It exists, but not according to this...
It begins when I bump into a colleague clutching a hefty old book, in the reference section of our research library. Rather cryptically, he tells me "It exists! And it's in here!". Taking the book to one side, he lets it fall open - and rightly it does, on the very page he was looking for.
In my experience, old dictionaries and manuscripts that fall open like that usually contain something very juicy. Finding a page in this way always makes me think of the people who read the book before me. I feel almost as if I am joining a secret club, where generations of readers have sought out and read the same pages carefully. My old art history professor had a story about illuminated Biblical manuscripts, painstakingly drawn and handled by monks. Almost without fail, they will all fall open at the same page: where Bathsheba is described in the bath. Thankfully, I wasn't confronted with anything as lascivious - but certainly something scandalous.
The near-apocryphal entry in the Encyclopaedia Britannica: 'Wales, See England'. I had always thought of it as an idiom, muttered under my breath at Jeremy Clarkson's use of 'us'; defensively invoked on seeing corporate maps which leave out Anglesey, and, most recently, when Google decided to celebrate St David's day by putting one of Kind Edward's castles on their homepage. I suppose it is a lot of history to squeeze into so few words.
That's just my reaction, of course. Debates about Britishness, Welshness, and other -nesses will continue as long as there are people on this island, and in the darker corners of the internet. Whatever your take on the matter, whichever 'ness'-ness you subscribe to, the museum's job is to take a reading every now and then; keep an eye on what makes us, inexplicably, 'us'.
I optimistically dropped by the updated Encyclopaedia Britannica. I was hoping to tie up this post with a point about Wales' growing confidence and international profile using a pithy, concise definition. By now, britannica.com, as it's known, refers to Wales as a 'constituent unit'. I must admit I was disappointed. Over a 150 years since the phrase "Wales: see England" was first published, even as new law-making powers are invested to our Assembly Government: it's strange that 'Country' still does not describe what some people see, when they look at Wales.
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