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The Friends of Hugh Miller

Celebrating a win! The Old Red Sandstone: Saltire Society's Scottish Research Book of the Year 2023

Celebrating a win! The Old Red Sandstone: Saltire Society's Scottish Research Book of the Year 2023

Added at 08:14 on 31 January 2024

Professor Ralph O’Connor (University of Aberdeen, known for his history of 19th century geology and literature, The Earth on Show) and Dr Michael A. Taylor (National Museums Scotland and University of Leicester) have won one of Scotland’s 2023 National Book Awards, the Scottish Research Book of the Year, for their new 2-volume edition of and monograph about Hugh Miller’s 1841 bestseller The Old Red Sandstone, or New Walks in an Old Field. The Saltire Society presents these prizes each year ‘to highlight Scotland’s outstanding talent, raise the profile of writers and introduce audiences to exceptional new works’.

The Old Red Sandstone can claim to be the best-loved book about fossils ever written, but no new edition has appeared for over a century. In it, self-taught Ross-shire stonemason, folklore collector and geologist Hugh Miller wove together his passions for geology, history, scenery, literature, folklore and his own deeply held religious beliefs. The result is a compelling meditation on Scotland’s deep history, a literary classic that also tells the story of Miller’s own beginnings as a geologist. It remains remarkably fresh and readable to this day. Like the Old Red Sandstone itself, it also packs in lots of fossil fishes. Volume 2 of O’Connor and Taylor’s edition reprints the now-rare first edition of 1841 in facsimile with notes and glossary. Volume 1 is a full-length critical study (with numerous colour illustrations) that explores how Miller wrote his book, why it was so important and what real-life readers made of it around the world. The renowned novelist and poet James Robertson has contributed a Foreword, and a curatorial study of Miller’s specimens in vol. 1 was co-authored with Andrew J. Ross, Principal Curator of Palaeobiology at National Museums Scotland.

The Friends of Hugh Miller management committee and all members extend their warmest congratulations to Ralph and Mike, and thank them for their extensive work on this beautiful book! You can read more about the new edition of The Old Red Sandstone in the latest edition of Hugh's News (issue 55).