Tag Archives: archive

Son of a preacher man, Thomas Charles Edwards, first Principal of University College of Wales, Aberystwyth

As an AberForward trainee, I have been tasked with conducting research into the university’s Institutional Archive, a collection of papers and photographs dating from as far back as 1824. One example of the resources contained in the Institutional Archive is the collection of correspondencePicture - T. C. Edwards - 1 from the first two Principals of the College. For the past week, I have been reading through the letters of the first Principal, which provide an insight into events in the College’s early years, from the point of view of the man in charge.

That man was Thomas Charles Edwards, a Calvinistic Methodist minister and preacher who in 1872 was elected the first Principal of Aberystwyth College, the first University College in Wales. The College had a shaky start, facing many trials in the decades following its foundation, and Edwards’ personal responses to these can be traced through his correspondence from that period.

One striking example can be found in a letter dated 30th of June, 1883, which hints that the very survival of the college may be in doubt. T. C. Edwards shows his resolve to push on “as if it [the college] were destined to survive its present difficulties.”

Letter - 30 June, 1883 - extract 1At this time, student morale was at an all-time low with some inclined to go to Liverpool or Owen’s college (Manchester), believing that those who remained in Aberystwyth would “languish and die slowly.” Understandably, most of the Principal’s letter concerns the question of how best to convince the students, and the rest of the country, that this was not the case.

Letter - 30 June, 1883 - extract 2

Letter - 30 June, 1883 - extract 3

Surprisingly, despite his steadfastness in rallying the College during these hard times, the Principal himself was considered one of the greatest causes of difficulty for the institution. This was apparently due to the demands placed on his time by his commitment to preaching. Again, we can get a sense of Edwards’ personal feelings on this matter in the correspondence, from a letter he wrote on the 10th of October, 1884. From reading the letter, it is clear that, at that time, the Principal felt inclined, albeit reluctantly, to offer his resignation to the College Council. One member of the Council was pushing to have ministers excluded from occupying the post of Principal and the Cambrian News had even published an article on the subject, claiming that his preaching had been the greatest difficulty that the College had had to contend with. However, in the event, we know that the Principal was not forced to resign on this occasion and went on to hold the post of Principal until 1891 when he resigned voluntarily, partly for health reasons and partly to follow in his father’s footsteps as head of Bala theological College.Letter - 10 Oct, 1884 - extract 1


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Launch of the Welsh experience of the First World War digital archive

On Thursday 28 November the digital archive, The Welsh Experience of the First World War, was launched at The College Merthyr Tydfil by John Griffiths AM, Welsh Government Minister for Culture and Sport and Huw Lewis AM, the Welsh Government Minister for Education and Skills.

The Welsh Experience of the First World War was developed as a collaborative initiative led by The National Library of Wales, in partnership with the Archives and Special Collections of Aberystwyth University; Bangor University; Cardiff University; Swansea University; the University of Wales Trinity St David; BBC Cymru Wales, The People’s Collection, Wales, and archives and local records offices that are part of ARCW, and the Archives and Records Council of Wales. The project was funded by a grant from the Jisc e-Content programme as part of their work in support of education and research, and through support from the partner organisations.

Elgan Davies (Aberystwyth University), Elizabeth Bennett (Swansea University), Sian Williams (South Wales Miners' Library) and Professor Lorna Hughes (National Library of Wales)

Elgan Davies (Aberystwyth University), Elizabeth Bennett (Swansea University), Sian Williams (South Wales Miners’ Library) and Professor Lorna Hughes (National Library of Wales)

As part of the launch Dr Paul O’Leary of the Department of History and Welsh History, Aberystwyth University, spoke of how he had used the resource to prepare an online exhibition, ‘The First World War and the Industrial Valleys’. Dr O’Leary has said, “It would have taken many years in the archives to find these resources and bring them together in a way that demonstrates the impact of the First World War on south Wales. Having the digital archive freely available will be of tremendous benefit for research and teaching”.

Dr Paul O’Leary (Department of History and Welsh History, Aberystwyth University)

Dr Paul O’Leary (Department of History and Welsh History, Aberystwyth University)

Material from the Hugh Owen Archives and Special Collections that have been digitised includes The Dragon (1914-1918); Y Wawr (1913-1917); the Ifor Leslie Evans papers; In Ruhleben Camp; material relating to Professor Hermann Ethé; and photographs of military training and lists of casualties and honours.

During 2014 we intend placing on our Special Collections website articles that place these materials in their historical context.


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Exhibitions in January

Aberystwyth – The Great Storm 1938

(the storm 1938 january 2012)

On Level D of Hugh Owen Library

The Storm

In January and February 1938 Aberystwyth was hit by storms which caused significant damage to the Promenade, Pier and University Halls of Residence. This display shows some of the press reports and correspondence relating to events at Alexandra Hall and elsewhere.

Exhibition to mark the bicentenary of Dickens birth in 2012


Charles Dickens (1812-1870)

(dickens january 2012)

On Level F of the Hugh Owen Library

Come and take a look at a display of books by and about Charles Dickens to mark the bicentenary of his birth in the Hugh Owen Library.

Aberystwyth University Library holds a number of early copies of novels by Dickens along with the first volume of “All The Year Round” from 1859, including the initial serialisation of “A Tale of Two Cities”. Also on display are George Powell’s copy of the collected letters published by Chapman and Hall in 1880 and Camden Hotten’s 1870 biography.

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December’s Displays

William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863)

William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863)

William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863)

A display of books and material by W. M. Thackeray to mark the bicentenary of his birth. Aberystwyth University Library holds a number of early editions of works written by Thackeray and we are also fortunate to own a couple of original objects relating to Thackeray which came as part of the Powell Bequest. There is a copy of an atlas owned by Thackeray while he was at Charterhouse School in 1827, sadly without annotations unlike some of his other school books, and also a later sketch of Cupid along with a short verse. It is unclear how Powell acquired these items, but presumably they came through purchase. “Novels by eminent hands” is from the Brinkley Collection. The Vanity Fair cover displayed here is a facsimile. John Camden Hotten, the notorious publisher, wrote and produced a biography of Thackeray within a few months of his death. The other works on display show Thackeray’s talent as an illustrator.

Polar Exploration

Polar Exploration

A display of books relating to Antarctic exploration in the early part of the 20th century to mark the centenary of the first arrivals at the Pole by Amundsen and Scott in December 1911 and January 1912. Also on display are first editions of books relating to Shackleton’s journeys to the area. The Library holds some parts of the official report of the 1910-13 British Antarctic Expedition, including the volume by Lyons illustrated here, with a description of blubber stoves, lengthy lists of supplies and a line drawing of the Terra Nova. The photographic work of Herbert Ponting for the expedition was particularly noteworthy. Although Scott was beaten to the Pole by Amundsen and all members of his immediate party perished during the return journey the expedition is still regarded as a classic example of endeavour and spawned some wonderful writing including Apsley Cherry-Garrard’s “Worst journey in the world”. Although Shackleton failed to reach the South Pole, his Antarctic Expedition of 1907-9 in the Nimrod earned him a knighthood and is commemorated in “The heart of the Antarctic” shown here . The Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914-17 was a disaster but is still remembered for Shackleton’s heroic rescue of his stranded party from Elephant Island via South Georgia.   Shackleton subsequently wrote about the expedition in “South” published by Heinemann in 1919.

Many thanks to Bill Hines for providing description and text for this blog.

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November Displays at Aberystwyth University

Dear all

Bill Hines has put together some more great collections for people to view here at the University during November.


(Remembrance Nov 2011)

On Level D at the Hugh Owen Library

Captain Arthur Emlyn Hopkins

A selection of material from our archives and “The Dragon” magazine. The First World War is quite well represented in the pages of “The Dragon” – although it is quite noticeable how the initial jaunty tone of material is replaced by a more sombre note as the death toll rises. Over 150 members of the University and former students were eventually killed in action. The images on display show a few of those involved in the conflict but also include letters from the front, from prisoners of war and those interned at Ruhleben Camp. Other material provides some insight into activity on the “home front”.  A fuller list of local archival holdings relating to the conflict is available at https://archives.aber.ac.uk/index.php/

Robert Stevenson, Thomas Colby and the Bell Rock

(Bell Rock Nov 2012)

On Level F at the Hugh Owen Library

Bell Rock Lighthouse

The Bell Rock lighthouse was completed in 1811. In 1824 Robert Stevenson completed a lavishly illustrated volume on the work and presented a copy to Thomas Colby, Superintendent of the Ordnance Survey. Along with the book he enclosed a four page letter giving information on his recent visit to France to view Fresnel lamps, which had been used in mapping work by the Ordnance Survey. Part of Major General Colby’s library came to the University in 1912 through the generosity of his descendant, W.H Colby, who was a member of the College Council at the time.   Over the coming months we hope to display more treasures from this collection. Further information on Stevenson is available in Bella Bathurst’s book on the Lighthouse Stevensons, and on Colby in Rachel Hewitt’s Map of a Nation.

Lewis Carroll

(Lewis Carroll (Nov 2011))

At Thomas Parry Library

Lewis Carroll

A display of early works from the Horton Children’s Collection and other parts of Information Services. Charles Dodgson (1832-1898) was an author, mathematician and photographer. Although his first mathematics book appeared in 1860, and we display a couple of his later works “Curiosa Mathematica” and “Symbolic Logic” here, he is chiefly noted for his children’s books. The original story which formed the basis for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland came to Dodgson’s mind in 1862  – although the published volume followed a few years later. The Horton Collection includes early copies of this work along with Through the Looking Glass. The Library also holds a first edition of the Hunting of the Snark which first appeared in 1876.

(All text was supplied and written by Bill Hines)

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Welcome to Aber rare books blog!


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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