Robin Alston

The following tributes to Robin Carfrae Alston OBE appeared in SALON on 10 October 2011:

Emeritus Professor Robin Alston, the distinguished bibliographical scholar and philologist, who died on 29 June 2011, has been remembered in a series of recent tributes.

The Leeds University website said that Robin’s ‘magisterial multi-volume series A Bibliography of the English Language from the Invention of Printing to the Year 1800 took shape while he was a lecturer in the School of English there between 1964 and 1976.

Stephen Green, writing in the Guardian, hailed him as an inspirational teacher at Leeds who embarked on his second great project in 1966 when established publishers would not back his scheme to reprint cheap facsimile editions of pre-1801 literary and historical texts, so he set up his own publishing company, the Scolar Press, and over the next seven years reproduced more than 2,000 such works; Scolar Press is now part of the Ashgate Publishing Group, which paid its own tribute to Robin as one of the founders of its current humanities publishing programme ().

Leaving Leeds in 1976, he embarked on a third great project, as Editor-in-Chief of the British Library’s major computerised Anglo-American Eighteenth-Century Short Title Catalogue project, listing every book, pamphlet, newspaper, journal and other forms of printed material published before 1801, with information on the holding institution, a task of such scale as to be thought by many to be impossible, but that Robin took on while also teaching in the University of London where, in 1990, he was appointed Professor of Library Studies, and where, in 1995, he set up the first MA in the History of the Book.