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Leighton Library

Address. The Cross, Dunblane, Perthshire. Postal address: Department of Rare Books, University Library, University of Stirling, Stirling FK9 4LA [Map]
Telephone. (01786) 46 72 35 (University of Stirling)
Fax. (01786) 46 68 66 (University of Stirling)
Internet. http://www.library.stir.ac.uk/ (University of Stirling)

Governing body or responsible institution. Trustees of the Leighton Library
Functions. Museum. Formerly cathedral library, subscription library.
Subjects. Theology and related subjects, classical philology, history. No additions are made to the library.

Access. Open to researchers. Previous arrangement and written application desirable. Books are brought for consultation on request to the Haldane Room, Stirling University Library. - Opening hours (University of Stirling): Monday to Friday 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., and by arrangement. - The library at Dunblane is open to the public from Easter to October, the interior may be inspected as well as books on display.
Special facilities. Photocopier and microfilming facilities in Stirling University Library.
Printed information. Printed leaflets available in the Leighton Library.
Travel directions. Stirling University Library: train to Stirling from Edinburgh (2 hrs) or Glasgow. Taxi or bus service from nearby Bus Station (no. 53 Midland Bluebird).


1.1 The library was founded by the will of Archbishop Robert Leighton (1611-1684) for the benefit of the clergy of the Cathedral and Diocese (later the Presbytery) of Dunblane. The building in which the library is housed was erected after his death and opened in 1688. The library reflects his theological opinions and his wide and deep learning. Leighton had studied at the University of Edinburgh, from which he graduated in 1631. After spending some years abroad, mainly in France, he returned to Scotland in 1638. In 1641 he was ordained and inducted to the parish of Newbattle near Edinburgh, later he was appointed Principal of the University of Edinburgh, a post which was linked to a chair of theology. In 1661 he became Bishop of Dunblane, a position which he held until his translation in 1670 to the archbishopric of Glasgow. After having resigned in 1674 he spent the last ten years of his life in studious retirement in the south of England. He bequeathed his library, totalling around 1,400 vols, to the Cathedral of Dunblane for the use of the clergy and townspeople, along with a sum of money, augmented by his relatives, to erect a suitable building to house the books.

1.2 Between 1684 and 1840, although the library became more or less dormant, another 3,100 vols were still added to the collection. They were donated, or purchased by the Trustees, up to the middle of the 19th century. In the mid-18th century the library had become a subscription library, in addition to its original function. After 1840, the library lay neglected and mothballed for the following 100 years, although some conservation work was undertaken from 1918 on, with some additional aid dating from 1935 and the following decade. Leighton's collection is still preserved in six original tiers of shelves from 1688 which contain most of his books. The library is now in the care of a body of trustees, while the books are administered on their behalf by the University of Stirling Library.


2.1 The collection comprises 3,300 works in 3,914 vols, of which c. 1,270 vols are from Leighton's bequest. There are 602 pre-1700 British items and c. 900 pre-1700 foreign books, c. 300 of which are 16th-century imprints. Apart from books in English and Latin, there are numerous examples of early printing in Hebrew and Greek. 15 languages are represented in total. There are 354 Latin and/ or Greek books printed in Germany, 2 German books (both printed in Amsterdam) and 16 Hebrew books printed in Germany. The collection is mainly theological, but travel literature (especially early books on America), works on law, philosophy, medicine, history and classical literature are also prominent.

2.2 There are numerous editions of classical authors and historians, of whom Aristotle (e.g. Frankfurt 1584-1587, incomplete) and Plutarch (Lives, Basel 1533) seem to have been favourites, as well as the works of the Church Fathers, e.g. Athenagoras, Augustine and Eusebius. Of early biblical books Pelbart de Themesvar's Expositio ...libri Psalmorum (Hagenau: Heinrich Gran 1504) should be mentioned as well as a version of the New Testament in Syriac (Vienna: M. Cymbermann 1562) or the book of Tobit in Hebrew (Isny: Paulus Fagius 1542), both rare examples of printing in biblical languages. The catholicity of Leighton's theological opinions can be gauged from the presence among his books of mystical writers such as Thomas a Kempis (De imitatione Christi, Cologne 1634?, and 5 other copies), St. François de Sales, Jeremias Drexel and of those of a number of Jansenist writers, whose spiritual discipline appealed to his rather austere nature. He also collected the writings of Jean Calvin, who is present in several Latin and French editions, and of Matthias Flacius Illyricus.

2.3 Like many educated Scots of the 16th and 17th centuries, with some of whom he was personally acquainted, Leighton had strong interests in such esoteric subjects as the Cabbala and alchemy. Among such material in Leighton's library may be mentioned Arcangelo da Burgonuovo's Pro defensione doctrinae Cabalae (Basel 1600), Johann Pistorius, Artis Cabalisticae, hoc est Reconditae theologiae et philosophiae scriptorum tomus I (Basel 1587), Arnoldus de Villanova, Medicina Salernitana (Frankfurt a. M. 1605), Tommaso Campanella, De sensu rerum et magia (Frankfurt a. M. 1620), Martin Ruland, Lexicon alchemiae (Frankfurt a. M. 1612) as well as Henricus Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, De incertitudine et vanitate omnium scientiarum & artium liber (Strasbourg 1622). Finally, Sebastian Münster's Cosmographia (Basel 1554) should be mentioned as an example of contemporary historiography.


3.1 Modern catalogues

University of Stirling Library OPAC

[includes all the volumes in the Leighton Library and can be accessed on: http://www.library.stir.ac.uk]

Card catalogue, 1979

[The basis for the online catalogue above; a copy of the catalogue may be consulted in the Leighton Library. Other copies are in Stirling University Library, in the National Library of Scotland and in the British Library.]

Davidson, G.: Catalogue of selected volumes from the Leighton Library. Dunblane 1960

Catalogue in sheaf binders, 1940

[compiled by C. Dinwoodie; may be consulted in Stirling University Library]

3.2 Historic catalogues

Catalogue of 1687 [The MS catalogue which came to Dunblane with the books in 1687 was lost for a long time, but was rediscovered in 1984 among some recent accessions in the National Library of Scotland.]

``Register of the Bibliotheck' dated 1691. In: The Bannatyne Miscellany, ed. D. Laing, 3 (1855) pp. 233-262 [Includes a MS catalogue; the original is held by the Trustees.]

A catalogue of the Leightonian Library, Dunblane. Edinburgh 1793; supplement 1809

Catalogue of the Leightonian Library, Dunblane. Edinburgh 1843


Douglas, R.: An account of the foundation of the Leightonian Library. In: Bannatyne Miscellany 3 (1855) pp. 227-272

Robertson, J. M.: The Leighton Library at Dunblane. In: Transactions of the Stirling Natural History and Archaeological Society (1898-99) pp. 140-152

Butler, D.: The life and letters of Robert Leighton. London 1908 [especially pp. 582-592]

Couper, W. J.: Bibliotheca Leightoniana, Dunblane. Glasgow 1917 [privately printed. Also published in: Society of Friends of Dunblane Cathedral Journal 1, pt 3 (1992) pp. 10-26]

Craven, J. B.: The esoteric studies of Robert Leighton. Selkirk 1918

Knox, E. A.: Robert Leighton, Archbishop of Glasgow. London 1930 [especially pp. 225-265]

Innes, C.: Robert Leighton and the advancement of natural science. In: Society of Friends of Dunblane Cathedral Journal 5, pt 4 (1949) pp. 85-88

Willis, G.: The Leighton Library, Dunblane. Its history and contents. In: The Bibliotheck 10, no. 6 (1981) pp. 139-157

Allan, J. M.: Only my books. Archbishop Leighton's bequests. Stirling 1985 (University of Stirling Bibliographical Society. Occasional publications 5)

Willis, G.: An historic library conserved. The Leighton Library, Dunblane. In: Library Review 39, no. 1 (1990) pp. 28-32

Allan, J. M.: The work is much forslowed. In: Society of Friends of Dunblane Cathedral Journal 16, part 1 (1990) pp. 10-22

See also: A directory of rare book and special collections ...2nd ed. London 1997, p. 624

December 1997

William A. Kelly

Quelle: Handbuch der historischen Buchbestände in Deutschland. Digitalisiert von Günter Kükenshöner.
Hrsg. von Bernhard Fabian. Hildesheim: Olms Neue Medien 2003.