Rare and Unique - Shetland's rare book collection

This December the Shetland Museum and Archives are focusing on the rare and unique Shetland book collection they look after for the islands, both with special events and the return of the popular Advent Tree in reception and on the Facebook page.

There are around 7000 books which have either been written about Shetland or written by Shetlanders and they date from the seventeenth century. They cover varied topics from romantic fiction and academic journals to books about geology, sheepdogs and Scandinavian law. These books are not available for borrowing but can be requested and read in the Archives search room.

In recent years the scale of the book collection has steadily increased. Archives staff make sure to include books with the latest research about Shetland, and older volumes we might not have known about sometimes appear too. The book collection was also given a huge boost when the Goudie and Reid Tait collections were transferred from the library a few years ago. The library of E.S. Reid Tait is undoubtedly the largest private collection of Shetland books there has ever been.

Dr Mark Smith, Archives Assistant, says “Here at the Archives we probably have the most comprehensive collection of Shetland books that exists anywhere in the world. This is a great resource for anybody who wants to know more about the islands.”

Dr Smith will be hosting “Rare and Unique: A look behind the scenes at the Shetland book collection” on Wednesday 14th December at 2.30pm and Friday 16th December at 11.00am. These free events are a unique opportunity to go behind the scenes and discover more about Shetland’s book collection. No booking is required for these events.

This collection is also the focus for the Shetland Museum and Archives advent calendar this December. Each day from the first, until Christmas Eve, a new Christmas bauble will be revealed on Facebook and on the reception Christmas Tree with a member of staff’s favourite book from the Shetland Book Collection. They will explain why they have chosen a range of titles from Edward Charleton’s “ Travels in Shetland 1832 – 1852” to F.S. Walteron’s “Gaf it Aff”.

The advent calendar was very popular online last year and staff hope it will highlight the wonderful range of books that are in this rare and unique collection.

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