By Roz Skinner
The owner of Gilleasbuig Ferguson Rare Books has come to the belief that books contain at least two stories: the one on the printed page and a different, unexpected one.
Gilleasbuig has discovered countless newspaper clippings, engravings, interesting inscriptions and notes concealed in the pages of his various books!
He says: “I sell a lot of books by Charles Darwin and the scribbled notes by scientists who have challenged his views give a window into the thoughts of people who died many years ago.”
Located next door to Skeabost Country House Hotel, Gilleasbuig operates out of a book-crammed shop in his garden. The shelves are loaded with Gaelic and Scottish interest books, natural history, music, poetry and place-names, as well as fiction and non-fiction titles – making it a book lover's paradise.
Some of Gilleasbuig's fascinating finds includes “The Brave Sons of Skye” - a military book by Lieutenant-Colonel John MacInnes. Published in 1899, the book mainly chronicles the lives of those who went to fight in the Napoleonic Wars, and reveals that Skye sent 10,000 private soldiers to that conflict. Gilleasbuig says: “It's a fascinating book to read. And someone has added an engraved portrait from another book – printed in 1781 – about a man called Sergeant D. Macleod.”
Underneath his portrait it says that Macleod was born on the Isle of Skye and had served under "five crowned heads." Aged one hundred and two (in 1781), he was said to be in good health and had twelve sons – the youngest of whom was nine years old!
Lewis-born Gilleasbuig has recently become a member of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association (ABA) and is one of only ten members of the association in Scotland. “It's a really important trade association for booksellers in the UK,” explains Gilleasbuig. “I love building up relationships with other dealers and meeting new people.”
Gilleasbuig will be taking a selection of stock further afield when he visits the York national book fair in September. He will also be appearing at The Skye Book Festival on 31 August to 2 September.
Visitors are welcome to view his shop at Tigh na Mara, Skeabost. “People can visit any time, even if I'm eating dinner or putting the kids to bed!” laughs Gilleasbuig.
“I keep fairly regular shop hours, but visitors are welcome to pop in when they are passing. Everyone is welcome to come in and have a look round. The view from the shop door alone is worth the visit!”