26 Treasures launch at the National Library of Wales

Readers who are curious about the treasures we have in our National Library, and interested in the stories behind them can now see how poets – writing in Welsh and English – have interpreted the ‘voices’ of 26 of the objects in a new book, 26 Treasures, which is published this month.

The book has been crowd-funded through Unbound and will be the world’s first anthology of ‘sestudes’ – a new literary form of 62 words devised especially for the projects from which the book has arisen. It will include contributions from similar projects at the V&A, the Ulster Museum and the National Museum of Scotland and features sestudes from leading poets and writers such as Gillian Clarke, the national poet of Wales; Andrew Motion and Alexander McCall Smith. The aim was to tell the stories behind the objects and inspire visitors to the museums (or viewers of the collections online) to see the treasures in a new light.

The ‘Wales’ section of the book features twenty six pieces of writing, 13 in Welsh and 13 in English, alongside striking photos. The Wales project was organised by writers' collective 26, in collaboration with National Library of Wales and Tŷ Newydd Writers’ Centre. Writers were paired at random with the objects – from a film of Lloyd George meeting Hitler to a self-portrait by Shani Rhys-James – and given six weeks to come up with their response.

Translators' House Wales joined forces with the project to commission translations of each original text written in response to the 26 treasures selected from the National Library of Wales's collection. Each sestude was translated into the other language, while keeping to the rule that the translation must also be exactly 62 words. The translations were then submitted to our Translation Challenge annual competition.

The pieces of writing were displayed at last year’s National Eisteddfod as part of the Translators' House Wales Translation Challenge organised by Wales Literature Exchange and Tŷ Newydd. The Bardic Staff was awarded to Hywel Meilyr Griffiths for his translation of Lin Sagovsky’s Old banknotes. It was a real feat of translation because Lin’s original piece – inspired by her randomly assigned object, Welsh banknotes from the 19th century – draws on the language of advertising slogans.

Further details

The book will be launched on Tuesday 12 June, 2pm at the Council Chambers, National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth. The Translators' House Wales Translation Challenge 2012 will also be launched at the event.

The book, (priced from £10 for an electronic copy, £18 for hardback), will be sent to subscribers in June, and the second edition will be distributed by Faber to shops in September.

It’s still possible to buy the book through the website, visit www.unbound.co.uk/books/26-treasures. To read the poems, their translations, and some of the stories behind their creation, visit www.26treasures.com

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