George Thomson had the idea of matching traditional Scottish tunes to words by leading writers of the day, as outlined in a letter he sent to Robert Burns in 1792: ?For some years past, I have, with a friend or two, employed many leisure hours in collating and collecting the most favourite of our national melodies, for publication... To render this work perfect, we are desirous to have the poetry improved wherever it seems unworthy of the music.? In June 1793, Thomson brought out the first part of his `Select Scottish Airs? which included twenty-five songs by Burns. This painting is a copy of a portrait by Sir Henry Raeburn. Thomson may have met the artist whilst he worked as clerk to the Board of Trustees for Manufactures in Scotland from 1780-1839. Raeburn also painted Thomson?s wife.