Category Archives: Library

Never Judge a Book By Its Covers!

Whilst cataloguing books from the Old College Library we came upon a couple of pamphlets which, as you can see from the pictures below, might not have warranted a second glance. Stained, frayed at the edges, and faded by the years, they could have easily been overlooked. Appearances can be deceptive though, and a closer inspection of these two fragile books revealed their true worth.

Uncle TomIt would appear that they are one of the two earliest translations into Welsh of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. This abridged translation by Y Lefiad (a pseudonym of William Williams) was published in Abertawy in 1853 just one year after the very first printing in Boston.  They are scarce items and from our preliminary research we have only been able to locate one other copy and that is just of Volume Two.
These are rare and important works then. They may be a little frayed around the edges but as Shakespeare reminds us in The Merchant of Venice, “not all that glisters is gold”, and their worth is reflected by the fact that they are now housed safely in the Rare Book Room of the Hugh Owen Library.

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Thomas Gywnn Jones 1871-1949

We have recently catalogued a small collection of Irish-Gaelic books that were donated to the University by T. Gwynn Jones, a former member of the Welsh Department at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth and holder of the Gregynog Chair of Welsh Literature from 1919 until his retirement in 1937. The collection reflects Jones’s interest in Celtic languages and his long-standing affinity with Ireland, cemented by three visits there in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.

There were some really interesting finds amongst the collection including this 1922 edition of what we understand to be the first (partial) translation of Don Quixote into any Celtic language by Peadar Ua Laoghaire (Peter O’Leary).

Don Quixote T.G.J.

Also in the collection is a signed 1943 edition of: Danta eagsamla agus beanla cunta onta ag Dubglas de h-ide (Miscellaneous poems translated into English by Douglas Hyde). Hyde was the first President of Ireland, serving between 1938 and 1945 and there are a number of his books in the collection.
Other titles from the T. Gwynn Jones collection include:

Oċt sgéalta ó Ċoillte Máġaċ. An Craoiḃín Aoiḃinn; do scríoḃ ó ḃéal Tomáis Uí Ċaṫasaiġ.

Aḃráin ġráḋa ċúige Ċonnaċt / ar n-a gcruinniuġaḋ agus ar n-a ḃfoillsiuġaḋ de’n ċéad uair le Duḃglas De h-Íde (an Craoiḃín Aoiḃinn) ; ar n-a gcur amaċ anois arís agus tuilleaḋ aḃrán leó.

An gráḋ agus an ġruaim / Seosaṁ mac Grianna do scríoḃ.

Sgealta a fili na Romha

T.G.J. SignatureFurther titles from the collection can be found by searching for T. Gwynn Jones in Primo and looking for: T Jones (Thomas Gwynn), 1871-1949 former owner, in the listings. Look out for his signature in the books.

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Early Icelandic literature: a selection of books from the library collection of George Powell, Nanteos.

From amongst the many interesting materials in Aberystwyth University’s Rare Book Room, we’ve chosen some about countries Way Up North for this blog post.  To be more accurate, about Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and Greenland.  You may wonder, why would materials like these end up in Aberystwyth of all places?   The answer to a certain extent lies in the eclectic interests of a certain George Ernest John Powell, and his generous donations.

In my will, therefore, I had left to your University – as well as being quite the worthiest and most intelligent corporate body in my dear but benighted town – all I possessed ‘of bigotry and virtue’ – Letter from GP to Principal T C Edwards, 4.iv.1879

George Powell of Nanteos (1842-1882) came from a family of local dignitaries and landowners, growing up at the Nanteos mansion quite near the benighted Aberystwyth.  He eventually took over the estate and became High Sheriff of Cardigan, but before that he spent most of his adult life in London, Paris, and travelling widely elsewhere.  A detailed biography has been by compiled by the School of Art, where much of his collection is kept.

One part of the world he visited was Iceland, and like many Victorian travellers he developed a special interest in this isolated country of rugged landscapes and a romantic history preserved in sagas over centuries.  He took Icelandic lessons from Eiríkur Magnússon (a scholar and librarian at Cambridge University), and provided financial support to the Icelandic nationalist writer Jón Árnusson.  At that time Iceland was still a Danish dependency, and ancient sagas as well as folk history provided the inspiration for a strong nationalist movement in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Saga þess haloflega Herra Olafs Tryggvasonar Noregs Kongs – published by Jone Snorrasone, 1689.

 

iceland image 2

Little is known about the 10th century Norwegian king Olaf Tryggvason, but this saga describes him (sometimes forcibly) converting the Norse to Christianity.  In the 12th century a monk at the Þingeyrar monastery in Iceland, Oddr Snorrasson, wrote a Latin biography of the historic king – that original text no longer survives, but the work was translated into Old Norse and copies of that still exist.  From this title page we can see that it comes from George Powell’s collection.

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The Johnson Shakespeare

April 2014 means Happy 450th Birthday to Shakespeare. Will you be seeing the Information Services Players channelling Lear, raging at the next great storm to hit Aber?  Or finding forbidden love, leaning out of balconies, and it all ending tragically?  Well watch this space! (I have been asked to clarify that this will probably not actually happen…bah, spoilsports!).

Nevertheless, we would still like to present one of our greatest Library treasures to celebrate the occasion. This is the 1747 Bishop Warburton edition of Shakespeare, used by Dr. Samuel Johnson in the preparation of his Dictionary.  The volumes will be on display on Level D, in addition to an earlier 1725 collection by Pope and some famous forgeries of plays that William Ireland tried to pass off as ‘lost works’ by Shakespeare on Level F.

shakespeare2

The Warburton edition of Shakespeare (1747)…’restored from the Blunders of the first Editors, and the Interpolations of the two Last’

After being approached by a group of publishers in 1746, Johnson (and a number of assistants for the copying work) took 9 years to complete the task – in a biography of Johnson, the dictionary is described as:

“easily ranking as one of the greatest single achievements of scholarship, and probably the greatest ever performed by one individual who laboured under anything like the disadvantages in a comparable length of time” (from Samuel Johnson, Walter Bate 1977).

This copy of Warburton’s collected Shakespeare is filled with notes by Johnson, as he found examples of words to use in the dictionary – more than from any other work.  According to the Oxford English Dictionary today, the first evidence of 1,582 new words in the English language come from Shakespeare, as well as the evidence of 7,956 words used with new meanings.  His completely new words included admired, ghost, and leap-frog, and nobody would be saying that the world was their oyster, or that there was method in their madness without him.

Johnson Shakespeare 2

‘Richard III’ with Johnson’s annotations.

Johnson’s friend Sir John Hawkins described the scene during the process of collecting examples for the dictionary:

“The books he used for this purpose were what he had in his own collection, a copious but a miserably ragged one, and all such as he could borrow; which latter, if ever they came back to those that lent them, were so defaced as to be scarce worth owning.” (from Life of Samuel Johnson, 1787).

These unique volumes passed from Johnson to the  Shakespeare scholar George Stevens in 1785.  They came into the possession of scholar and serious bibliophile Richard Heber (whose libraries in Britain and abroad supposedly contained over 150,000 volumes), and at some point were also owned by a Major Charles Thoyts (whose book-plates are in all 8 volumes – the sale of his library is recorded in a Sotheby’s auction catalogue from 1815) .  In 1862 they were acquired by George Powell of Nanteos for 15 guineas, and were then left to the University.

Johnson Shakespeare owners

Written notes and book-plates showing previous owners.

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Welcome to Aber rare books blog!

Hello!

This is a blog dedicated to the Rare Book collection here at Aberystwyth University Library.

Kendrew of York Childrens chapbooks

Bill Hines is the curator of our Rare Book Displays here in Aberystwyth and he creates displays from our collections monthly  at Hugh Owen Library and Thomas Parry Library.

The Ex Libris Richard Brinkley display (Brinkley Oct 2011), which appeared in October contained material relating to Dr. Johnson, the Jacobites and the Anglican church, as well as the Hafod Press display which includes Hafod Press imprints of Froissart’s Chronicles of England, Monstrelet’s Chronicles, Memoirs of De Joinville and Travels of De la Brocquiere.

Practical Jokes

While at the Thomas Parry Library the October Display was from Kendrew of York (Aberystwyth University Rare Books Collection Kendrew Oct 2011)  which included a number of early 19th century chapbooks published by James Kendrew of York including traditional children’s favourites Simple Simon, Mother Hubbard and Cock Robin as well as some more usual titles like the Waggon Load of Money and A visit to the Tower.

Kendrew of York, October 2011 Thomas Parry Library


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