A new edition and study of one of north-east Scotland's best-loved works of literature and science has been shortlisted for the Scottish Research Book of the Year 2023.
The Old Red Sandstone, or New Walks in an Old Field was written in 1841 by the Cromarty-born stonemason, self-taught geologist and literary genius Hugh Miller. It is a deep history of the Scottish landscape viewed through a blend of scientific, scenic, historical, folkloric and poetic perspectives.
It became a literary classic, staying in print until the Aberdeen University Press edition of 1922. 101 years on, it has just been reissued in two volumes, published by National Museums Scotland Enterprises.
The first volume is a monograph by the University of Aberdeen’s Professor Ralph O’Connor, Professor in the Literature and Culture of Britain, Ireland & Iceland and Dr Michael A. Taylor, former Principal Curator of Vertebrate Palaeontology at National Museums Scotland.
As they show, The Old Red Sandstone decisively changed the way people in Scotland and beyond thought, and felt, about the earth’s deep history. It made Miller a household name: he did for Scotland’s geology what his idol Walter Scott did for Scotland’s history.
The shortlisting is part of Scotland’s National Book Awards 2023, awarded by the Saltire Society in conjunction with the National Library of Scotland.
Professor O’Connor, who works across Gaelic, History and English at the University, said: “Mike and I are honoured that our work, 15 years in the making, has been recognized in this way. This is a real testament to the value of ‘slow research’, and to the interdisciplinary environment fostered by this University.
“A monograph like this would barely have been possible without all the expert advice and feedback that I received from fellow researchers at Aberdeen in disciplines spanning English, French, Gaelic, Spanish and the Elphinstone Institute to History, Religious Studies, Divinity and of course Geology. This level of interdisciplinarity is only possible at an ‘A to Z’ university like Aberdeen, and I am very grateful to have benefited from it.”
Sarah Mason, Executive Director of the Saltire Society, said: “The 2023 shortlists ... show the outstanding talent, scale, diversity and excellence that we are so lucky to have in Scotland today. These Awards have a proud history of celebrating the extraordinary richness in the work of our authors, publishers and designers and we congratulate everyone who has been shortlisted this year.”