Amgueddfa Cymru — National Museum Wales

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I begin my day by checking our general library inbox for any inquiries that we might have received over the weekend. This morning [as usual] there were quite a few but they were mercifully straight forward so didn’t take too long to answer. Next, I spent a very enjoyable hour squirreling away through our old photograph drawers for some interesting images to share with everyone during this Museum Week UK  on Twitter and what treasures I have found [but more of that to come via Tweets from @amgueddfa_lib during the week]! 

Vintage albums and photographs

 

Main Library photograph drawers

I also took some photographs of the pages of a giant old scrap book full of museum ephemera; it contains tickets, pamphlets, public announcement posters, order of services, lists of lectures and just about anything else you can stick down with heavy duty glue and sellotape…

However, my day begins in earnest with the post – as Assistant Librarian one of my main priorities is to manage the journal subscriptions. We maintain around 700 titles, a combination of paid subscriptions, exchanges and gifts. Therefore, after our Administration Assistant has opened and checked it, I weed out all the journals and record them onto our database. By doing this I am alerted to previous issues not received and will then chase them up with relevant suppliers. This time, there are no missing issues to chase but we have received a few duplicates, and [as always] these are from suppliers who categorically promised that no further duplicates would be sent out! Next, I count and measure the post so that at the end of the year I am able to supply our Principle Librarian with the total number of actual issues received and the meterage of space they will have covered. For instance, our statistics for 2013 were 1972 issues received that covered just over 11 metres of shelf space.

Next, I date stamp and separate them into departments. Our subscriptions naturally correspond with the curatorial departments, so we receive journals on the following disciplines: Art, Archaeology, Zoology, Botany, Geology and Industry and we also subscribe to more general subjects kept here in the Main Library. Once all this is done, it’s time to go and shelve them in the departmental libraries. These are dotted all around the museum so I wait until I have a little pile, normally a few days’ worth, before I go on my shelving travels.

My next task is to work through any invoices received in the post and this morning there quite a few. The way I process these has changed recently and whereas it has taken a little time to get used to the new system, it is much more straightforward and done in no time at all.

Walking into town for lunch, looking back over my shoulder...

After lunch, it’s all about the special collections! I begin by photographing books for a new post on the Museum Blog; I have been posting articles for some time now and really enjoy it. This next post I’m working on concerns books with “marginalia” and we have some excellent examples so here is a little sneak peak… 

Cambria Depicta: a tour of North Wales by Edward Pugh [1816]

 

 

Instructions for collecting and preserving insects; particularly moths and butterflies by William Curtis [1771]

The last few hours of the afternoon are spent working on a talk I will be giving in April as part of the Museum’s Behind the scenes series where the curatorial departments allow groups of visitors in to show them what goes on behind the scenes. My working title is “Curios” and the talk will be based on a small selection of our more unique items, such  as fore-edge books, annotated books, and books made from unusual materials and bindings!

On my way out I leave via the art galleries, it does take a little longer to get out going this way but it gives me the chance to browse and see what's on display and today there were two things in particular I wished to see. First, the new exhibition Wales Visitation: Poetry, Romance and Myth in Art which includes works by  David Jones, Graham Sutherland and Richard Long. And also the new Constable painting [currently on loan from the Tate]; Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows  is a stunning work and I particularly like the dark storm clouds brooding behind the rainbow.   

A selection of books on WWI all ready for the 1914-2014 Centenary 

This post has been produced as part of the Twitter event #Museum Week UK [24-30 March 2014]

All photographs in this post taken by the author

 

 

 

There is an odd story attached to this little booklet. Some time ago, I received a telephone call from a lady offering to donate a catalogue from an old Cardiff herbalist. It sounded intriguing and something that would fit in perfectly at the library over at our sister museum St Fagans: Museum of National History, so we gratefully accepted the offer. A few days later, the Librarian and I were weeding through a pile of old booklets and we noticed an old Cardiff herbalist catalogue [date written in red ink - 29/11/29] and I remember saying how bizarre it would be if this was the same catalogue as the one that was on its way to us. Yes, you guessed it, it turned out to be exactly the same one! We ended up keeping both copies, placing one at the St Fagans library and keeping one here at National Museum Cardiff.

What exactly went into the herbal remedies is one mystery now most likely beyond solving [many of the ingredients are listed but not all] but it is the naive and whimsical wording of the ailments themselves that are so interesting to us now [Remedies for weak men and nervous women, Poverty of nerve force and That don't care sort of feeling spring to mind] and this naivity is illustrated further with the Disney-like wizard and his bubbling cauldron on the cover.

I have done a little research but, apart from a few scanned newspaper advertisements, have found no other information on Trimnell except for one of his old medicine bottles that sold recently on Ebay for £1.99 [see photograph below].

Glamorgan Archives hold some limited information on Trimnell but no actual documentation.

All photographs [except the Ebay one above] in this post taken by the author.

A lovely pressed fern found between the pages of The Fern Paradise [1876] by Francis George Heath. I'm always a little disappointed that we don't find more pressed flowers in our old botany books so this really made my day.

How long has it been lying quietly cocooned between these dry secure pages? Who picked a live and vibrant frond one summers day and slipped it away never thinking it would stay hidden for decades? Did the sun shine that afternooon? What news was ringing around the world? So many questions...

All photographs in this post taken by the author

 

Step into a wonderland of colour, a celebration of the natural world in all its artistic and symmetrical glory...

Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919) was an eminent German zoologist who specialized in invertebrate anatomy. He named thousands of new species, mapped a genealogical tree relating all life forms, and coined many now ubiquitous terms in biology. A popularizer of Charles Darwin, Haeckel embraced evolution not only as a scientific theory, but as a worldview. He outlined a new religion or philosophy called monism, which cast evolution as a cosmic force, a manifestation of the creative energy of nature.

Haeckel’s chief interests lay in evolution and life development processes in general, including the development of nonrandom form, which culminated in the beautifully illustrated Kunstformen der Natur  - Art Forms of Nature, a collection of 100 detailed, multi-colour illustrations (lithographic and autotype) of animals and sea creatures prints. Originally published in sets of ten between 1899 and 1904, and as a complete volume in 1904.

The overriding themes of the Kunstformenplates are symmetry and organization, central aspects of Haeckel's monism. The subjects were selected to embody organization, from the scale patterns of boxfishes to the spirals of ammonites to the perfect symmetries of jellies and microorganisms, while images composing each plate are arranged for maximum visual impact.

Kunstformen der Natur played a role in the development of early twentieth century art, architecture, and design, bridging the gap between science and art. In particular, many artists associated with the Art Nouveau movement were influenced by Haeckel's images, including René Binet, Karl Blossfeldt, Hans Christiansen, and Émile Gallé.

Our copy of Kunstformen der Natur [photographed here] is a complete bound volume of all ten fascicules and sits in our folio section. It was donated to us in 1919 by the first Director of the National Museum of Wales [from 1909 to 1924], William Evans Hoyle. Hoyle’s trained as a medical anatomist and developed a life long interest in 'cephalopods'. Our BioSyB Department now holds Hoyle's cephalopod collection [over 400 of them] along with many other specimens and publications.

      

      

 

Haeckel biographical information:

Hoyle biographical information:

All photographs in this post taken by the author.

 

 

 

Thomas Moffet [Moufet, Muffet] (1553-1604), was a physician and naturalist. After graduating from Cambridge, he travelled abroad, gained the degree of MD in 1579 from Basel University and eventually established a successful medical practice in Frankfurt. In 1580 he visited Italy, where he studied the culture of the silkworm and developed an absorbing interest in entomology. By 1588 he had returned to England and secured a good practice, first in Ipswich and afterwards in London. On 22 December of that year he was admitted as a candidate of the College of Physicians, then became a fellow and eventually censor. In 1589 he was appointed to a committee responsible for compiling the Pharmacopoeia Londinensis (1618) for the College of Physicians.

Moffet combined real literary aptitude with his interests in natural philosophy, publishing the lengthy poem, The Silkworms and their Flies, in 1599.

Theatre of Insects was published posthumously. In 1590 he had completed a compendious work on the natural history of insects, partly compiled from the unpublished writings of Edward Wotton, Conrad Gesner and Moffet’s friend [and fellow physician] Thomas Penny. After Moffet’s death, this still unpublished manuscript (BL, Sloane MS 4014) came into the hands of his apothecary [Darnell], who sold it to Sir Theodore Mayerne, who published it in 1634 as Insectorum, sive, Minimorum animalium theatrum. It was translated into English by J. Rowland as The Theatre of Insects, or Lesser Living Creatures and appended to Edward Topsell’s History of Four-Footed Beasts and Serpents (1658).

We hold copies of both the 1634 and 1658 editions; the copy photographed here is one of the earlier editions.

These books, along with many other early natural history works, were bequeathed to the Library by Willoughby Gardner in 1953 [for more details visit our website or see The Willoughby Gardner Library: a collection of early printed books on natural history, by John R. Kenyon, published by Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Cymru / National Museum Wales, 1982]

It has been supposed, on the basis of Moffet’s interest in spiders that his daughter Patience was the ‘little Miss Muffet’ of the nursery rhyme; although some sources state this unlikely as the rhyme did not appear in print until 1805.

Biographical information taken from Oxford Dictionary of National Biography