This book had its origins in The Guide to the Great North of Scotland Railway originally published in 1881. It had been intended that these engravings would be used as illustrations for this, but the printing cost for a volume intended to sell for one shilling were to high, and they were held back.
“It was resolved to offer them to the public in a more artistic guise than the pages of a guide book.
They are therefore now produced in this Edition de Luxe , with such descriptive and historical notes as the Editor has been able to collect. The letterpress has already appeared in part in he Guide, but has in most cases been largely supplemented”.
Until comparatively recently, the Great North of Scotland had been a truly dreadful railway, fully down to the standards of its English cousins of the same period. The Lancashire and Yorkshire, the South Eastern and the London Chatham and Dover, with slow dirty trains, which habitually ran late, and a general disregard for the convenience and comfort of passengers. A change in management, and a gradual improvement in the number and quality of its best trains brought about a steady improvement, and this publication could be seen as a celebration that a corner had been turned.
(Sir) George Reid (31 October 1841 – 9 February 1913, knighted 1902), was born in Aberdeen in 1841. He developed an early passion for drawing, which led to his being apprenticed in 1854 for seven years to Messrs Keith & Gibb, lithographers in Aberdeen. In 1861 Reid took lessons from an itinerant portrait-painter, William Niddrie, who had been a pupil of James Giles R.S.A. and afterwards entered as a student in the school of the Board of Trustees in Edinburgh. After studying in Holland and France, he was noted for his his portraits, which are marked by great individuality, and by fine insight into character. His work in black-and-white, his admirable illustrations in brushwork of Edinburgh and its neighbourhood, and also his pen-drawings, about which it has been declared that “his work contains all the subtleties and refinements of a most delicate etching,” must also be noted. Elected Associate of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1870, Reid attained full membership in 1877,
He was therefore well established in his career when commissioned to illustrate “Twelve Sketches…” in the early 1880s. The quality of these was such that many copies of the book were purchased and dis-bound so that the pictures could be framed. It is quite unusual to find a complete copy.