Roberts notes in his Record Book for 1831, 'In Autumn I visited Scotland principly to compleat a serries of drawings I had been long in collecting - of the Monastic Antiquitys of Scotland - which I hope soon to bring before the Public - in a set of Etchings - Eight of which I have allready completed - In the course of this trip I visited Dumfrieshire Abbotsford Melfrose Jedburgh and Kelso' [sic]. In July 1831 he sent several etchings to his friend, D.R. Hay explaining that 'they are the first in a series I have some thoughts of publishing on the Antiquitys of Scotland, but I do not know that they will come to anything. If it should it will be in Monthly Parts, each part to contain 4 or 5 etchings with a short historical description of each place.'
Nothing, however, came of the scheme and in a letter to David Laing in 1859, Roberts again refers to his plan to produce this series saying 'Many many Years Since, in my boyhood, I was ambitious of producing a work on Dear old Scotland ... Circumstances over which I had little control made me leave England and abandon this pet scheme'. In addition to the reason Roberts himself cited for abandoning the project, he may also have been dissatisfied with his own attempts at printmaking compared to the commercial engravings produced for publications such as The Keepsake.
Ten etchings are known, nine of them reproduced in J. Ballantine's biography of Roberts (op.cit), and the tenth from the three sets of etchings in the collections of the National Galleries of Scotland, The National Library of Scotland and The Victoria and Albert Museum, London. It would appear from a letter that Roberts wrote to Hay in September 1831 'that not more than 6 impressions [of] each' made. Most of the drawings appear to be preliminary sketches intended to be redrawn. The drawings are sold in the contemporary portfolio in which they were offered in Robert's studio sale in 1865.
We are grateful to Krystyna Matyjaszkiewicz for her help in the preparation of this catalogue entry.