Five Highlights from The National Library of Wales

Discover the key collections items from one of the world's greatest libraries

By The National Library of Wales

The National Library fo WalesThe National Library of Wales

Home to the heritage and culture of Wales

The National Library of Wales is one of the world’s most renowned libraries. Established in 1907 and located in an iconic building in Aberystwyth, the Library is home to priceless collections of books, rare manuscripts, paintings and maps. Explore some of its highlights below. 

Vase of Flowers, by Gwen John (1910s) by John, GwenThe National Library of Wales

1. Vase of Flowers by Gwen John

Gwen John is considered to be Wales' most important 20th century artist. Born in Haverfordwest, S. W. Wales in 1876, the elder sister of Augustus John, she studied at the Slade School of Art, London and subsequently moved to France where she spent the rest of her life.

Her thought provoking work ‘Vase of Flowers’ ca. 1910, with her use of subtle colours and muted tones, creates a sense of stillness and tranquillity but also a sense of unease due to the garment which has been flung over a piece of furniture in the background.

Her work is reminiscent of post-impressionist painting whilst it also signifies her strength and independence as a female artist.

John Charles (1954-10-22) by Geoff Charles (1909-2002)The National Library of Wales

2. John Charles by photo-journalist Geoff Charles

John Charles (1931-2004), Welsh international footballer, who is regarded as one of the greatest British footballers of all time. Here he is in 1954, Wales vs Scotland, Ninian Park, Cardiff.

Geoff Charles' contribution to Welsh photography is unique. His approach is characterized by both an innate talent and an empathy for his subjects. He worked as a photojournalist in Wales between 1930-1970.Today his archive is one of the treasures of the National Library of Wales.

The Gathering, Farmers on Glyder Fach, by Kyffin Williams (1980s) by Williams, KyffinThe National Library of Wales

3. The Gathering, Farmers on Glyder Fach, by Kyffin Williams

Kyffin Williams stated that this was one of the greatest works he ever painted. It depicts one of his favourite scenes of famers with their sheepdogs gathered on top of the snowy Glyder Fach mountain in North Wales under an atmospheric sky.

His use of a thick oil paint heavily applied onto the canvas with his palette knife was typical of Kyffin’s style and became iconographic. Through this unique application of paint one felt an intense energy flowing from his work.

White Book of Rhydderch (1350)The National Library of Wales

4. The White Book of Rhydderch

The White Book of Rhydderch is one of the most notable and celebrated manuscripts in the National Library of Wales. Recorded in Middle Welsh in c.1350 from earlier oral traditions, it includes the earliest copy of the medieval Welsh tales known as the Mabinogion.

The Mabinogion is a famous collection of stories from the oral tradition of Welsh bards. The tales are based on myths and history of Celtic Britian. They are considered to be one of Wales’s chief contributions to world literature.

Prima Europe tabula (Map of the British Isles from Ptolemy's Geography) (1486/1486) by Reger, Johann fl. (1486-1499)The National Library of Wales

5. Primo Europe tabula (Map of the British Isles)

Published in 1486, this is the oldest surviving geographical record of Wales and is taken from Geographia, a treatise on cartography originally written in the 2nd century by the Greek geographer, Claudius Ptolemy.

It is one of the earliest printed maps of the British Isles, and is the oldest item in the National Library’s map collection

Explore more from the National Library of Wales here. 

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