The majority of the 6,500 books and periodicals in the Brunel Institute were donated by the distinguished maritime historian David MacGregor.
With some dating back to the early 1700s they cover a wide range of maritime topics including passenger liners, naval history, naval architecture, shipbuilding, seamanship, maritime archaeology and ethnographic boats.
The library contains internationally significant items such as complete run of Mariner’s Mirror and most of Lloyds Register. These are housed alongside more personal documents such the diaries and logs of crew and passengers.
David MacGregor was born in 1925. Despite no nautical or boating interest in the family MacGregor harboured a keen enthusiasm for sailing ships. On graduating from Cambridge he worked in an architect’s office in London but devoted most of his spare time to his passion of maritime research.
His methodical research notes form part of the collection now in the Brunel Institute and demonstrate his almost forensic approach to detail.
In 1961 MacGregor’s expertise in maritime history had developed to such an extent that he left architecture and became a full-time writer, plan supplier and painter. His books on ship design and development established him as a leading expert in the field.
These books often included plans that MacGregor had taken from extant vessels, ship models or earlier versions of plans in museum collections. This detailed technical knowledge was more widely shared when MacGregor set up a plans business, supplying plans to model makers and other enthusiasts.
Most of these plans are now in the collection at the Brunel Institute and can be viewed on request.
David MacGregor died in 2003 but the legacy of his collection and life’s work continues to inspire, inform and educate at the SS Great Britain.