Saturday, November 12, 2011

The most bookish place in the UK? by Jenni from Juniper's Jungle

I'm so pleased today to welcome back my wonderful friend Jenni from Juniper's Jungle!

Jenni is one of the nicest people ever and I'm proud to call her my friend! She is a blogger as well as a student and aspiring author who hopes to one day be a teen librarian.

Jenni is very outspoken of her love of Wales and I couldn't think of anyone better suited to talk about the bookishness of Aberystwyth than Jenni. To find out more about Jenni, please do vist her blog or follow her on Twitter!

Over to you, Jenni...

When Clover sent around an email asking for guest contributions for British Month at Fluttering Butterflies I knew instantly that I needed to write something about my current adopted home, Aberystwyth. I moved because it was a choice of here or Manchester to study on my chosen course, I had no idea until I got here that it’s about as bookish a place as you could care to find.

For the uninitiated Aberystwyth is a coastal town in mid Wales. It is the administrative centre for the west coast of Wales, and a somewhat popular holiday destination. It has a population of around 17,000 permanent residents along with in excess of 10,000 students at Aberystwyth University during the academic year. In addition to having sea on one side of the town it has the Cambrian Mountains on the other making it a lovely place to live.

But what about the books? Well it is suggested that Aberystwyth has the most books per resident of anywhere in the world! This may be an unsubstantiated rumour (I haven’t been able to find any official confirmation) but it’s a pretty logical one. In addition to a couple of bookshops Aberystwyth is awash with libraries. To start with there’s the town library, it’s currently in it’s original Carnegie funded home but is due to move fairly soon. Then there are the university libraries, there are three of them plus an external store containing a huge number of books (and other items too). There are a number of private libraries within public bodies that are based in Aberystwyth, they all add to the book count. To top it all off is this place:

The National Library of Wales is the national legal deposit library for Wales, one of six in the UK. It contains millions of books, including the first book published in Welsh, Yn u lhyvyr hwnn, and the Black Book of Carmarthen the earliest surving manuscript that was written in Welsh (it dates back to around 1250). With its millions, plus all of the other books across the other libraries, and the relatively small population, the idea it has the highest book to resident ratio seems sound to me.

Aberystwyth’s bookish nature doesn’t stop here though. It is home to the Welsh Books Council, who work to promote books in the Welsh language and books in the English language that are of interest to Wales. It is also home to Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru, the Welsh language dictionary considered to be the Welsh equivalent to the Oxford English Dictionary. Honno, the Welsh Women’s Press, also have their home in the town.

Aberystwyth also appears in a number of books, Malcolm Pryce’s series of noir detective novels are set in and around a alternative version of Aberystwyth - each book title contains the town name. Joanna Davies’ book Freshers is set in Aberystwyth and centres primarily around the university. Author Niall Griffiths who lives just outside of the town has set a number of his books in Aberystwyth.

Finally we come to notable people from Aberystwyth. Paul Henry, Dafydd Ifans, Mike Jenkins, Alun Lewis, Alfred Noyes, and Malcolm Pryce, are all published writers who came from Aberystwyth.

So with more books per person than any other place, some significant book related organisations, appearances in a number of books, and writerly offspring through the generations I reckon Aberystwyth is a good bet for the most bookish place in the UK.

Does anyone want to suggest different? I’d love to hear of somewhere more deserving of the title!


  1. I think I need to get myself to Aberystwyth! That's for this Jenny!

  2. I knew the National Library was in Aber, but I was totally expecting this to be about Hay - consider me educated!

    Great post, Jenni. I loved Aberystwyth Mon Amour.

  3. This place sounds amazing - I must go and see for myself the bookishness for Aberystwyth... :)

  4. Thanks for your comments, I'm glad to have been able to spread the word :)

  5. Brilliant post. I want to visit!

  6. Ahhhhh! Aber is my SPECIAL PLACE. Loved seeing your photo and reading your blog. From an ex-Aber student ;-)

  7. I LOVE this post, thank you so much Jenni! Aberystwyth sounds absolutely lovely. More books per resident than anyplace in the world? Sounds like my kind of city!

  8. Another ex-Aber student here! I spent a LOT of time at the National Library of Wales and I lived stumbling distance away in my second year ;)


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