Amgueddfa Blog: Casgliadau ac Ymchwil

Within Amgueddfa Cymru’s botany collections are books of dried plant specimens created by scientists and enthusiasts. Each specimen has been carefully dried and pressed, before being added to the books, sometimes with handwritten or printed notes alongside. The books are of enormous importance both in terms of modern scientific research into climate change and biodiversity, and as a way to see first hand the history of botanical exploration.

You can now look through a catalogue of the 36 books that contain non-flowering plants, fungi, lichens and seaweeds. You can read about a few of the stories surrounding these books below. For more detailed information about each book, please visit the website.

These books show the changes in how we collect, classify and name plants over two centuries from 1800 to present day. An old volume which probably dates from the 19th century entitled “New Zealand Mosses”, contains more than just mosses. Lichens, algae and even some pressed hydrozoans (tiny marine animals) have been included by the unknown collector who chose to group these superficially similar ‘moss-like’ specimens together. This donation entered the Museum’s collections after its Royal Charter was received and before work had begun on the present Cathays Park building.

While the earliest currently known non-flowering plant specimen in the Museum is a moss collected in 1794 from Gwynedd, the earliest specimen book dates from 1803. This book is Lewis Weston Dillwyn’s personal collection of seaweed and freshwater algae collected between 1803 and 1809. Dillwyn’s specimen book was donated to the Museum in 1938 by the National Library of Wales, and has great importance both scientifically and historically.

Lewis Weston was part of the influential Dillwyn family, and his son John Dillwyn Llewelyn became an early pioneer photographer. He was interested in the natural history that he saw in south Wales where he lived. This is reflected in his scientific research as well as in the pottery designs created while he was owner of Cambrian Pottery. Dillwyn described new species of algae and his specimen book contains type specimens (irreplaceable specimens used in the original description of a species). The book is a personal record of his scientific life, recording places he visited and scientists who sent him specimens. He became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1804 and later had a plant genus named after him in recognition of his work.

Many of the botanical specimen books in National Museum Cardiff have a fascinating history. Two contain mosses collected by Thomas Drummond on the Second Overland Arctic expedition between 1825 and 1827 to British North America (now Canada). Delving further into the book’s background reveals that the Captain, Sir John Franklin, sent Drummond to the Rocky Mountains with one Native American hunter. After the hunter left him on his own, he survived a severe winter, being mauled by a bear, and starvation. He still managed to collect, preserve and study many new plants of the North American continent. This work was published by Sir W.J. Hooker, who later became the director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

The more recent books are systematically collected specimens known as ‘exsiccatae’. These are sets of duplicate specimens distributed by scientists to other museums. They help to spread the risk of losing a particularly important set of specimens, and to allow scientists around the world to study them. Lists of their contents are usually published in a journal or online. Much of the Berlin Herbarium and the botanical specimens within it was destroyed in World War 2, however many duplicate specimens from this collection survive in other herbaria around the world. From around the 1900s, exsiccatae changed from being bound books to being loose specimens. This meant museums receiving them could incorporate them into their collections alongside other closely related specimens for easier access and comparison.

 

Mae patrymau yw gweld ym mhobman. Maent yn rhan gyffredin o’m bywydau oherwydd eu defnydd fel addurn i'm dillad a cartrefi. Oherwydd hyn, bach iawn o sylw go iawn rhown ni iddynt. Fel y cyfriw mae hyn yn iawn oherwydd does dim pwrpas iddynt mwy nag addurn. Ond o fewn ein Casgliadau ni, mae pwrpas i nifer fawr o’r patrymau y gwelir. Fe’u creuwyd i amddiffyn y cartref rhag gwrachod ag ysbrydion drwg. Yn y gyfres yma o erthyglau byr fe gymerwn olwg mwy manwl ar y patrymau pwrpasol a welwn yn yr Amgueddfa.


Mae marciau saer coed yw gweld yn glir ar nifer o adeiladau pren, yn arbennig sgubor Stryd Lydan. Adeiladwyd ffram bren yr adeilad yn iard y saer cyn ei datgymalu a’i symud yw gartref parhaol. Roedd felly angen ffordd o nodi gwahanol elfenau o'r ffram fel eu bod yn gallu cael eu ail-godi yn y drefn cywir ar y safle’r newydd.


Mae marciau atropaic (o’r gair Groegaidd I ‘atal’ neu i ‘gadw draw’) yw gweld mewn sawl ffurf. Er enghraifft, marciau a losgwyd a canwyll ar drawstiau pren; llinellau wedi eu cerfio i mewn i drawst neu celficyn pren mewn siap grid neu blodyn; sgwariau o liwie wedi eu gosod am yn ail, fel coch a du neu coch a gwyn; llinellau sarffaidd 'di-ddiwedd'; neu symbol ‘V’ dwbwl. Adiwyd y rhain i gartrefi ac adeiladau amaethyddol rhwng 1600 a 1950. Darganfuwyd y mwyafrif ym ‘mannau gwan’ cartref lle y byddai yn hawdd i ysbrydion drwg gael mynediad i’r ty, sef drysau, ffenestri a llefydd tân.


Mae marciau entoptic (o’r gair Groegaidd am ‘pethau yw gweld o fewn y llygad’) yn batrymau geometrig sydd ymlith y celf cynharaf yn y byd. Maent yw gweld ar nifer fawr o wrthrychau gwahannol o fewn ein oriel newydd – Gweithdy. Mae’r darn pren o Maerdy a’r garreg o Barclodiad y gawres yn 6,000 o flynyddoedd oed, a mae llinell sarffaidd amlwg yw weld ar y ddau wrthrych. Mae cynllunie geometrig yw gweld yn glir ar y potie clai Oes yr Efydd a elwir yn beakers. Mae mosaic Rhufeinig o Gaerwent yn cynnwys cwlwm di-ddiwedd yn ei ganol a trionglau du a gwyn o’i amgylch. Mae clymau tebyg yw gweld ar y croesau Cristnogol cynnar, lle gelwir yr arddull yn knotwork. Mae’r patrymau yma yn debyg iawn i’r marciau atropaic hwyrach, ag y gallent gynrychioli gwraidd y traddodiad. Er enghriafft, yn ystod y 19fed ag 20fed ganrif roedd yn goel gyffredin bod patrwm cymleth o ond un llinell yn gallu swyno ysbrydion drwg ag ei atal rhag cael mynediad i’r tŷ.


Y tro nesaf gerddwch heibio i dŷ o oes Victoria, beth am I chi edrych yn fwy craff ar y llwybr o deils du a gwyn a arweinir at y drws? Neu pan ewch I’r gwely, gofynwch pam  bod carthenni mor lliwgar a cymleth eu patrwm pan da chi ar fin mynd I gysgu? Efallai bod y rhain hefyd yn rhan o’r traddodiad o greu patrymau pwrpasol.

Ar y cyntaf o Fai, dethlir Calan Mai.  Mae'r ŵyl yn nodi dechrau’r haf a chyfnod o ffrwythlondeb a thwf.  Mae toreth o draddodiadau yn gysylltiedig â’r ŵyl – rhai yn fwy rhyfedd na’i gilydd!  Dyma ddetholiad o ambell i arfer sydd ar gof a chadw yn Archifau AWC.

Canu am Gildwrn yn Nhreuddyn

Yn ardal Treuddyn, ar ddiwrnod Calan Mai, byddai plant yn gwisgo dillad llaes a mynd o ddrws i ddrws yn canu cân a chario cangen wedi ei hardduno â charpiau yn y gobaith o dderbyn ychydig o gildwrn neu rodd fechan gan berchennog y tŷ.  Dyma eiriau Alun J. Ingman, a anwyd yn Nhreuddyn yn 1906:

Ar ddydd Calan Mai, byddai rhai wedi paentio’u hwynebau ac yn gwisgo rhyw hen sgert a dillad llaes a mi oedd ganddyn nhw gangen, a charpiau arni hi, a mynd o ddrws i ddrws. Mi fydde ’na gân debyg i hyn: “Dawns sy’n sa’, y gangen ha’, am mor fychlawn neidio. Neidia di i ben y tŷ a mi neidia inna troso’”. Fydde hynny, a cildwrn, tipyn o gocos, yn rhwbath yn debyg i Calennig ond ar ddydd Calan Mai.

Derbyn Menyn yng Ngogledd Penfro

Yng Ngogledd Penfro, arferai gwragedd a phlant deithio o amgylch ffermdai yr ardal yn derbyn talpau o fenyn yn eu basynau.  Golygai hyn y byddai ganddynt ddigon o fenyn i roi ar eu bara am wythnosau i ddod.

Penglog Ceffyl i’r Ferch a’ch Digiodd

Yng Ngogledd Cymru, byddai gwŷr ifanc yn cael gafael ar benglog ceffyl ar noswyl Calan Mai ac yn ei hongian uwchben drws morwyn neu ddrws gwraig briod a oedd wedi eu digio. Yn aml, byddai enw’r ferch anffodus wedi ei glymu i’r penglog.

Colli Gwaed ar Galan Mai

Mae Mary Davies a anwyd yn Nantyfedwen, Trefeglwys, yn 1892, yn cofio y byddai ei Nain yn mynd pob blwyddyn i gael colli tipyn bach o waed adeg Calan Mai:

Glywos i’n nhad yn dweud ei fod yn gwybod am rywun oedd yn mynd i ryw gors, ac roedd y gelod yn cydiad yn y gors, ac roedd e’n eu gwerthu nhw i’r cemist.  Fydda’r cemist yn gwerthu nhw i fobol i dynnu gwaed.  Bydda’r gelod yn cael eu defnyddio yn reit ddiweddar yn bydda nhw.  Bydda Nain, mam ’y nhad, yn mynd pob blwyddyn i golli tipyn bach o waed.  O, odd hi’n well o lawer iawn wedyn odd hi’n meddwl.

Gofyn Bendith ar Amaethwyr

Ar y dydd hwn yn ardal Llangristiolus, cynhelid gwasanaeth yn y capel i ofyn bendith Duw ar ffermwyr yr ardal.

Rhwystro’r Wrach Rhag Hudo

Ar fore Calan Mai yn Llanwennog, byddai’n arfer addurno pen y drws blaen â dail gwyrdd er mwyn atal y “witsh” rhag dod i’r tŷ a'i hatal rhag rhoi hud ar y cartref fel na allai’r teulu gorddi trwy gydol yr haf.

Godro Defaid

Arferid godro defaid yn ystod yr wythnos gyntaf ar ôl ffair Galan Mai Llanfair-ym-Muallt ac yna eu gadael yn hesb nes fis Hydref.

“Cadw Gofid Mâs o’r Tŷ”

Yn ardal Cydweli, byddai rhai yn addurno y drws blaen gyda changhennau coed ynn er mwyn “cadw gofid mâs o’r tŷ” ac i atal gwrachod ac ysbrydion, a oedd yn arbennig o ddrygionus ar ddechrau Mai yn ôl y sôn, rhag chwarae triciau ar y trigolion.

Ffeiriau Cyflogi

Cynhelid ffeiriau cyflogi mewn llawer tref yng Nghymru ar ddiwrnod Calan Mai. Byddai gweision a morwynion yn cael eu cyflogi am flwyddyn ac yna’n dychwelyd i’r ffair mewn deuddeng mis neu symud i ardal arall er mwyn ceisio gwell cyflog.  Dyma eiriau Rhys Morgan, a anwyd yn 1875 yng Nghorneli Waelod, ger Pen-y-bont ar Ogwr:

Odd May Day pryd ’ny. Dydd Cala-Ma’. A dyna’r dydd on nhw’n ych dewis chi. Os och chi’n moin jobyn, och chi’n gofyn i’r fferm a on nhw’n setlo ar arian.  Odd pob un yn Ben-bont, odd gweision ffermydd a lot o’r ffermwyr hefyd 'ny. Bydde chi’n clywed “Ma ishe gwas yn New Park, ma ishe gwas yn y Grove”.  Wel nawr, och chi nawr yn mynd i edrych, bydde’r ffarmwr ddim yn dod atoch chi.    Pedwar ucen mlynedd yn ôl - dydd mawr.  Sdim sôn amdano fe nawr.      

Locust swarms have for centuries destroyed crops and threatened food supplies across large parts of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. This threat continues today - a recent plague in Madagascar destroyed 2.3 million hectares of crops. Controlling it took three years and cost million.

Desert Locust (Schistocerca gregaria) swarms can move hundreds of miles within a vast ‘invasion area’ that can span dozens of countries, and even continents. To better understand and control such plagues of locusts the British founded the Anti-Locust Research Centre (ALRC) in the 1920s.

The ALRC took the lead in monitoring, studying, forecasting and controlling locust swarms. To do this they had to work with different experts including entomologists (insect specialists), cartographers (map makers), toxicologists (experts on poison), explorers, photographers, the military and local people.

For decades the ALRC gathered information on locusts worldwide. This now forms an incredible archive of thousands of documents, maps and photographs held at the Natural History Museum in London, and a collection of over 70,000 locust specimens that are now part of the collections here at Amgueddfa Cymru.

Our new display ‘Locust War’ reunites the archive and specimens to rediscover the remarkable work of the ALRC and the challenges it faced to understand and control the desert locust.

The exhibition is the work of a collaborative research project led by academics from the University of Warwick, University of Portsmouth and Glasgow School of Art, and supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

‘Locust War’ is part of the displays in our InSight Gallery, and runs until the 16th September 2019.

Many of the books in the Library collections at the National Museum Wales have attractive decorative techniques applied to the covers or text blocks. Decoration on text blocks, the combined pages of the book inside the covers, is particularly lovely because it tends to be hidden when they are on the shelves.

The most popular examples of decorating text blocks include marbling and gilding. But one of the most interesting techniques is the one known as disappearing fore-edge painting, which was often hidden underneath the other types of decoration.

Fore-edge painting was a technique that reached the height of its popularity from the mid-17th century onwards. It was usually applied to the longest section of the text block, the one opposite the spine, the fore-edge.

Two books in our special collections feature examples of mid-19th century disappearing fore-edge paintings. They are the two volumes of the second edition of the Memoirs of Lord Bolingbroke by George Wingrove Cooke, and were published in 1836.

When the book is closed you cannot see the image, only the gilt edges of the text block, but when the leaves are fanned, the hidden picture is revealed.

To achieve this effect, the artist would need to fan the pages, and then secure them in a vice, this means they are applying the paint not to the edge of the page, but to just shy of the edge. Once completed, it is released from the vice and the gilding would be applied to the edges.

Landscape scenes were the most popular for this technique, and the ones on our books show Conway Castle and Caernarfon Castle.

Very often the motivation for a fore-edge painting was a demonstration of artistic skill, so it didn’t always follow that the images were related to the text contained within the book. These two volumes of Memoirs, do not have an obvious connection to the scenes painted. Lord Bolingbroke (Henry St John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke 1678–1751) was an English politician during the reign of Queen Anne, and later George I, and is probably best known as a supporter of the Jacobite rebellion of 1715, but he does not appear to have any direct association with either Conwy or Caernarfon.

The volumes were acquired for the Library in 2008 from a rare book dealer, but we don’t know enough about their history to be able to tell when the fore-edge paintings were added. The first volume contains an inscription that states that the book was a gift to a T. M. Townley from his friend Samuel Thomas Abbot on his leaving Eton in 1843. Unfortunately we don’t know anything about either the recipient or the sender, so we can’t tell if one of them was ultimately responsible for painting the books.