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Aurelian Society

Jennifer Evans, 13 May 2014

The following photographs are from the book, Twelve new designs of English butterflies, by Benjamin Wilkes [published in 1742]. This rare work consists solely of twelve engraved plates each depicting geometric arrangements of both butterflies and moths. Wilkes produced this profoundly beautiful work as member of the Aurelian Society. Aurelian is an archaic word for lepidopterist [one who is interested in butterflies]; the term is derived from aurelia, meaning chrysalis, and relates to the golden colour it may attain just before the butterfly emerges.

The Society of Aurelians [London], one of the oldest organized bodies of specialists in any branch of zoology. The group collected and documented insects from the 1690s but came to an abrupt end in March 1748. While members of the society were in a meeting in the Swan Tavern, a great fire broke out  in Cornhill and enveloped them. All the members escaped, but their entire collection, library, and records were destroyed. This event was documented by Moses Harris in The Aurelian; or, Natural History of English Insects (1765). The loss disheartened the group so much that they never managed to regroup again…Aurelian societies were formed several times in Britain [most notable 1762 and 1801], but each time they collapsed.

…Benjamin Wilkes was an 18th-century artist and naturalist whose profession was 'painting of History Pieces and Portraits in Oil'. When a friend invited him to a meeting of the Aurelian Society, where he first saw specimens of butterflies and moths, he became convinced that nature would be his 'best instructor' as to colour and form in art. He began to study entomology spending his leisure time collecting, studying and drawing the images larvae, pupae and parasitic flies of Lepidoptera, assisted by the collector Mr Joseph Dandridge. Wilkes' own collection was kept 'against the Horn Tavern in Fleet Street' London 'Where any gentleman or lady' could see his collection of insects [Wikipedia].

 

 

Our  holdings of other Aurelian books include:

The English Lepidoptera: or, the Aurelian's pocket companion: containing a catalogue of upward of four hundred moths and butterflies ... / Moses Harris [1775]

 The aurelian. a natural history of English moths and butterflies, together with the plants on which they feed. Also .../ Moses Harris [1766]

 English moths and butterflies… Benjamin Wilkes [1749] This work ran to three editions of which the last, incorporating Linnaean nomenclature, was published in 1824

 The British Aurelian:  twelve new designs of British Butterflies and Directions for making a collection, with an essay by R.S. Wilkinson / Benjamin Wilkes, R.S. Wilkinson [1982]

All photographs in this post taken by the author

 

A Window into the Industry Collections

Mark Etheridge, 1 May 2014

One major acquisition that entered the industry collection this month was a collection of 76 film negatives of collieries in South Wales. 61 of these film negatives show the reconstruction at Hafodyrynys Colliery in 1956. Two images showing the ongoing work are shown here :- 

 

 

Another object to enter the collection this month is this receipt is from the Dinas Steam Colliery Co. Ltd. to Mrs Thomas of the Graig Ddu Inn, Dinas, and is dated 3 December 1887. The Graig Ddu Inn was 100 yards from the colliery, and the tram of coal would have been delivered direct to the house.

 

This set of five British Coal South Wales Area rescue and fire fighting plans are for Marine/Six Bells Colliery. They are dated 23 September 1988. The five plans are stapled together, and the top one is shown here.

 

These two paintings are an important addition to our art collections relating to the coal industry in Wales. They were donated recently and are both oils on canvas. The first is dated January 1862 and is a portrait of Thomas Powell aged 81. Thomas Powell founded the Powell Duffryn Coal Company. In 1840 Powell sunk the first deep mine at Cwmbach, Aberdare. This was followed by further deep mines in Aberdare (Cwmdare, Abernant, Abergwawr, Middle Duffryn and Cwmpennar) and in the Rhymney Valley. At their peak these collieries produced over 400,000 tons of coal each per annum. Thomas was the world's first coal millionaire, and he died in March 1863.

 

The second painting shows Thomas Powell's eldest son, Thomas Powell Junior (1827-1869) with his wife Julia and son John, and dates to about 1862. The family along with the entire safari party they were part of were killed in Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) in 1869 whilst elephant hunting.

 

Mark Etheridge

Curatorial Assistant (Industry)

Follow us on Twitter - @IndustryACNMW

Exploring biodiversity in the Amazon

Adrian Plant, 15 April 2014

Adrian Plant continues his fieldwork in the Amazon in collaboration with Jose Albertino Rafael and Josenir Camara from INPA (Brazil’s national Amazon research organisation) in Manaus.

So far two field-trips to remote corners of the Amazon have been successfully completed. The first was to Sao Gabriel da Cachoeira high up the Rio Negra not far from Brazil’s borders with Colombia and Venezuela and the second to a major tributary of the Amazon along the border with Peru at Benjamin Constant.

The forests of the Amazon Basin are flood forests; they become seasonally inundated by the flooded river and the waters bring with them many of the nutrients essential to the forests great productivity throughout the region. This year the forest remains unusually wet for the time of year which has caused a few practical problems for field entomology.- it is an acquired pleasure to slosh around in deep mud and water searching for new and interesting insects under a constant plague of biting mosquitoes. Yet, to an entomologist this is more or less a definition of “fun”!

The biodiversity is amazing of course and many of the insects seen and collected are undoubtedly new to science but will require much study in more comfortable surroundings after returning from the field. Meanwhile, Adrian will shortly be setting out on a third fieldtrip, this time to a little known area  between the mouth of the Amazon river and French Guiana where many exciting discoveries will undeniably be made.

A Window into the Industry Collections

Mark Etheridge, 27 March 2014

Amongst this month’s new additions to the collections we have received 16 very interesting share certificates. The Museum holds by far the largest and wide-ranging Welsh-interest share certificate collection held by any public museum, library or archive. The collection ranges across railway and maritime transport, coal mining, the mining and smelting of metals, general industry, and service industries (finance, leisure, consumer products, etc). We seek to consolidate and expand whenever appropriate material is offered.

The Royal Copper Mines of Cobre company was founded in 1835 by predominantly Swansea and Llanelli copper smelting interests who, recognising the rapidly growing importance of Cuban ore to Welsh smelting works, sought to see the mines both worked much more efficiently and on a larger scale as well as under their control rather than under inefficient Spanish colonial direction. These certificates are a rare example of tangible objects reflecting the international reach of globally pre-eminent Welsh copper smelting industry. The two strongest international connections of the industry were with Cuba and Chile, with Cuban connections being especially intimate at Swansea. 

 

This Mynyddbach-y-Glo Colliery Company Limited share certificate dates from 1924. The company was registered 1924. It operated the colliery from 1924 to May 1926 when it when into voluntary liquidation, seemingly an early casualty of the miners’ strike which continued after the end of the General Strike. Winding up was completed in 1927. The colliery comprised a small slant located at Waunarlwydd on the western outskirts of Swansea.

 

This Pontypridd Gas Light and Coke Company share certificate dates from 1852. The company was registered in 1850, and was later purchased by Pontypridd Local Board of Health under the terms of the Pontypridd Local Board (Gas) Act 1893. The Local Board became an Urban District Council in 1907 and the latter authority transferred the gas undertaking to the Wales Gas Board following the passing of the Gas Nationalisation Act 1948. Pontypridd was only the fifth Welsh town to be lit with gas, its Act creating its gas company being early by Welsh standards. At the centre is an interesting vignette of the gas works in front of the Pontypridd’s famous bridge. The bridge was built by William Edwards in 1756. 

 

One donation this month included two commemorative ties that can be seen here. Trelewis drift mine was opened in 1954 and was adjacent to Taff Merthyr colliery. One of the ties show here commemorates 25 Years of its opening. Production ceased soon after this tie was made in 1991.  The other tie commemorates 73 years of Markham Colliery which was opened in 1912. The tie was produced in 1985 during the miners’ strike. Markham colliery was to close the following year. 

 

As well as the ties we were also donated two tobacco or twist boxes. These were used by miners to store their ‘twist’ (chewing tobacco). They were generally made of brass and usually oval in shape, although we have many examples of different materials and shaped tins in our collection. They are usually stamped with the miners name, address or colliery, and also often a date.

Of the two boxes illustrated here one is oval (with the date 1985 stamped underneath) and the other rectangular and in the shape of a book, with a simple combination locking mechanism underneath.

 

One final new accession this month is very poignant as last year we commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Sengehydd disaster in which 440 miners lost their lives in the worst mining disaster in Britain. This horse’s hoof mounted in silverplate was given to Reginald Mortimer of Standard Colliery, Ynyshir for his work with colliery horses during the disaster. It is inscribed "KILDARE" / 1ST HORSE FROM THE / SENGHENYDD / EXPLOSION. OCT. 14. 1913.

For more objects relating to the Senghenydd disaster check out our Images of Industry database. You can also find out more about the disaster in our article Senghenydd 1913 on Rhagor.

 

Mark Etheridge

Curatorial Assistant (Industry)

 Follow us on Twitter - @IndustryACNMW

 

 

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