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March 2014

'A day in the life' - a post for the Twitter event 'Museum Week UK'

Posted by Jennifer Evans on 21 March 2014

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

 

October 2013

Roots of power and herbs of healing... "remedies for weak men and nervous women"

Posted by Jennifer Evans on 23 October 2013

 

 

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.

The Fern Paradise

Posted by Jennifer Evans on 1 October 2013

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

 

August 2013

Kunstformen der Natur

Posted by Jennifer Evans on 23 August 2013

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.

 

 

 

July 2013

Theatre of insects

Posted by Jennifer Evans on 8 July 2013

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

 

June 2013

A 13th Century guide to the heavens

Posted by Jennifer Evans on 5 June 2013

Ioannis de Sacro Bosco [c. 1195 –c. 1256] was a scholar, monk and astronomer [probably English] who taught at the University in Paris. In around 1230 he wrote this authoritative medieval astronomy text Tractatus de Sphaera [On the Sphere of the World]. It gives a readable account of the Ptolemaic universe[the universe according to the Hellenistic astronomer Claudius Ptolemaeus in the 2ndcentury AD] that went on to become required reading by students in all Western European universities for the next four centuries. Though principally about the heavens it contains a clear description of the earth as a sphere and its popularity shows the nineteenth-century opinion that medieval scholars after this date thought the Earth was flat as a fabrication [Wikipedia].

This copy [photographed here] is dated 1577 and forms part of our Vaynor Collection; this consists of a number of 16th and 17th century astronomical works, including several of the writings of Galileo. The collection was formed and donated by John Herbert James of Vaynor [which is just north of Merthyr Tydfil].

The condition of this book is excellent; the paper is bright and unmarked, robust to the touch and all the little volvelles [rotating paper wheel charts] still work perfectly.

It is bound in pure white vellum [calf skin] as are the majority of the Vaynor astronomical books which I always think gives them a very "celestial" look.

Butterfly wings

Posted by Jennifer Evans on 5 June 2013

This is just one of the many reasons I love being a librarian; opening a recently catalogued donation [published 1930] to find these beautiful butterfly wings pressed between the pages! Who knows how long they have nestled there undisturbed? 

 

Eliza Rand

Posted by Jennifer Evans on 5 June 2013

A recent purchase and what a cracker! This manuscript diary is titled Tour of Wales and the Marches beginning on 22 August 1827 and consists of 55 pages of exquisite handwriting and ink sketches presumably by Eliza Rand. We say presumably as she hasn’t acknowledged herself as the author but as one of  the only two females on the tour, she mentions her sister Georgiana on p. 32, so it’s a simple enough process of elimination. The account of the tour includes several pen and ink drawings, including a view of the Havod Arms, a harper at Abergele and Beddgelert church. However, of most interest is a drawing of their guide at Cadair Idris, Richard Pugh, posing in front of his cottage, with staff in hand, wearing a goatskin 'mountain dress' and sporting a headress of goat's skull and horns! This was the traditional costume of the Welsh guides [believe it or not] but depictions of it are very rare indeed.

We hold a good selection of 18thand 19th century tours of Wales as they are an invaluable resource of historical information. Many of them are filled with comments and anecdotes on everyday subjects such as chosen routes; care and maintenance of coach and horses, conditions of roads, personalities met en route, quality of inns, descriptions of architecture and [of course!] the weather. For example, this particular diary ends with a summary of the places visited, the number of horses used and the number of turnpikes.  

It’s not in the best condition as the binding has failed and most of the pages are now loose; but for the time being, instead of re-binding, we’re going to house it in a conservation box in an environmentally controlled cabinet.

 

 

 

 
 

February 2013

How more sales can mean less revenue

Posted by Mari Gordon on 1 February 2013

And they're here: for the first time, we have figures for a year of e-book sales, supplied directly by publishers. It's still far from the whole picture, as not all e-book figures are available. But we now have a much better idea of what the book-buying landscape looks like in the UK.

The figure that stands out is that e-book sales are now up to 13%-14% of all book sales. However, as their prices are cheaper, that's only 6%-7% of revenue. Print book sales are down again, by 3.4% on 2011, as are average prices.

The e-book market is still dominated by fiction, and those e-book figures track the print figures. That is, if a book sells well in print, it also does well in e-book. The stand-out example is a particularly, shall we say, shady trilogy, whose e-book sales are about 36% of the print sales. Could the success of the e-book version of these titles lie, I wonder, in the fact that no-one can see what you're reading on your Kindle...?

So, it's mixed news: more books were bought in 2012, but because more of them were e-books, publishers made less money. Good news for reading, less so for publishing.

Meanwhile, here at Amgueddfa Cymru our journey into 'e' continues...

 

With thanks to The Bookseller for the sales figures.

August 2011

Lots of talk, for some very small numbers

Posted by Mari Gordon on 8 August 2011

Ok, so we had the iPad moment. What’s changed? Lots. The iPad itself was, in truth, disappointing for publishers. Beautiful, sure, but not very helpful. It wasn’t multifunctional and it wasn’t backward compatable with much stuff either (I can’t be the only person still using OS 10.4?) But, like Apple’s previous offers, it was a gamechanger. It established the tablet as a device, despite many people, myself included, wondering if anyone really wanted Job's 'third device'. Apple then let other manufacturers come up with their own versions, the best of which is probably Samsung’s Galaxy, and quietly went home to improve their own model. Having established the tablet, and just in time to catch the secondary wave of adopters, out comes iPad 2. With improved functionality and more features (camera – two, actually), it still passes itself off as the most desirable tablet, even if it’s not necessarily the best. With iPad 2 and the iPhone, Apple has now firmly entered the mainstream consumer market. In losing the geek factor, what has it gained? Well, turnover, and profit, obviously. While Apple’s top-quality combined hardware/software model of Macs retains its market-leading position in the creative industries, the iPods, Ipads and iPhones are now thoroughly high-street, even with their top-end price tags.

However, part of this trajectory has been the strategic downplaying of the iPad’s e-reader function, which is what publishers were most  excited about. Instead, the iPad focuses on portable, sleek, seamless acces to the web and email – truly, a big iPhone, but also ready and waiting for Web 3.0.

In terms of e-readers the iPad moment just didn’t happen. This has left Amazon’s Kindle as market leader, even though it only reads Amazon’s own e-book file format (although there are rumours Amazon will soon be allowing US publishers to submit e-books in the industry-standard e-Pub format). Amazon introduced the Kindle in 2007, by 2010 in the US Amazon were selling more Kindle books than hardbacks; today Amazon sells more Kindle books than hardback and paperback put together. At the moment it’s selling 105 Kindle books for every 100 print books, and three times more Kindle books than this time last year. In the UK, where the Kindle store has only been open a year or so,  Amazon are selling twice as many Kindle books as hardbacks.

What can we learn from this? Remember, the Amazon figures only apply to their own sales, of Kindle books, which can only currently be read on a Kindle device. What’s happening across the rest of the bookselling industry? The true picture for the UK is that sales of e-books are currently 2.5% of all book purchases; interestingly, they peaked at 3% over Christmas (did you get an e-book in your stocking?!) Adult fiction is still the most popular category, at 5.4% of all purchases; men and women are buying e-books equally, and the age group 55-64 makes up over a quarter of e-book buyers.

This 2.5% seems like a tiny figure for us all to be worrying so much about, especially as the value of the sales is low – about 1.6%. I still can't wait to have a go though.

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