Shetland Archives Book Collection

The Shetland Archives holds what is perhaps the largest collection of Shetland-related books anywhere in the world. The collection includes some of the very earliest and rarest books to mention Shetland, a wide selection of volumes about Scotland and the Scandinavian countries, and a growing number of works from the cutting edge of research about the isles. For anybody studying Shetland, the Archives book collection is a fabulous resource.

The collection, as it stands today, is an amalgamation of several smaller libraries. The Archives have always collected books, but when the new Shetland Museum and Archives opened in 2007, space for storing them was no longer a problem. At that point the Archives collection was merged with that of the Shetland Museum, forming the basis of what we have today. A few years later, two large and important collections of Shetland books were transferred from the Shetland Library to the Archives. These were the Goudie and Reid Tait collections, and this addition to the Archives holdings swelled the book catalogue by several thousand volumes.

The Goudie collection, formerly housed in Lerwick Town Hall before going to the library, was compiled by James Mouat Goudie, a local businessman and Provost of Lerwick. It is an excellent selection of local books, and includes some very interesting Scandinavian items.

The library of draper and antiquarian E. S. Reid Tait contains many of the same volumes as the Goudie collection. The Reid Tait collection is much larger, though, and many of the items in it are unique. There are, for example, letters from authors pasted into many of the volumes; and there are many volumes of magazine cuttings that probably exist in few other places. The Reid Tait collection is made up of more than four and half thousand items and represents almost half the entire book holdings of the Archives.

Only part of the book collection is on public display, but every book held by the Archives is available to researchers. The catalogue can be searched online and Archives staff are always happy to tell people about the books and papers they look after.