gartref yng Ngerddi Rhuthun yng Nghathays. Yn ystod y dydd, byddai’r tenantiaid yn mynychu canolfan hyfforddiant yn Nhrelai a byddai’r myfyrwyr yn mynychu eu darlithoedd.

Gan eu bod wedi eu cyfyngu i ysbyty am flynyddoedd, roedd angen cefnogaeth gychwynnol ar yr oedolion anabl, i’w galluogi i fyw yn annibynnol. Yn Ysbyty Trelai, doedden nhw byth yn cael cyfle i ddewis beth i fwyta, neu beth i wisgo – ond ar ôl cyfnod o addasu, dechreuodd yr oedolion arwain bywydau hapus, llawn, fel aelodau o gymuned.

Llun du a gwyn o ddyn ifanc gyda Syndrom Down's yn gwenu.

Alan oedd un o drigolion cyntaf y cartref cefnogol yng Ngerddi Rhuthun. Cafodd ei gyfyngu i ysbyty pan oedd yn fachgen bach. Trwy ei gyfraniad ef at y prosiect cartref cefnogol, fe dorrodd gwys newydd ar gyfer cymaint o bobl anabl, gan alluogi iddynt fyw bywydau llawn, hapus.


Y Stori yn Parhau – o Ysbytai i Gartrefi

Camau nesaf y prosiect oedd i’r myfyrwyr godi ymwybyddiaeth o lwyddiant y Cartref Cefnogol, trwy gyhoeddi adroddiadau ac ymchwil, a rhannu eu gwaith gydag awdurdodau lleol, ysbytai a phrifysgolion. Wrth i’r elusen dyfu yn ei maint a’i henw da, symudwyd y Cartref Cefnogol i leoliad sefydlog ar Ffordd y Brenin yn Nhreganna, ac agorwyd rhagor o gartrefi tebyg, wedi’u hariannu gan y Swyddfa Gymreig.

Ym 1977, agorodd yr elusen Ganolfan Gofal Seibiant i oedolion gydag anableddau dysgu oedd yn byw gyda’u rhieni. Roedd y ganolfan yn darparu seibiant i bobl anabl a gofalwyr, a mae dal ar agor heddiw.

Ym 1981, agorodd Gyngor Caerdydd adran newydd, er mwyn dyblygu ac ehangu y model ‘Cartref Cefnogol’, gan agor nifer o gartrefi tebyg. Erbyn 1983, lansiodd y Swyddfa Gymreig ‘Strategaeth datblygu gwasanaethau i bobl gyda handicap meddyliol ar gyfer Cymru gyfan’. Roedd yn ymateb i’r adroddiadau am gam-drin yn Ysbyty Trelai yn y 1960au – a’r adroddiad yn cymell awdurdodau lleol i atal rhag cyfyngu pobl anabl i ysbytai, ac i ddefnyddio model Cartref Cefnogol C.U.S.S. yn ei le.


Arloesi Gofal Lles

Dros y blynyddoedd, gweithiodd C.U.S.S. gydag awdurdodau lleol dros Gymru, i’w cefnogi wrth iddynt agor Cartrefi Cefnogol – gan roi cyngor ar sut i osod gwasanaethau newydd yn eu lle, a fyddai’n annog annibyniaeth ac urddas pobl anabl.

Newidiodd yr elusen ei henw i ‘Innovate Trust’ yn 2001, a mae’n parhau i arloesi heddiw: gan ddatblygu asiantaeth recriwtio arbennig i bobl anabl, creu busnes arlwyo i greu cyfleon gwaith i bobl anabl, a rhaglenni hyfforddiant ar gyfer pobl anabl sy’n diddori mewn gwaith amgylcheddol a threulio amser yn yr awyr agored.

Yn 2017, gweithiodd yr elusen ar y cyd â NESTA, i archwilio sut y gallai technolegau clyfar gael eu defnyddio i gefnogi pobl ag anableddau dysgu. Gwobrwywyd y prosiect, ac arweiniodd yr ymchwil at ddarparu technoleg clyfar i 197 o unigolion sy’n derbyn cefnogaeth gan yr elusen ar draws de Cymru.

Ffotograff o arddangosfa gyda phaneli a gwrthrychau mewn cesys

Mae 50 Mlynedd o Innovate Trust yn archwilio hanes cudd gofal lles. Mae’n olrhain stori grwp bychan o bobl anabl a myfyrwyr yn y 1960, a symbylodd newid byd, yn sut y mae’r sector feddygol a chymdeithas yn trin pobl anabl.

Diolch i gefnogaeth Cronfa Dreftadaeth y Loteri Genedlaethol, gweithiodd gwirfoddolwyr gydag amrywiaeth o anableddau dysgu i archwilio hanes anhygoel yr elusen – gan ymchwilio dogfennau, recordio cyfweliadau a sefydlu cofnodion parhaol mewn archifdai lleol. I gydnabod gwreiddiau’r prosiect ym Mhrifysgol Caerdydd, rhoddwyd archif gynnar ac adroddiadau’r prosiect i Gasgliadau Arbennig ac Archifau Prifysgol Caerdydd, ble gall unrhyw un ddod i’w darllen.

Mae’r arddangosfa ’50 mlynedd o’r Innovate Trust’ i’w gweld yng Nghasgliadau Arbennig ac Archifau Prifysgol Caerdydd, Llyfrgell y Celfyddydau a’r Gwyddorau Cymdeithasol, Rhodfa Colum, CF10 3EU. Os hoffech chi siarad yn uniongyrchol ag aelod o Innovate Trust, cysylltwch â Kieran Vass.

Diolch i Innovate Trust am gyflenwi lluniau ac ymchwil i greu’r blog hwn.

Celebrating 50 years of Innovate Trust: the amazing history of the UK’s first supported living home

Innovate Trust celebrates its 50th birthday this year. This independent charity, which has changed the lives of disabled people across the world, started right here, at Cardiff University. This year, volunteers with disabilities have delved into the charity’s humble beginnings, and are sharing its story through a new exhibition.

Innovate Trust – which started its life as ‘Cardiff Universities Social Services’ – works with adults with learning disabilities, mental health conditions, physical disabilities or sensory impairments in South Wales. They provide supported living services, as well as careers training, opportunities for work and socialising.

Starting as a trailblazing student project known as ‘C.U.S.S.’, it has since become one of the most influential charities of its kind – setting the standard world-wide for providing dignity and agency to people with learning disabilities.


Early Days 1967 – 1973

In 1967, a group of students at Cardiff University decided to challenge the status quo. They believed that, with the right support, people with learning disabilities could lead independent lives.

A lifetime of hospitalisation was a common occurrence for people with learning disabilities at the time. The ‘Ely Hospital Scandal’ had revealed that adults with learning disabilities in Cardiff were subject to poor care and cruelty. The students set out to prove that, as a society, we could do better – and the C.U.S.S. project was born.

Cardiff Universities Social Services, or C.U.S.S., volunteers worked supporting 25 adults with learning disabilities at Ely Hospital. The project provided days out, opportunities to learn new skills, and acted as a social contact.

Two men sit side by side, their hands overlapping. They are both smiling and looking happy

Prof Jim Mansell CBE, founding member of CUSS, with John O’Brien (1953 – 2011). John was one of the first people to join the CUSS group home project. In Ely Hospital, he had a reputation as short-tempered ‘trouble-maker’. His friends and colleagues at Innovate Trust remember him as a ‘patient and charming man’ with a ‘first class sense of humour’.


A Daring Escape

Two of the participants, emboldened and encouraged by what they’d learned through the project, decided to leave the hospital grounds on their own, to go swimming in the local pool.

When they were spotted by an off-duty nurse, the two were immediately returned to the hospital – and given a telling off. The student volunteers, however, felt secretly proud that the hospital’s residents had managed to get so far on their own.


The UK’s First Group Home – 1974

Following the success of the early volunteering project, the students felt more could be done to improve the lives of those with learning disabilities.

After much planning and preparation, the students worked with Cardiff Council and Ely Hospital to open the UK’s first group home. Five adults with learning disabilities from the hospital and three student volunteers moved in to a home in Rhuthin Gardens, Cathays. During the day, the group home tenants would spend their time at Trelai adult training centre, and the students attended lectures.

Black and white photograph of a man called Alan, who has Down's Syndrome. He looks happy.

Alan was one of the first inhabitants of the supported living home in Rhuthin Gardens. He had been confined to hospital since he was a young boy, and his participation in the group home project paved the way for better care for countless disabled people, enabling them to live full, happy lives.

Having been hospitalised for a number of years, each of the adults with disabilities were provided with basic support in learning to live independently. At Ely Hospital, they had not been afforded the opportunity to cook for themselves, to choose their clothes – after a short period of adjustment, the project participants found themselves leading happy, full lives as members of a community.


Further Development – from Hospitals to Homes

After the success of the group home experiment, the students spent the next few years raising awareness of the Group Home model – publishing research and reports, and sharing their work with local authorities, hospitals and universities. As it grew in its scope and reputation, the charity was able to relocate to a more sustainable property on King’s Road in Cardiff, and to open more group homes, funded by the Welsh Office.

In 1977, the charity also opened a respite centre for adults with learning disabilities who lived with their families. This home was used to provide a break for carers and adults with learning disabilities, and remains open to this day.

In 1981 Cardiff Council opened a new department, aimed at replicating and extending the Group Home project, opening a number of supported living homes. By 1983, the Welsh Office launched an ‘All Wales strategy for the development of Services for mentally handicapped people’. Partly a response to the Ely Hospital scandal, the strategy required that local authorities move away from the mass institutionalisation of people with learning disabilities, and adopt the supported living model developed by C.U.S.S.


Innovation in Social Care

Over the next few years, C.U.S.S. worked to support local authorities across Wales to implement this plan, giving advice on how to set up new services, which would offer independence, agency and dignity to people with learning disabilities.

The charity changed its name to Innovate Trust in 2001, and continued to, well, innovate: developing a bespoke recruitment service, creating a business providing employment for people with learning disabilities, training programmes for disabled people interested in environmental work and spending time outdoors.

In 2017, Innovate Trust worked with NESTA to explore how smart technology might be used to support people with learning disabilities. The award-winning project resulted in the provision of smart devices to 197 individuals receiving support across south east Wales.

Photograph of small exhibition, with text panels, and objects in cases

50 Years of Innovate Trust explores the hidden history of social care. It tells the story of how a small group of disabled people and student volunteers in the 1960s paved the way for radical change in how disabled people are treated by the medical profession, and by society at large.

Thanks to support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, volunteers with a range of learning abilities spent a year researching the organisation’s amazing history – researching documents, filming stories and establishing permanent records in local archives. As recognition of the organisation’s origins at Cardiff University, its early archives and reports were donated to the University’s Special Collections and Archives, where they can be accessed by anyone who wishes to read them.

The exhibition ‘50 Years of Innovate Trust‘ is on display at Cardiff University Special Collections and Archives, Arts and Social Studies Library, Colum Drive, CF10 3EU. If you would like to speak to a member of Innovate Trust, please contact Kieran Vass.

Published with thanks to the Innovate Trust for providing the research for this post.

Guest Post: The Cataloguing Apprentice

Today’s guest post comes from Emily Jones, a student in the ENCAP Project Management module. For her project, Emily catalogued the several editions of Milton’s works in the Cardiff Rare Book Collection.

Cataloguing. A word, that I have to admit, I did not know the definition of. What started as a requirement for a university module, concluded with a new found appreciation of books and librarians alike. Back in November, I nervously entered the Special Collections Library anxiously awaiting my first ‘cataloguing for beginners’ session. In my naivety, I believed that cataloguing involved a paper and pen and a very extensive list of old books. Oh, how wrong was I. As soon as I was taken into the ‘stacks’ and inhaled the scent of deliciously old and rare books, I knew I was home.

After browsing the collection, we soon came to the conclusion that the John Milton section was ready to be catalogued, and I, for one, was more than excited to start cataloguing them.

Having now completed 50 hours of cataloguing, I can firmly say that cataloguing a book is so much more than taking note of its name and author. I know now that to be a cataloguer requires expertise and so much patience. But, luckily, for me, I had a cataloguing teacher that was an expert and Christine just so happened to be very patient – the cataloging journey had officially begun.


This 1779 edition of Paradise Lost rests on a shaped pillow to protect the fragile binding and to hold the book at a comfortable viewing angle.

I arrived once again to the special collections library and awaited instruction. I was shown to a desk and a laptop. Christine then brought in a book that looked more fragile than broken glass. I was terrified to breathe near this book let alone touch it! I felt weirdly sorry for this little book with its worn pages and cracked spine. But, I digress. I was there to catalogue and not make emotional connections with the books. But best of all, I was given a book pillow to use. Yes reader(s), I was given a pillow for my book. A book pillow. Wild! However, before placing any book on it, there had to be a mandatory karate chop to the middle of the cushion to create a properly angled resting place for the spine of these veteran pages. My first task of the day, however, was to make note of the title, which was not as easy as one might think. You have to categorise the main part of the title (which in most cases is ‘Paradise Lost’) and then you take down the rest. Luckily for me, I love a strict system. There is a definite logic to cataloguing, and I am slowly getting it. On the rare occasion when I do get the format right it’s strangely satisfying. There is no denying that cataloguing is a skill – I just hope that one day it’s a skill that I can fully master.

When you get into the rhythm of cataloguing it is quite easy to become mechanic. Though I endeavoured to stay present, the continuous process of the cataloguing form made it easy to forget that these books have seen so much and in a way, lived a life. Until that is, I came across a lovely edition of Paradise Lost.


 Transcribed these pages read as:

John Fletcher second son of Joseph & Elizabeth born Friday 28th September 1759 at three O’clock in the afternoon or seven minutes after

Elizabeth Fletcher first daughter of the above Joseph & Elizabeth born on Tuesday morning the 4th August. 1761 at 6 Oclock

1802 February the 8th on Monday morning Mrs Vernon departed this life about 5 Oclock

John Fletcher died Friday the 13th July 1764 three quarters past four Oclock in the afternoon

This book then, had not only lived a life but, in it recorded the lives (and deaths) of its owners. I, for one, am glad that through the preservation and cataloguing work of Cardiff University this wonderful book, and the history that it holds, has been saved and is now searchable for generations to come. What a great thought.

What an experience this has been. From day one though, I have enjoyed every minute. I didn’t even know what ‘cataloguing’ meant when I started, but now I know, I have learned that it is oh so much more than making a boring old list. Each book had its own history, its own story, if you will. Each book also had an owner, that either subtly made it known or scribbled it on every page. Some books even had their own special stamp printed for the occasion.  Other owners even felt that the book was so important it became a location for their family history to reside – where births and deaths were recorded and passed down through the generations.

Nevertheless, my fifty hours are up, and my portfolio is full. This may be the end of this particular university module, but somehow, I don’t think that this is my last foray into the world of cataloguing as I am just not ready to leave it behind, just yet.

Cataloguer out.


Guest post: Daisy Ashford’s The Young Visiters: A Forgotten Bestseller

In today’s guest post, recent PhD graduate Lauren O’Hagan shares a recent discovery from the Janet Powney Collection of Children’s Literature.

For the past month, I have been helping to catalogue the Janet Powney Collection in Cardiff University’s Special Collections and Archives. Having worked extensively with the collection as part of my PhD research, I was very excited to have the opportunity to reacquaint myself with the wonderful Victorian and Edwardian children’s books that it comprises. As I sifted through the familiar colourful volumes with their decorative lettering and pictorial cloth covers, enjoying the pleasant scent unique to old books, I felt like I was reencountering old friends. That was until I came across an intruder, a strange trespasser that seemed out of place in a collection largely made up of religious novels that were given as prize books to the working-class children of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Britain.

The book stood at just 7” in height. It boasted quarter black cloth covers with marbled paper on its boards and a printed spine label: all characteristics of early publisher’s bindings (1820s-1840s) or temporary bindings. Inside, the text was printed on heavy wove paper with deckle edges, suggesting that the volume was, indeed, a product of the early nineteenth century. However, to my surprise, the front of the book clearly stated “Reset, 111th thousand Nov. 1919” meaning that 111,000 copies had been printed by November 1919. How could this be?


The binding and paper are in a style reminiscent of early 19th century books.

With the appearance of machine-made paper in the nineteenth century, the deckle edge (which is only found on handmade paper) gradually came to be seen as a status symbol. This tradition carried forward into the twentieth century when many presses advertised two versions of the same book: one with smooth trimmed edges and a higher-priced deckle version. Could this desire for prestige explain the unusual pages of the book? Perhaps so.


The only clue to the book’s provenance is this cryptic inscription.

But what about the binding itself? Now able to discount the fact that the book was an early publisher’s binding, the question arose that if the book was, indeed, a temporary binding, why did its owner never get it rebound? The longevity of temporary bindings was certainly underestimated, as attested by the survival of so many books with temporary bindings in special collections. Could the high quality of the temporary binding expound why the owner chose to keep it that way? Or perhaps they lacked the money to take the book to a binder and have it bound to match their own personal library. Unfortunately, the cryptic inscription on its front free endpaper – ‘Nora Xmas 1919 from “46”‘ – meant that no supporting information from census records about the socioeconomic status of the giver or recipient could be used to support this theory.


Illustrated dust jacket, from a copy for sale by James Cummins Booksellers.

It was not until I carried out further research on book history and antiquarian booksellers’ websites that I was able to solve this conundrum. These websites revealed that the volume was, in fact, originally issued with a dustjacket bearing a decorative illustration in grey and red. The copy in Special Collections clearly lacks this dustjacket, which offers some suggestion as to why the covers beneath are so uncharacteristically plain in appearance. Priced at 3 shillings and 6 pence (roughly £7.64), the book sat at the lower end of the market. Therefore, it is possible that all its ‘antiquarian’ features served to attract potential buyers who viewed the book in shops by making it look more valuable than it actually was.

Having resolved the mystery of the book’s uncharacteristic appearance, its frontispiece presented me with a new puzzle. It showed a photograph of a little girl with the caption ‘the author’. “The author?” I thought to myself. “How can that be?” Yet, as I dug into the story behind the book, it became apparent that yes indeed, the author was just a little girl: Daisy Ashford wrote The Young Visiters, or Mister Salteena’s Plan when she was just nine years old.


The author was just nine years old when she wrote The Young Visiters.

The Young Visiters is a society novel that parodies upper-class society in late Victorian England. It tells the story of Alfred Salteena, “an elderly man of 42”, who strives to become a gentleman in order to win the love of Ethel Monticue. Despite his best efforts, Ethel ends up marrying Bernard Clark, a real gentleman, thus breaking Alfred’s heart.


A facsimile of the original manuscript.

The novel was written by nine-year-old Ashford in 1890 in a school exercise book. The book lay forgotten in a drawer for many years until 1917 when Ashford rediscovered it and lent it to her friend, Margaret Mackenzie, who was recovering from an illness. Mackenzie passed on the book to Frank Swinnerton who worked as a reader for the publishing house Chatto and Windus. Swinnerton was so enthusiastic about the book’s raw innocence and naiveté that the publishing house immediately agreed to publish it almost exactly as it had been written. After hearing about this child prodigy, J.M. Barrie put himself forward to write the book’s preface.

In early 1919, The Young Visiters was released, complete with its childish spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, single-paragraph chapters and, of course, a preface by the distinguished J.M. Barrie. All of these factors contributed to the book’s massive success. In no time at all, it became a bestseller, reprinted eighteen times in its first year alone. The New York Times described it as “one of the most humorous books in literature.”


The novel was so successful that it was reprinted more than sixteen times and sold more than 111,000 copies in its first year.

In 1920, a stage play of the novel was written by Mrs George Norman and Margaret Mackenzie and first performed in London before transferring to New York shortly after. The play was praised strongly by critics, with Alexander Woolcott of The New York Times stating that “probably no novel was ever so reverently dramatized since the world began.” For some time, the book’s title even became a witty way in which to criticise other works of a naïve style. Edmund Wilson most famously referred to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise as “a classic in a class with The Young Visiters” in a bid to make fun of his childish writing style.

Over time, the book faded in popularity. This was largely due to a rumour that circulated, which claimed that it was an elaborate literary hoax and that J.M. Barrie himself was the real author. During the late 1960s, the book was rediscovered and a musical was produced by Michael Ashton and Ian Kellam. It resurfaced again in 1984 when a feature-length film starring Tracey Ullman and John Standing was released. In 2003, a television film version of the book starring Jim Broadbent, Lyndsey Marshal and Hugh Laurie was made by the BBC. However, The Young Visiters still remains widely unknown to even the most avid readers.

Shortly after the publication of The Young Visiters in 1919, a volume including some of Ashford’s other writings was released, the last of which, The Hangman’s Daughter, was written when she was fourteen. Ashford produced no other work in her lifetime. Instead, she led a quiet life in Reepham where she ran the King’s Arm Hotel with her husband James Devlin. Much speculation has taken place regarding why Ashford stopped writing. The most likely answer has been that she simply grew up.

Now largely forgotten, The Young Visiters was a record-breaking novel in its day, selling just as many copies as the better known My Man Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse and The Moon and Sixpence by W. Somerset Maugham, also released in the same year. Behind those unassuming covers of the little volume held in Special Collections lies a tale of genius and marvel, surprise and wonder, innocence and amusement. It just goes to show: you can never judge a book by its cover.

Dinas Cân: Cerddoriaeth, Archifau a Llyfrgelloedd yng Nghaerdydd

Efallai taw Caerdydd yw dinas fwyaf cerddorol y DU. Yn ogystal â dros 30 o glybiau a neuaddau cerddoriaeth fyw, mae’r ddinas yn gartre i gasgliadau cerddorol hollol anhygoel – o gyfansoddiadau gwreiddiol a chyfrolau hynafol, i doriadau papur newydd am ‘nose jobs’ Tom Jones.

I ddathlu diwylliant cerdd cyfoethog Caerdydd, fe ddaeth arbenigwyr ac archifwyr y ddinas at ei gilydd i rannu eu gwaith a’u casgliadau, fel rhan o Wythnos Archwilio Archifau.

O gantatas i gorau pwll glo, Grace Williams in Charlotte Church – fe gawsom flas ar gasgliadau cerdd Caerdydd, a chael golwg ar sut y mae cerddoriaeth wedi’i blethu yn rhan o hanes y ddinas ers canrifoedd.

Casgliadau Arbennig ac Archifau Prifysgol Caerdydd

Yn gyntaf, fe glywsom gan Alison Harvey, ein Archifydd fan hyn yng Nghasgliadau Arbennig ac Archifau Prifysgol Caerdydd. Mae’r casgliadau yma ar gael i unrhyw un sydd eisiau eu hastudio, ac mae’r archif ar agor i bawb. Dyma beth oedd ganddi i’w rannu – cofiwch droi’r is-deitlau ymlaen:


Llyfrgell Gangen a Threftadaeth Cathays

Ymunodd Katherine Whittington gyda ni nesaf, i ddangos beth sydd i’w ganfod yn Llyfrgell Gangen a Threftadaeth Cathays, sy’n agored i’r cyhoedd ac yn llawn adnoddau am hanes Caerdydd.

Mae eu casgliadau cyflawn o gopïau o’r Western Mail a’r South Wales Echo yn mynd mor bell yn ôl a’r 1860au – a maent yn ffynhonnell anhygoel sy’n dangos sut y mae cerddoriaeth boblogaidd wedi bod yn rhan o hanes cymdeithasol de Cymru.

woman with short hair holds a copy of a newspaper article, it is a tabloid-style article about the singer Charlotte Church, probably printed around the 2000s

Cerddoriaeth yn y wasg: Katherine yn dangos esiampl i ni o’r casgliad Western Mail

Er enghraifft, mae’r toriadau yma, am y gantores Charlotte Church, yn ddogfennau dadlennol, sy’n dangos sut yr oedd y wasg yn trin merched ifanc a phobl enwog ar droad y 21 ganrif. Yn ogystal ag archifau corau lleol, mae gan y llyfrgell gasgliad anarferol o gerddoriaeth ar CD gan artistiaid lleol o bob math.

Os oes diddordeb ‘da chi mewn chwilota yn eu casgliadau, mae ‘na Ganllaw Adnoddau ar gael, sy’n rhoi rhagor o wybodaeth fanwl am y celfyddydau yn eu casgliadau.

Archifau Morgannwg

Daeth Rhian Diggins atom i gyflwyno casgliadau eang ac amrywiol Archifau Morgannwg, gan ddweud “O’n i’n siwr bod stwff cerddorol ‘da ni – ond unwaith i fi ddechre edrych, sylwais i fod shwt gymaint o stwff da ni!”

Ma casgliadau Archifau Morgannwg yn cynnwys archifau corau, gwyliau cerdd, cymanfaoedd a chyngherddau, yn ogystal â biliau llaw Cymraeg prydferth, cynlluniau ar gyfer neuaddau cerdd sydd wedi hen ddiflannu, a chofnodion Llys sy’n ymwneud â thrwyddedu cerddoriaeth ar draws y ddinas.

woman standing up near screen, talking to a group of people

Rhian yn trafod casgliadau Archifau Morgannwg

Ymysg yr uchafbwyntiau oedd casgliad y Bwrdd Glo Cenedlaethol, sy’n dangos hanes bywyd cerddorol cymunedau diwydiannol de Cymru, ac archif y Côr Cochion – côr protest enwog y ddinas, sydd i’w canfod hyd heddiw y tu allan i’r Farchnad ar benwythnosau.

Mae Archifau Morgannwg ar agor i bawb, a cewch fwy o fanylion am sut i ymweld ar eu gwefan.

Ysgol Gerdd, Prifysgol Caerdydd

Charity Dove yw Llyfrgellydd Cerdd y Brifysgol, sy’n gyfrifol am gasglu a gofalu am lyfrgell ymchwil yr Ysgol Gerdd. Er taw myfyrwyr sy’n defnyddio’r llyfrgell yn bennaf, mae hi hefyd ar agor i’r cyhoedd, a gellir ei defnyddio am ddim. Caiff y cyhoedd ddefnyddio’r llyfrgell i gael gafael ar wybodaeth am gyfansoddwyr, arddulliau cerddoriaeth, techneg offerynnol a chasgliad o waith clasurol ar CD.

Mae casgliadau’r llyfrgell hon yn adlewyrchu diddordebau ymchwil staff yr Ysgol Gerdd dros y blynyddoedd, felly mae ystod eang iawn o bynciau diddorol i’w canfod yno. Mae’r catalog wedi’i greu mewn ffordd sy’n ei wneud yn rhwydd iawn i ymchwilio yn ôl cyfansoddwr.

Llyfrgell BBC NOW

Ymunodd Eugene Monteith â ni o lyfrgell Cerddorfa Genedlaethol Gymreig y BBC, sydd i’w chanfod ym Mae Caerdydd. Mae’r llyfrgell yn gofalu am sgorau cerddorfaol llawn ar gyfer cannoedd o symffonau a cherddoriaeth boblogaidd, ar gyfer defnydd cerddorfeydd proffesiynol y BBC. Roedd yn wych clywed am lyfrgell sydd yn gweinyddu cynulleidfa benodol iawn, a sy’n chwarae rhan allweddol yn niwylliant perfformio a darlledu cerddoriaeth glasurol i gynulleidfaoedd poblogaidd.

Yn ogystal â’r sgorau, mae’r llyfrgell yn gofalu am waith cyfansoddwyr Cymreig, sgorau llais sydd wedi’u casglu dros 35 mlynedd o gynnal cystadleuaeth Canwr y Byd Caerdydd, a chasgliad eang o sgorau cerddorfaol o draciau sain ffilm.

Making Music

a young man in jeans giving a talk in front of a brick wall

Iori Haugen yn trafod system ffeirio sgoriau wych Making Music

Daeth Iori Haugen i siarad gyda ni am waith Making Music yng Nghymru. Mae Making Music yn gorff eirioli sy’n hyrwyddo chwarae a dysgu cerddoriaeth mewn amser hamdden – o fandiau pres i unigolion.

Er nad oes casgliad eu hunain ganddynt, mae Making Music yn gweinyddu system ffeirio sgoriau ar draws y DU – ble gall unrhyw aelodau wneud cais am sgôr a’i benthyg gan gerddorfa neu fand sydd ddim yn eu defnyddio. Maen nhw hefyd yn ymgyrchu dros addysg gerddoriaeth mewn ysgolion, ac yn hyrwyddo chwarae cerddoriaeth o bob math.

Ysgol Gerdd Prifysgol Caerdydd

archive photo of Morfydd Owen, a fair young woman with dark hair and dark eyes. Taken in the 1900s

Morfydd Owen. Bydd modd clywed rhai o’i gweithiau am y tro cyntaf eleni

Daeth Dr Peter Leech i drafod ei waith yn archwilio Archif Morfydd Owen yma yng Nghasgliadau Arbennig ac Archifau y Brifysgol, gyda Megan Auld. Mae’n nhw wedi bod yn ymchwilio cyfansoddiadau penodol gan Ms Owen – rhai oedd heb eu gorffen yn llawn pan fu farw yn 26 oed. Dyw’r cyfansoddiadau yma heb eu perfformio erioed o’r blaen.

Disgrifiodd Dr Leech y broses gerddorol ac academaidd o weithio gyda ‘sgetsys’ cerddorol – nodiant heb ei orffen yn llawn, sy’n aml wedi’i sgrifennu â llaw – i greu cerddoriaeth y mae modd ei berfformio heddiw. Canlyniad eu hymchwil yw bod modd perfformio’r gweithiau gan Ms Owen am y tro cyntaf erioed eleni – a gellir clywed y gerddoriaeth yma am y tro cyntaf mewn cyngerdd arbennig ar Ragfyr y 14eg.

Rhagor o wybodaeth am gyngerdd ‘Dathlu Morfydd’, Rhagfyr 14eg.

Tŷ Cerdd

Ymunodd Ethan Davies â ni i gyflwyno casgliad Tŷ Cerdd. Mae’r casgliad yma yn cynrychioli cyfoeth gwaith cyfansoddwyr Cymreig, a rhennir y dogfennau rhwng Aberystwyth a Bae Caerdydd. Gallwch ymweld â’r casgliad yng Nghaerdydd trwy wneud apwyntiad.

Mae’r casgliad a gedwir yn Aberystwyth yn cynnwys gweithiau unigryw gan gyfansoddwyr fel Grace Williams, Alun Hoddinott a llawer mwy – maent o dan ofal y Llyfrgell Genedlaethol. Yng Nghaerdydd mae casgliad eang o recordiadau a deunydd print ar thema cerddoriaeth a chyfansoddwyr Cymru.

Mae Ty Cerdd yn sefydliad sy’n hybu a dathlu cerddoriaeth Gymreig – yn ogystal â’r casgliad, maen nhw’n cynnig cyngor i gerddorion ar recordio a marchnata eu cerddoriaeth.

Amgueddfa Cymru

Rhannodd Jennifer Evans wybodaeth gyda ni am gasgliadau llyfrgell Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Caerdydd, sydd ar agor i’r cyhoedd ar gais. Mae casgliadau cerddorol y llyfrgell yn cynnwys llyfrau lloffion sy’n olrhain hanes cynnar yr amgueddfa – gan gynnwys rhaglenni cyngherddau a ffotograffau o berfformiadau.

Yn ogystal â’u harchif sefydliadol, mae ganddynt gasgliad o archif Gwendoline a Margaret Davies, sy’n cynnwys rhaglenni o Wyl Gregynog, oedd yn gyrchfan i gyfansoddwyr a cherddorion enwog fel Gustav Holst a Vaughan Williams.

Soniodd Jennifer hefyd am yr archif sain a hanes llafar yn Sain Ffagan, sy’n llawn recordiadau o hanes cymdeithasol, a wnaethpwyd yn yr 20ed ganrif yn bennaf. Mae’r casgliad caneuon gwerin yn drysor, sy’n cynnwys recordiadau o bobl ar hyd a lled y wlad yn canu ar yr aelwyd. Yn y casgliad hwn ceir amrywiaeth o dafodieithoedd, alawon, caneuon gwerin, baledi ac emynau.

Cerddoriaeth yn yr Archif – Gwahoddiad

‘Dyn ni’n gobeithio bod ein crynodeb wedi ennyn eich diddordeb mewn archifau cerdd. Os oes chwant chwilota arnoch chi, gallwch ddefnyddio a’r Hwb Archif i weld be’ sy’ mlaen yn eich ardal chi.

Hoffem ni ddweud diolch yn fawr iawn i bawb a gyfrannodd i ddigwyddiad Dinas Cân – diolch am rannu eich casgliadau gyda ni! Roedd yn bleser cael clywed am amrywiaeth a dyfnder casgliadau cerddorol ein dinas.

Os ydych chi’n gerddor, gynhyrchwr neu berfformiwr, a fe hoffech chi ddod i ddigwyddiad tebyg yn y dyfodol – cysylltwch â ni. Rydym ni’n barod i’ch croesawu yma yng Nghasgliadau Arbennig ac Archifau’r Brifysgol – felly os hoffech chi ymweld, dyma ragor o wybodaeth: ymweld â Chasgliadau Arbennig ac Archifau.

Guest Post: The Barbiers and the French Army

After completing her work on the Barbier archive, our CUROP intern Katy Stone shares her final, fascinating discoveries about life in the French army at the end of the nineteenth and turn of the twentieth century.

For my final blog about the Barbiers I’d like to share some contrasting discoveries about Cardiff-born Georges and Jules Barbier’s experiences of military service with the French Army, revealed through their heartfelt letters written from 1898 to 1904. As shown in a blog by last year’s CUROP student Pip Bartlett, all of the Barbier brothers – due to their dual nationality – completed mandatory national military service with the French Army well before the First World War, with both Georges and Jules subsequently remaining ‘poilus’, or ordinary field soldiers.

Georges Barbier and the comfort of letters in Le Mans

In 1899 Georges Barbier was deployed to the 26th Artillery in Le Mans and many of his letters support Pip’s previous insight that, out of all the family members who went to war, he undoubtedly suffered the loneliest military experience. In one letter dated 3 February 1899, he paints a dark picture of the stark living conditions within his regiment, describing his barracks as a “dirty shack” and expressing gratitude to his brother, Paul Barbier fils, for writing to him – “it is such a blessing to receive letters in this hole”. Georges was clearly unhappy in his regiment and their frequent exchange of letters was not only a source of comfort, but also a channel for escapism. To make things worse, he appears to have found it difficult to fit in with his peers – “all those who sleep in the same room as me are vagabonds, so I have no luck at all”. Hard work was, surprisingly, a blessing in disguise for Georges and I was struck to find him striving for more – “The work is very hard, but that I don’t mind in the least for when I have plenty of work I have not time to worry, which is a very good thing for me”. This eagerness throws light on the mental challenges faced by many soldiers on a daily basis – he was “completely disgusted with life” and would “rather do hard labour than be controlled by a lot of morons who can’t read”.

Scan 1

Barrack detail from a letter dated 20 Februray 1899

Other letters give an insight into his basic military diet – “I live on bread and cheese and once a week I eat meat, on Sundays”. It was also surprising to learn that Georges had to pay for his military meals out of his own pocket, and that his limited financial means meant there was no spare money for any luxuries – “I find that I eat very little here. I have no appetite, and not only that but I have to pay for everything I eat”. A letter to his mother, Euphémie, dated 31 January 1899 reinforces the daily struggle faced by the majority of his peers – “I was so ashamed to buy for so little that I nearly broke down, when there was a lot that could not do as much”. Life was tough in the French Army and although stress and anxiety may have been accountable for his poor appetite, the demands of the physical work also contributed to his struggles with mental and physical health. In his letters he complains of toothaches, headaches and sore feet, yet despite “suffering a great deal”, he avoids going to see the doctor because he “would have to stop work, not only that but I would be unable to go out in the evening”. Another letter sheds light on his perception of being treated differently to his French peers due to his British identity – “You know I have been very sick and had to get treatment in town because the major refused to recognise me … I believe it’s because I’m English”.

Scan 2

Insignia of the Soissons Regiment, 1899

Jules Barbier “far from being miserable” at Soissons

Jules Barbier seems to have experienced a far less despondent national service with an infantry in Soissons. He recalls being “received very kindly” at the barracks, and remarks that “there are some nice boys” and “all the officers have been very kind”. In contrast to the discrimination faced by Georges at Le Mans, Jules mentions that his captain remarked “it was very nice of me to come and do my service from England”. This would have no doubt boosted his enthusiasm and spirits, enhancing his military experience and possibly reinforcing his bond with his French heritage. The Barbier Archive gave me the impression that Jules, to some extent at least,  enjoyed his work in the French infantry, often describing his activities in a buoyant tone – “Yesterday I was taught to salute and about different ranks of officers. I was given my rifle, and tomorrow we will exercise”. This is in stark contrast to the more physically demanding and draining responsibilities encountered by Georges.

Scan 3

Self-portrait of Jules E. Barbier in a letter to his mother, 5 August, 1899

Like Georges, however, Jules often reported that money and food were particularly scant, referring to himself as being “as poor as a church mouse”. In one letter dated 11 February 1899, he feels ashamed for having to borrow 15 francs from a friend, alluding that money was a lingering concern. All his money was solely spent on necessities – “I’m just eating, I’m always hungry”, suggesting that there was no such thing as disposable income in the French Army. Despite having a more positive experience than his brother, Jules’s time in the military was also hampered by illness; “I am in the infirmary. Last bed. I was taken ill with a fever and also with my throat in fact. I have got an abscess there and it is very painful”. But the fact that he was admitted to the infirmary, and a promise that his captain “would come to see me in the hospital”, suggests that the quality of pastoral care was far superior to that experienced by Georges. In one letter Jules announces “I am far from being miserable” and is eager to return to his duties – “Time passes very slowly here in the hospital. I would be pretty eager to go back to the barracks”.

Early colour printing of a barracks scene, 1899

When I embarked on my summer placement with the Barbier Archive at Special Collections and Archives, I did not expect to discover such contrasting personal accounts of life in the French Army through the eyes of the sons of Cardiff. Sometimes harrowing, often spirited, but always heartfelt, this fascinating archive paints a vivid picture of everyday life at a time when the world was on the cusp of one of its most turbulent periods. It has been an absolute indulgence to be able to tease out yet another remarkable story in Cardiff’s history.


Guest post: Conserving the Collingwood Archive

This post comes from Devin Mattlin and Joanne Hoppe, MSc Conservation Practice students at Cardiff University, and conservation volunteers at Glamorgan Archives. Both have been working on the Collingwood Archive conservation project as student conservators thanks to the generous support of the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust

Earlier of this year we had the fantastic opportunity to help conserve a collection of diaries and sketchbooks from the Collingwood Archive held at Special Collections and Archives, Cardiff University. The Collingwoods were a world-famous family of remarkable artists, archaeologists, and writers from the Lake District. W. G. Collingwood was John Ruskin’s secretary and biographer, and a friend of Arthur Ransome, author of Swallows and Amazons and a suspected double agent. The archive spans 60 boxes and comprises a treasure trove of distinctive materials largely inaccessible to research and the public – thousands of letters and correspondence dating from the 18th century (including letters from E. M. Forster and Beatrix Potter), diaries, sketches, personal recipe books, photographs, illustrated story books and outstanding landscapes of the Lake District.

Jo & Devinstudy of English costume

Study of English Costume, possibly by one of the Collingwood children, c. 19th century


Jo & Devin diary before conservation (002)

Diary of Dora Collingwood (1886-1964), before conservation work

In 2017, Cardiff University’s Special Collections and Archives was awarded their second successive grant from the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust to conserve key items from the archive, and we were delighted to be selected as part of our MSc Conservation Practice course to give them a hand. This was a great opportunity to learn new skills in paper conservation and to work with Lydia Stirling, an Accredited Conservation-Restorer, at Glamorgan Archives. The objects in question dated roughly from the late 19th to the early 20th centuries and consisted of several diaries, sketchbooks and a recipe book. The ultimate goal of the conservation work was to stabilise the objects for responsible and appropriate display, and allow access to researchers and the public in the Special Collections and Archives Reading Room.

A Sketchbook of British Costume

One of the first objects we treated was a sketchbook of British Costume (c. 19th century) written in iron gall ink which, if left untreated, can rust through paper. This was confirmed with iron (II) indicator paper, as seen in the figure below – the paper turns a pink colour if iron (II) is present.   After removing the dirt from the surface using a smoke sponge the pages were labelled in pencil and the threads used to originally sew the pages together were removed. To stabilise the iron gall ink, the pages were placed into four different water baths for 10 minutes each: water, calcium phytate, water, calcium bicarbonate. The calcium phytate reacts with the iron to form iron phytate compounds, which progressively slows down the iron corrosion. The calcium bicarbonate bath stabilises the paper by reducing its acidity, because as paper ages it becomes more acidic and thus more brittle. After the last water bath the wet pages were placed between blotter paper to dry. Once the pages had dried flat, the book was rebound using waxed linen thread.

Jo & Devin iron gall ink testing (002)

Iron gall ink testing showing a positive result

Jo & Devin iron gall ink treatment

Joanne stabilising the iron gall ink in various water baths

Collingwood Diaries

Many of the Collingwood diaries were falling apart and needed repairing due to the broken metal staples that were used to bind the pages together. To treat this type of damage we first removed the staples with a spatula, cleaned the surface and numbered the pages (once unbound, the sequence of the pages could be lost). Treatment of the holes involved shaping a piece of Japanese repair paper to the size of the hole by placing the original page on a light box with a sheet of plastic and the repair paper on top. The repair paper was then shaped to match the hole by using a needle and was then applied to the hole with wheat starch paste. A layer of thin Japanese tissue was then applied over the repair which was also treated with wheat starch paste to make it stronger. Tears in the paper were also repaired in the same way. Once all the repairs were done, the diaries were rebound, and the covers were reattached by adding mull (a type of bookbinding cloth) to the edge where the spine attaches and then adhering the repaired cover to that cloth strip.

Jo & Devin lifting leather

The boards are revealed under the original leather cover

However, one of the diaries could not be treated in the same way because it had a leather cover, unlike the others, which were paper. The spine on this diary had almost completely fallen off, so we made the decision to authentically restore it using new leather. First, the original cover was cut and lifted to expose the boards underneath. The repair leather was then shaved with knives to make it as thin as possible, so it would bend easily and fit under the original leather. Once the piece was sufficiently thin enough, it was saturated with wheat starch paste and then fitted onto the spine and under the lifted original leather. The original leather was then adhered on top.

Jo & Devin Spine Repair

Finished spine with the repair leather


The Collingwood Celebratory Conference

After we had completed the work we were delighted when the project team invited us to talk about our experience at the Collingwood Archive Celebratory Conference. Here we were given a fantastic platform to present our journey with the archive to a large audience of over 40 delegates from across the world, and share what conservation is and how archives are cared for. We were so grateful to the project team for this opportunity to communicate with many different heritage stakeholders, an essential skill that will be invaluable as we embark on our careers in conservation.

Jo & Devin conference talk (002)

Devin and Joanne sharing their conservation experiences at the Collingwood Archive Celebratory Conference, April 2018

We would like to thank Lydia Sterling, Alan Vaughan Hughes and the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust for the opportunity to work with such a unique collection. Through this experience we practiced our paper conservation, bookbinding, and communication skills. It was also interesting to see beautiful artwork and to get a glimpse into the lives of the Collingwood family and the Victorian era. Our favourite items had to be an article pasted into the recipe book discussing how onions are so underrated, and a Cadbury’s advert from 1881!

In dog-eared pursuit of Isaac Newton’s library

I am very pleased to announce the discovery of another book which we believe to have come from the library of Isaac Newton. Our copy of The Paschal or Lent-Fast apostolical & perpetual by Peter Gunning (London, 1662) is the third volume we’ve found in our stacks (so far) with a connection to the illustrious scientist. As in the case of our first discovery, it all began with a couple of bookplates. 

Shortly after Isaac Newton’s death, his entire library was purchased for £300 by a local prison warden named John Huggins. Not an especially scholarly man himself, he had acquired the books for his son Charles who had recently become rector at Chinnor in Oxfordshire. On the books’ arrival at the rectory, Charles Huggins’ armorial bookplate (which can be seen here) was pasted into each volume.


James Musgrave’s bookplate, with Charles Huggins’ bookplate faintly visible underneath.

When Charles died in 1750, the benefice of Chinnor went to Dr. James Musgrave, who was an acquaintance (and later, son-in-law) of Charles’ older brother William. Along with the patronage, Huggins sold the contents of the library to Musgrave, who placed his own bookplate bearing the motto “Philosophemur” on top of, or occasionally beside the Huggins bookplate.

The books remained in the Musgrave family for several generations, but by the end of the 18th century, their association with Newton appears to have been forgotten. When the family experienced financial difficulties in the 1920s, hundreds of the books were sold at auction and scattered around the world. 

So on Wednesday afternoon when I sat down to catalogue this rather unassuming quarto and saw a bookplate with the motto “Philosophemur” and the shadow of another armorial bookplate underneath, I began to get rather excited. 

title page

The Paschal or Lent-Fast apostolical & perpetual by Peter Gunning (London, 1662), with James Musgrave’s “Philosophemur” bookplate on the pastedown.

There was still plenty of work to be done before I felt comfortable announcing that we’d found another Newton book though. The presence of both the Musgrave and Huggins bookplates is generally accepted as proof that a book previously belonged to Isaac Newton. However, Charles Huggins would also have placed his bookplate in any books he purchased after acquiring Newton’s library, so the bookplates alone are not an absolute guarantee.

Fortunately for us, the 1727 purchase was accompanied by a list of titles included in the sale, commonly called he “Huggins list”. The original manuscript still survives in the collections of the British Library and its contents have been published in The library of Isaac Newton by John Harrison. Short of Newton’s own handwriting, inclusion on the Huggins list is the most definitive form of proof that a book came from his library. Unfortunately for us, The Paschal or Lent-Fast does not appear on that list.

This isn’t quite as damning as it sounds, however. Thanks to a detailed inventory of Newton’s possessions which was conducted shortly after his death, we know that his library held 1,896 printed volumes, along with an unspecified number of pamphlets. The Huggins list includes 969 separate titles comprising 1,442 volumes, but also several vague entries for groups of books, such as “3 Dozen” or “About a hundred & half”. It’s entirely possible that our volume belonged to one of those blanket entries.

ownership inscription

Our volume has inscriptions on the title page, but not in Newton’s hand.

Without a matching entry on the Huggins list, I would need to look for evidence left by Newton himself, such as marginalia in Newton’s own hand. The only ink markings on our volume are an earlier ownership inscription on the title page (“Th: Ch:”) and a price (“pr: 4s 6d”) in what appears to be the same hand, suggesting that Newton bought the book second-hand.

He did have a habit of marking his books in another way though. Several of Newton’s books have dog-eared corners, and not just with small, neat, page-marking folds. He would fold over large portions of pages so that the corner pointed to a particular word or passage on the page. (You can read more about Newton’s dog-ears here.) While all of the leaves in our volume are currently unfolded, I noticed while checking the book’s signature statement that I could just make out the shadow of a crease on several leaves, showing that they had once been dog-eared in a manner very much like what’s described in the link above. Without an entry on the Huggins list or Isaac Newton’s own handwriting in the margins, it’s impossible to be 100% certain of the book’s origins, but between the dog-eared pages and the bookplate evidence, it seems reasonably likely that our copy did, in fact, come from Newton’s library.


The corners of several pages show signs of having been folded in the past.

As I mentioned earlier, The Paschal or Lent-Fast is the third book we’ve found bearing both the Huggins and Musgrave bookplates. Our first discovery came in 2012 when my predecessor Ken Gibb traced the history of our copy of Myographia Nova by John Browne (London, 1698) by means of the two bookplates on the front pastedown of the volume. The second volume to come to light was Meteorologicorum libri sex by Libert Froidmont (Oxford, 1639), also catalogued in 2012. A fourth volume, The works of that learned and judicious divine, Mr. Richard Hooker (London, 1676), has Musgrave’s bookplate but not Huggins’, suggesting that it may have been a later addition to the Musgrave family library. All four volumes come from the Cardiff Rare Books Collection, which Cardiff University purchased from Cardiff City Council in 2010.

When much of the Musgrave family library was auctioned off in 1920, its association with Newton was long forgotten and the books sold at bargain prices, the majority of them in lots cof several books bundled together as “Theology (Old)” or “Books (various)”. In 1927, Richard de Villamil published an article in The Bookman entitled “The tragedy of Sir Isaac Newton’s Library” tracing the connection between the Musgraves and Newton. After the article’s publication, the value of books bearing both the Huggins and Musgrave bookplates skyrocketed. 

booksellers note

A bookseller’s note in Myographia nova reads, “A fine Copy with brilliant impression of the portrait by White.”

Both Myographia nova and Meteorologicorum libri sex have their purchase prices written in pencil on the front pastedowns (£5-10-10 for  and £1-15, respectively) and neither seems astronomically high. For comparison, a 1655 edition of Euclid which sold for five shillings in 1920 was offered for sale at £500 the following year after the scribbles in its margins were identified as Newton’s own hand (see Harrison, p. 51-52). Our copy of Myographia nova has a bookseller’s note describing it as a “fine Copy” but with no mention of Newton anywhere, suggesting that it was sold before the publication of de Villamil’s article in 1927.

In the early 1920s, the Cardiff Public Library was still actively building its rare book collection, so it is not inconceivable that more books from the Musgrave auction may have ended up in their stacks. Given that a significant portion of the Cardiff Rare Books Collection has not yet been fully catalogued, I can’t help but wonder how many more of Newton’s books might be there, waiting to be uncovered.

Guest Post: The Barbier Family in Victorian Cardiff

Yet another fascinating post on the Barbier family courtesy of Katy Stone, who is discovering much about this exceptional family, and life in Victorian Cardiff, by working her way through their archive as part of a CUROP project to catalogue this unique resource.

In this blog post, I’d like to share my discoveries about life in Cardiff during the Victorian era (1837-1901), as seen through the eyes of the Barbiers. Since I started working with the archive earlier this summer, I have sifted through boxes of letters from 1898, 1899, 1900, 1901, 1903 and 1904, and they have given me a fascinating insight into daily life in the Welsh capital during the late 19th and early 20th century.

Sadly, the letters reveal that poor housing conditions, outbreaks of infectious disease and premature death were not uncommon in Cardiff. Much of the archive in this period is dedicated to correspondence from Euphémie Barbier to her son Paul Barbier Fils. In one of her letters I discovered that a servant of the De Guélis household fell ill with diphtheria due to unsatisfactory sewage arrangements in the house. I have also found repeated reports of influenza, particularly during 1898 and 1899, and in one unfortunate case the family’s milkman died very suddenly, showing how the epidemic could lead rapidly to pneumonia. Euphémie’s letters also highlight poor dental health. The younger Euphémie Barbier (known as Phémie), suffered terribly from neuralgia (intense pain along a nerve, especially in the head or face). One letter from 1898 recounts how her mother had called the doctor as her daughter’s hands and face were “twitching”. I was particularly struck by Euphémie’s explanation of how she tried to bribe the doctor with cups of strong black coffee to encourage her to visit again, underlining the high demand for access to medical care. Her letters also mention a variety of other disorders including brain tumours, lumbago, ringworm and chicken pox. Victorian Cardiff’s poor sanitary conditions are boldly summed up by Georges Barbier’s stark description of the city as a “dirty hole”.

The Barbier letters also reveal stories about the widespread use of curious medicines during this era. In a letter from 1898, Euphémie Barbier advised her son to take “rhubarb pills” or “Epsom salts” to help alleviate the deafness in his ear. Another example from 1898, tells of the application of cocaine to treat an abscess on Isabelle Barbier’s mouth, which surprised me given it’s illegal today! More often than not though, simply taking a bath was recommended to relieve the painful symptoms of various ailments and illnesses. In one letter, Georges Barbier even recommends mixing disinfectant into bathwater in order to kill germs, which sounds a bit extreme to me!

1 Barbier Victorian Cardiff

The poor quality of public health appears to have put a strain on family finances as contemporaries were often forced to take time off school or work to recover. I quickly noticed from the letters that there was a daily struggle to make ends meet. Euphémie’s lists of household spending usually included only basic commodities, highlighting that luxuries were rare. Opportunities to go out or travel were often missed, and Euphémie remarked that it was “unfortunate” to have to live like that on a daily basis. In fact, as the mother of the Barbier Family, her letters are often preoccupied with money worries, describing the pressure to pay taxes as “tormenting”.

The archive also reveals Victorian attitudes to education, with a letter written by Uline Barbier featuring an illustration of a boy wearing a ‘dunce’ hat drawn by Paul Barbier Fils. Pupils who were slow at learning were made to stand in a corner wearing a tall pointed hat decorated with a letter D or sometimes the word ‘dunce’, while the teacher and their peers mocked them. Nowadays this seems harsh, but contemporaries believed that all pupils were capable of learning and that a slow or backward pupil was being deliberately lazy or reluctant to learn. I was stunned by a criticism made by Phémie’s geography teacher, Joan Reynolds; “I know that your mental capacity is not great, in fact we all know that you have not much brain power”.

4 Barbier Victorian Cardiff

Victorian Cardiff is certainly portrayed as a close-knit, vibrant community by the archive, with many letters uncovering a wealth of clues about the social activities of the Barbiers during this era. They often dined with family friends, danced, listened to music and played chess, for example, and generous gifts like brandy, chocolates, sweets and even chickens, were often received. Personally, I think this shows how much the Barbier Family were truly valued and respected by their friends and the wider Cardiff community.

I also noticed references to a number of monuments to civic pride in Cardiff during this period. Phémie writes about an exhibition for the stores of Cardiff to promote their businesses to the public at Park Hall, a theatre and cinema that was situated along Park Place, for example. Dances were also held in places such as Aberdare Hall, a residence for female students established in 1883 by the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire, which now stands a Grade II-listed Gothic revival hall of residence belonging to Cardiff University.

Overall, the Barbier Archive offers colourful insights into many aspects of life in Cardiff during Queen Victoria’s reign. It has been particularly fascinating to discover a series of health epidemics, and the pessimistic outlook people held towards potential learning difficulties. I look forward to sharing further discoveries that emerge from the extraordinary range of materials I have encountered whilst working on this magnificent archive, which holds great potential for future researchers.