Ian Robertson, who has died aged 92, embarked on a lifetime’s scholarship on Spain and a prodigious production of travel guides inspired by an unlikely combination of the Duke of Wellington’s campaigns in the Peninsular War and Richard Ford’s accounts of his Spanish journeys. He became a leading authority on both.
His Spanish interests led to a commission to write the Blue Guide to Spain. A succession of further Blue Guides followed on France, Portugal, Ireland, Cyprus, Austria and Switzerland, but his work on Spain, and especially Ford, remained his abiding passion and his crowning achievement.
In addition to several titles on Wellington’s campaigns, Robertson’s seminal work was the authoritative Los Curiosos Impertinentes about English travellers in Spain in the 18th and 19th centuries, which was published in Spanish in Madrid in 1977. Richard Ford, a major biography, was published in London in 2004. Along the way, he edited Ford’s Hand-Book for Travellers in Spain and Gatherings from Spain.
Richard Ford both inspired and informed him. “Time has not dimmed the scintillating perspicacity of Ford’s observations,” Robertson wrote.
Robertson’s own observations were equally masterful – combining waspish wit, artistic detail and encyclopedic knowledge – and even today it is a challenge to find a cloister or remote chapel that he had not visited and written about in his Blue Guide. The same is broadly true of all of his guides.
Robertson died in hospital from heart failure on 7 December 2020 in Arles which had been his home for the last 20 years.
Written by Gail Turner