I recently finished reading Welsh Walks and Legends, which was written by author/outdoorsman Showell Styles1 (1908-2005) and first published in 1972. Styles published more than 160 books, ranging from historic navy adventures to juvenile fiction to mysteries (usually with an outdoors theme). He also authored more than three dozen non-fiction books on mountaineering, backpacking and hiking. Later in life, most of these focused on his native Wales.
Welsh Walks and Legends is a quick read at less than 100 pages. Styles' approach is to present a short piece of Welsh history or folklore and then follow it up with instructions on how to hike to and from a real-life ruin or location mentioned in the tale. As a folk-tale writer, he has a nice touch. And his hiking descriptions show an eye for detail and a love of the outdoors and Welsh history. (I suspect, however, that some of the hikes he describes aren't feasible in quite the same way, more than four decades later.)
Madoc, a Welshman who, perhaps, sailed to North America in the 12th century and had himself and his crew assimilated into Native American civilization, leading to later legends of "Welsh Indians."1
I also liked the tales of the church at Llangar; Afanc the relocated lake monster [pictured at right, in an illustration from the book by Elwyn Davies]; the farmer who caught a fairy; the cursed village of Nant Gwrtheyrn; and the brave dog Gelert's unfortunate end.2
And there was a bonus with my copy of Welsh Walks and Legends: It's an ex-library volume that still has some of its circulation materials intact. If you know me, you know that makes my heart beat a little faster.
First up, here's a look at the card pocket and the circulation-stamp sheet on the first page of the book.
This book, we can see, was No. 17223988 at the Lancashire County Library, which had its headquarters in Preston, England. (It appears that all of the Lancashire libraries are now controlled and operated by the Lancashire County Council.) The colorful and haphazard array of stamps has dates ranging from July 1973 to August 1990.
And here are the two cards that were still in the card pocket. For perspective, the first is the size of an index card and the second is only the size of a credit card.
Of minor note: There seemed to be some confusion regarding whether Styles' book belonged in 790 classification (recreational & performing arts) or 796 classification (athletic & outdoor sports & games) under the Dewey Decimal system. I'm not sure either one is a great fit for a book that's half folklore and half hiking guide. Styles, it seems, created his own genre with Welsh Walks and Legends.
- There's beauty in them thar old library circulation cards
- Pennsylvania College's old library copy of "Flatland"
- Old-style Ruth Manning-Sanders library book borrower's card
- Today's work of art: Page from an old library book
1. Intrigued? Check out Footprints of the Welsh Indians: Settlers in North America before 1492 and/or dive into the Wikipedia article "Pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact theories."
2. Sarah did not enjoy Gelert's tale. She thought Llywelyn the Great should have used a little more common sense and some investigative skills before slaying his beloved dog.