The recent death of Michael Robson, of Callicvol at Port of Ness, means a unique opportunity has arisen to acquire his important collection of rare and important books.
His lifetime of collecting and commitment to creating a full-scale historical presence in remote places means there is a significant library available for someone with the interest in maintaining it for themselves and others.
If an individual purchaser cannot be found - and efforts have been made unsuccessfully to achieve this over the past few years - then the collection (which can be seen on www.scottishbookcollection.com) will be broken up through an auction saleroom.
As a whole, the collection tells the fascinating story of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland and includes some unique copies, as well as difficult-to-find books, maps, atlases, and varied publications that extend from the early 17th century through to modern times.
This collection represents a deep exploration into all aspects of Scotland's landscape, historical, economic, political, and social.
The shape of this "library" is the result of much more than a passion for books. The collection's origins lie in more than one person's quest, in pursuit of the colours, the shapes, and the stories of a much-loved land. Travelling from hill to hill, from island to island, this collection is filled with a tapestry of searching and finding. Michael Robson absorbed the land and its history through constant physical contact as well as through reading and the widest possible contact with people and their stories. His method involved passionate and meticulous research that always included talking to the people who live and work in the places involved.
But the interest of the collection spreads far beyond Scotland. For instance, In 1772 a scientist, Joseph Banks, made an exploratory visit to Iceland, and thus stirred up a considerable interest in that island, about which at that time little was known by anybody living south of Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Just over 30 years later, another and much younger person, Sir George Steuart Mackenzie, who owned the estate of Coul in Ross-shire and who had similar scientific interests to those of
Banks, made the same journey and the following year wrote an expensive and splendid-looking volume entitled ‘Travels in the Island of Iceland, During the Summer of the Year 1810’.
Mackenzie’s studies were widespread in range, beginning perhaps with the more domestic discoveries which he made at first, including buildings and their occupants – illustrated here with a bright, colourful and cheerful row of men, women and a child in ‘Icelandic Costume’.
The selections on www.scottishbookcollection.com offer just glimpses into the nature of this collection, which numbers around 3200 volumes. A 22-page pdf document is available with other information and a full catalogue should be available soon.