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Edinburgh University Library

Address. Main Library: George Square, Edinburgh EH9 8IJ; [Map]
New College Library: Mound Place, Edinburgh EH1 2LU; [Map]
Reid Music Library: Alison House, 12 Nicholson Square, Edinburgh EH8 9DF
Telephone. (0131) 650-1000 (Main Library); (0131) 225-8400 (New College Library); (0131) 650-2435 (Reid Music Library)
Fax. (0131) 667-9780
e-mail. [library@ed.ac.uk]
Internet. http://www.lib.ed.ac.uk/

Governing body or responsible institution. The Senatus of the University of Edinburgh
Function. University library.
Subjects. All subjects to support the University's commitment to teaching and research.

Access. Edinburgh University Library is situated on 23 sites. Pre-1850 material is concentrated at three of them: the Main Library, New College theological library, and the Reid Music Library. - Readers may reserve items in advance as all older material is on closed access. Opening hours: Main Library: term time: Monday to Thursday 9 a.m. - 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., Sunday 12 a.m. - 5 p.m. Vacation: Monday to Friday 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. N.B. Special Collections is staffed only until 6 p.m. in term time, and until 5 p.m. during the vacation. New College: term time: Monday to Thursday 9 a.m. - 9.30 p.m., Friday 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. - 12.30 a.m. Vacation: Monday to Friday 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Reid Music: term time: Monday to Friday 9 a.m. - 5.30 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. - 12 a.m. Vacation: Monday to Friday 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Special facilities. Microfilm and microfiche readers. OPAC (manuscripts and printed books). Lap-top computers may be used. Photocopying facilities by readers, reprographic services in Special Collections available for some material by request.
Printed information. Various leaflets on the library's collections and services.
Travel directions. All the libraries are situated within easy reach of train and bus stations and are well served by local buses. - There is limited parking space available.


1.1 The University was founded as the Town's College by Royal Charter from King James VI in 1582, university status being granted in 1858 under the Universities of Scotland Act. Until 1708 the teaching staff consisted of four regents and the Principal, the former taking each class through a year's part of the whole arts curriculum of logic, metaphysics, ethics and physics, which included the elements of mathematics and astronomy. Until the middle of the 17th century, by which time the library must have exceeded the 2,400-odd vols listed in Robert Lumsden's shelf catalogue of 1637, the teaching tended to be commentaries on Aristotle, and even when this practise ceased after the 1650s and the Cartesian method was mentioned, it was usually done within a basically Aristotelian framework.

1.2 Other contemporary systems of thought such as those of Hobbes and of Spinoza are found mentioned in lecture notes and dissertations, but always in a condemnatory note. In turn Descartes's ideas gave way to those of Newton in the 1680s. French and Dutch scientists also feature in the teaching of natural philosophy and are well represented in the library's lists of purchases. While the progress made in the size of the library by the end of the century must have been in excess of Lumsden's figure for 1637, the 11,000 estimated in Robert Henderson's catalogue of 1695 must be treated with considerable caution. At various times in the 17th century the Church tried to impose a uniform curriculum on all the Scottish institutions of higher learning. In 1690 two members of Edinburgh's teaching staff were removed because of their suspect orthodoxy, their real ``offence' being an allegiance to episcopalian government of the Church.

1.3 In 1708 a modern system of professorships was introduced when the four regents agreed to restrict their teaching to particular subjects, moral philosophy, logic, Greek and natural philosophy. The eminence which the University achieved in the second half of the 18th century lay in the ability of the teachers and in the width and flexibility of the curriculum. The outstanding names in the Arts Faculty were the historians, Charles Mackie and William Robertson, the literary critics and rhetoricians, John Stevenson and Hugh Blair, and the philosopher and proto-sociologist, Adam Ferguson. While the Faculties of Law and Divinity contained nobody of great note, the Faculty of Medicine, which had been founded in 1726, could number William Cullen and Joseph Black, both chemists and the former also a skilled clinician, John Hope, the botanist, and Alexander Monro ``Secundus', the second of three direct generations to occupy the Chair of Anatomy. Closely associated with the Faculty of Medicine were the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Surgeons, which helped to secure for Edinburgh a reputation for excellence in medical education. To meet the needs of the students, who were drawn from many parts of the world by the lack of a religious test, books were purchased from the Netherlands, Germany, France and England. The University's commitment to scientific and technical education was enhanced further towards the end of the century with the establishment of chairs in Astronomy and Agriculture, for whose teaching many new works were added to the library.

1.4 The development of the library is very well documented from its earliest years both in the University's archives and in the Town Council's minutes. The basis of the collections is the bequest of 276 theological and law books in 1580 by an Edinburgh advocate, Clement Little (Littil[l], d. 1580, see below 2.15 -2.16). Left originally to the Town and Kirk of Edinburgh, it was transferred to the new college by Little's brother and executor. The practice of graduates donating books to the library was adopted early on, examples being the copy of the Ecclesiastica historia, integram ecclesiae Christi ideam ...complectens (Basel 1560), popularly known as the Magdeburg centuries, which was given by John Ruthven, the Earl of Gowrie, upon his graduating in 1593, and Joannes Aventinus's Annalium Boiorum libri septem (Ingolstadt 1554), donated in 1607 by Robert Fairlie, a grandson of John Knox, while some financially less well-off graduates pooled their resources to buy an expensive book. Another form of donation by graduates was a sum of money given for books to be selected by the regents and Principal to fit in with the curriculum. Two such examples are Francesco Piccolomini's Universa philosophia de moribus (Frankfurt 1595) and Aristotle's Physica (Frankfurt 1596). Other examples of early donations worthy of note are a Latin edition of Philo Judaeus's Lucubrationes omnes (Basel 1561), Pierre de la Ramée's Arithmeticae libri duo, geometriae septem et viginti (Frankfurt 1599) and Johannes Regiomontanus's De triangulis omnimodis libri quinque (Nuremberg 1533). The two most important donations to the library in the college's first century were the 692 books and manuscripts in various languages donated by the poet, William Drummond of Hawthornden, between 1626 and 1636 and the 1,338 vols bequeathed by the Rev. James Nairn(e) in 1678.

1.5 The University's attempts to keep up to date with scientific developments is reflected in the acquisition of Johannes Kepler's Dioptrice (Augsburg 1611) in 1667 and Pierre Gassendi's Syntagma philosophiae Epicuri (The Hague 1659) in 1678 and his Tychonis Brahei ...vita (Paris 1654) in 1655, as well as Johann Clauberg's Physica, quibus rerum corporearum vis et natura ...explicantur (Amsterdam 1664) and Elementa philosophiae, sive, ontosophia (Groningen 1647) in 1678. Astronomy formed part of the natural philosophy course, and despite books received in the James Douglas bequest of 1635 by Kepler, Copernicus, Brahe, Clavius and Peurbach the heliocentric ideas of Copernicus were not fully accepted at Edinburgh until the 1670s (see also below 2.6).

1.6 The Copyright Act of 1710 granted to the four Scottish Universities the right to receive on demand a copy of every book registered at Stationer's Hall, London. In 1837 the library lost its copyright privilege, and the compensatory annual Treasury grant of £575 was to be used for book purchase.

1.7 In 1824 a new alphabetical catalogue in 17 folio vols, which had been in preparation since 1767, was completed. It was supplemented by a working catalogue for everyday use, the cost of which was met by a loan on the strength of a large bequest from General John Reid (1721-1807). The library moved to the Old College, South Bridge in 1827. In 1842 there were four faculties - Divinity, Law, Natural History, Medical Faculty plus two Arts Faculties whose responsibilities included ordering books. Between the late 1850s and the late 1880s the curriculum was overhauled in such a way that the number of matriculations and gradations increased markedly in all faculties, with the exception of Divinity, which allowed the university to achieve the world-wide position it holds still.

1.8 In 1854 the library management system was set up by the Act. Thus the librarian was responsible for the ordinary management of the library and he was subject to the superintendence of the Library Committee of the Senate, by means of annual reports and inspections. Increased usage of the library made it necessary to make the catalogue available to readers, which at this time was still in manuscript form. The idea of having it printed was mooted as early as 1854. In 1864 the library began publishing a series of annual lists of accessions, weekly, monthly or annually, but that still did not meet the demand for a reader's catalogue. It was not until 1898 that the Senate allocated £3,000 of the Sir William Fraser bequest (£10,000) to produce a catalogue, which was completed over a period of six years but did not appear until 1918-1923 (see below 1.9). Further bequests and donations included the Shakespeare collection of James Orchard Halliwell-Phillips (1820-1889) in the period of 1872 to 1889 and David Laing's manuscript collection in 1878. The annual reports continued to plead for increases to the library budget. Class libraries started to develop, including a German class library. German courses began in the 1890s. Growing expenditure was on academic periodicals which proliferated in the late 19th century.

1.9 During the period of F. C. Nicholson's tenureship of librarian from 1919 to 1939 the library installed a fire-proof strong room, encouraged the growth of class libraries (35 by 1933), and finally the library encroached on adjacent rooms in the Old Quad. A printed catalogue in 3 vols (1918, 1921, 1923) was finally produced. The librarian also published a list of 15th-century books held by the library. Important donations were received on polar exploration and oceanography, Celtic philology and theology, archaeology, ethnology, fine art and architecture. In 1929 the New College Library absorbed the book stock of the theological library, but was not brought fully under the sphere of the Main Library's influence until 1965 (see below 2.22 -2.24). The library moved to George Square to a new building in 1967 designed by Sir Basil Spence. All material acquired since 1985 is available on the online catalogue.


Chronological outline and analysis by language

2.1 The Special Collections Department administers all the Main Library's pre-1800 imprints as well as later rare or special items (c. 200,000 items in total). There are c. 1,200 incunabula in the Department, c. 9,000 imprints dating from the 16th century, 35,000 from the 17th and 18th centuries and 60,000 from the 19th century. The number of German-language or German-printed volumes printed before 1901 cannot be stated with certainty, but may be in the regions of c. 15-20 per cent of the library's pre-1800 imprints. Pre-1700 books printed in Germany are mostly in Latin (Reformation literature expected), with a growing percentage of German-language books in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Subject outline

2.2 The Special Collections Department has c. 200,000 vols in all branches of knowledge and is strong in theology, particularly German Reformation tracts, the history of science, including mathematics, astronomy, geology and natural history, the history of medicine, economics, literature, travel and history. Of particular interest are c. 800 Lutheran tracts and 2,000 German, Scandinavian and Dutch theses, dating from the 16th to the 19th centuries.


2.3 The library is rich in Bibles with German imprints. Examples of early printing include the Nuremberg Polyglot by Elias Hutter of 1599, a first edition Latin Bible printed in Zürich in 1543, and Sebastiano Castalione's Latin edition (Basel 1551); Greek and Latin translations printed by Froben in Basel (1516) and his third (1522) and fifth editions (1535). German translations include a Biblia Sacra Germanica (Strasbourg 1485, with illustrations), a copy of the Low German Bible (Lübeck 1533) and a Lutheran, black letter with woodcuts (Wittenberg 1664). Other 17th-century editions are from Strasbourg (1626), Lüneburg (1635) and Nuremberg (1662). Eighteenth-century imprints from Altdorf, Arnstadt, Erlangen, Hamburg, Munich, Ratzeburg, Strasbourg, Tübingen and Züllichau are also represented. Other translations include Czech (1813), Wendish (1824) and Polish (1810) editions all published in Berlin, and a Dutch translation published at Cologne in 1548.


2.4 The first Professor of Botany was appointed in 1676, as plants provided the drugs for many of the early medicines. The early German imprints include Hortus sanitatis (Strasbourg [1496?]), Otto Brunfels's Herbarum vivae eicones (Basel 1532-1536), Johann Agricola's Medicinae herbariae (Basel 1539), Leonhard Fuchs's De historia stirpium (Basel 1542) and Christoph Jacob Trew's Plantae selectae (Nuremberg 1750-1773). The works of Linnaeus and other early botanists are also well represented.


2.5 The University Library possesses over 100 incunabula from German presses in Mainz, Strasbourg, Cologne, Ulm, Reutlingen, Magdeburg, Leipzig, Erfurt, Tübingen, Augsburg, Nuremberg, Speyer, Basel and Hagenau. These include the following: Gregory IX, Decretales (Mainz 1473), St. Augustine, De civitate Dei (Strasbourg [not after 1468]), Giovanni Boccaccio, De claris mulieribus (Strasbourg [n. d.]), Albertus Magnus, Compendium theologicae veritatis (Strasbourg 1489), Soccus, Sermones de tempore (Augsburg 1476), Gregory I, Pastorale (Cologne [1472]), Walter Burley, De vita et moribus philosophorum (Nuremberg [c. 1473]) and L. de Utino, Sermones quadragesimales (Ulm 1478) (see also below 2.15 ).

Mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, physics

2.6 The library owns early editions of Kepler, such as Dioptrice (Augsburg 1611) as well as Copernicus's De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (Nuremberg 1543) bound by the Wittenberg binder Frobenius Hempel with copious Latin 16th-century manuscript marginalia. Georgius Joachimus's (Rhaeticus) work on Copernicus, N. C. ...de revolutionibus orbium coelestium (Basel 1566), as well as his Narratio G. J. ...de libris revolutionum (Tübingen 1594) in Kepler's Prodromus dissertationum cosmographicarum is also in the library. The library holds works by the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, among them Historia coelestis (Augsburg 1666) from the Reid Bequest and Astronomiae instauratae mechanica (Nuremberg 1602). Early works on mathematics are represented by Christophorus Clavius's Epitome arithmeticae practicae (Cologne [1592]) and his Computus ecclesiasticus (Mainz 1599) as well as by Georg Peurbach's Elementa arithmetices (Wittenberg 1534).


2.7 The Royal College of Physicians was founded in 1681 and the Medical Faculty in 1726. Edinburgh grew as a medical centre of excellence which has continued to the present time. Its library shows this strength also. Apart from the acquisition of the 560 vols of the library of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in 1763 (see below 2.18), there was no great benefaction to the Medical Faculty, rather a steady flow of minor donations and works purchased for teaching purposes. The collection also included the library of J. Hutton (d. 1712), the first physician to King William III and Queen Anne. The Royal College of Physicians library, and that of the Royal College of Surgeons, refounded in the early 19th century, the National Library of Scotland and the library of the Botanic Garden make Edinburgh a primary source for the study of the history of medicine (see also entries for these libraries).

2.8 Among the medical books in Edinburgh University Library are Johann Agricola, Commentarii noui in Claudii Galeni medicorum principis, libros sex de locis affectis (Nuremberg 1537), Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, Opera (Lyon, [i.e. Strasbourg] after 1600), Arnaldus de Villanova, Opera omnia (Basel 1585), Gabriele Falloppio, Opera (Frankfurt 1584; Frankfurt 1600 and 1606), Hans von Gersdorff, Feldtbuch der Wundt Artzney (Frankfurt 1551; with woodcuts) or Paracelsus, Aurora thesaurusque philosophorum (Basel 1577). Other authors to be found are Johann Lange (2 items), Levinus Lemnius (6 items), Andreas Libavius (6 items), Adam Lonitzer, Johann Lotzer von Horb, Johann Schenck von Grafenberg (4 items) or Andreas Vesalius (De humani corporis fabrica libri septem, Basel 1543; Basel 1555). An example of 17th-century medicine is William Harvey's Exercitatio anatomica de motu cordis et sanguinis (Frankfurt 1628). There also are numerous examples of related disciplines such as natural history (e.g. Conrad Gesner), zoology, chemistry, alchemy or pharmacology. (For medical dissertations see also below 2.10)

Reformation pamphlets

2.9 The library is strong in German Reformation pamphlets covering every aspect of the conflicts from the beginning of the 16th century from all the major publishing houses. Over 1,000 come from the Duke of Sussex collection (see below 2.21). Among several hundred tracts by Luther there are sermons (e.g. Von der sunde widder den Heiligen Geist: Ein Sermon, Wittenberg 1534), exegetical writings (e.g. Das siebed Capitel S. Pauli zu den Chorinthern ausgelegt, Wittenberg 1523), dogmatical pamphlets (e.g. Von der Freyheit eynis Christen menschen, Wittenberg 1521) or political writings (e.g. Wider die Reuberischen vnd Mordischen rotten der Bawren, Hagenau 1525). Other authors represented are Melanchthon (16 items), Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt, Martin Bucer, Johann Bugenhagen, Georg Burckhard (Spalatinus), Johann Dobneck (Cochlaeus), Erasmus, Sebastian Franck, Ulrich von Hutten, John Frederick, Elector of Saxony, Justus Jonas, Joannes Oecolampadius, Andreas Osiander, Urbanus Rhegius, Ulrich Zwingli etc. Among the places of printing are Augsburg, Basel, Frankfurt a. M., Hagenau, Magdeburg, Mainz, Nuremberg, Strasbourg, Ulm, Wittenberg (with a dominance because of the Lutheran pamphlets) and Zürich. (Locations are listed by Pegg, see below 3.2; see also below 5, Ritchie.)


2.10 There are some German theses from the 16th to 18th centuries, c. 2,000 in number and mostly in Latin and many from major German presses. Among the medical dissertations numerous examples from Halle are to be noted, mostly from the 18th century, with the following professors acting as praeses: Michael Alberti (c. 50 items), Andreas Elias Büchner (c. 70 items), Friedrich Hoffmann (c. 25 items) or Georg Ernst Stahl (c. 35 items). The cataloguing is now under way.

Survey by collections

Lord Abercromby Collection

2.11 This collection of c. 2,500 vols of archaeology, ethnology and linguistics was bequeathed by John Abercromby, 5th and last Lord Abercromby of Aboukir and Tullibody (1841-1924). It consists of mostly 19th-century material, of which 10 per cent is from German presses.

Buchanan Collection

2.12 This collection was given by the widow of the Right Hon. Thomas Ryburn Buchanan (1846-1911), politician and bibliophile, in 1941. It comprises 150 vols (81 items) of classics, mostly in Latin, 10 per cent of which come from German presses, including four from 16th-century Basel.

Colin Campbell Collection

2.13 This small deposited collection of approximately 80 vols (c. 65 items) of classics, science and theology is mostly in Latin, c. 20 per cent of which come from German presses. Its name records its former owner, Colin Campbell of Achnaba (1644-1726), a mathematician and minister of Ardchattan in Lorne.

Drummond of Hawthornden

2.14 Several gifts were made in the 1620s and 1630s by William Drummond of Hawthornden (1585-1649), a Scottish poet and man of letters, comprising nearly 700 vols. Most concern literature in English, Latin, Italian, Spanish and French, but none in the German language. However c. 15 per cent are German imprints, including Conrad Gesner's De rerum fossilium (Zürich 1565) and Hernan Cortes's De insulis nuper inventis (Cologne 1532).

Clement Little Bequest

2.15 This bequest (see above 1.4) formed the nucleus of Edinburgh University Library in 1580, comprising 276 books which include the early Church Fathers, the great medieval commentators, the Protestant Reformers and the Roman Catholic viewpoint. The earlier provenance of his books include c. 40 vols from Henry Sinclair, Bishop of Ross (d. 1565). Those from Blackfriars monastery in Edinburgh include Cardinal Juan de Torquemada's Questiones evangeliorum (Strasbourg 1584), Biblia Sacra Germanica (Strasbourg 1485) with over 100 woodcuts, bound in vellum, and the Liber chronicarum (Nuremberg 1493). Yet further books from Little's bequest came from the library of the Friars Minor in Edinburgh. Little's philological interest in the sacred languages is apparent in his acquisition of a work by the Italian Dominican friar and classical and oriental scholar, Sante Pagnino, Isagogae ad sacras literas (Cologne 1542) and also by a volume by the Greek Father, Epiphanius, Contra octoginta haereses (Basel 1544). Other works worth mentioning are Johannes Herold's Orthodoxographa theologiae sacrosanctae (Basel 1555) and the volumes from the library of Henry Sinclair, who appointed Clement Little as one of the executors of his estate. Further titles are Erasmus's Declarationes ad censuras Lutetiae vulgatas (Basel 1532), Bernard de Lutzenburg's Catalogus haereticorum (Cologne 1523) and Sacri canonis misse expositio ([Tübingen] 1499) by Gabriel Biel, the last great exponent of the Occamist via moderna, and against whom Luther reacted so vigorously. Works by other opponents of Luther, e.g. Johannes Cochlaeus and Albert Pighus, are found in the bequest. Lutheran treatises are also represented, including Melanchthon's Loci communes theologici (Basel 1547), and the previously mentioned Magdeburg centuries (see above 1.4).

2.16 By the 1560s the leading Scottish Reformers had become Calvinists, and the earlier Lutheran phase was superseded by the Reformed tradition associated with the Swiss school. Many of these writers figure in the Little collection, e.g. Calvin's Institutiones religionis Christianae (Basel 1536), and works associated with Zürich, e.g. Zwingli and Bullinger, Musculus the Augsburg Reformer, Bucer who settled in Strasbourg, Peter Martyr (Vermigli) and Joannes Oecolampadius (Basel), as well as many English Protestant divines.

James Nairn bequest

2.17 Rev. James Nairn(e), the minister of Wemyss in Fife (1665-1678) and chaplain-in-ordinary to King Charles II, bequeathed his library of 1,949 books to the University of Edinburgh. The collection is mostly theological, with some history, philosophy, literature, classics, medicine and science. It includes Church Fathers, commentaries, doctrinal works and church history, as well as non-theological works, e.g. Georgius Agricola's De mensuris & ponderibus Romanorum atque Graecorum (Basel 1550). The collection is chiefly in Latin, French and English, with few items in German, but c. 15 per cent are German imprints, mostly in Latin.

Royal College of Surgeons

2.18 The Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh, which had been founded in 1505, gave in 1763 its library containing 560 vols to the University in return for borrowing privileges. This collection contains 20 per cent German imprints in Latin. It now forms part of the collection of the Medical Faculty which is described above (see 2.7-2.8).

Royal Medical Society Collection

2.19 The bulk of the library of this student society, founded in 1727, was sold at auction in 1969. However, 59 items are on deposit in the University Library.

Dugald Stewart Collection

2.20 These books came from the United Service Club (London) to the University in 1910. They had been bequeathed in 1852 by Colonel Matthew Stewart to the University and comprised not only his own books but those of his father Dugald Stewart (1753-1828), the Professor of Moral Philosophy at Edinburgh from 1785 to 1810, and also of his grandfather, Matthew Stewart (1717-1785), the Professor of Mathematics at Edinburgh from 1747 to 1775. The collection, comprising some 4,000 vols, covers mainly economics, mathematics, science and medicine, philosophy, classical literature, history and geography. There are early printed books including 33 incunabula, and many presentation copies from Dugald Stewart's library. There are c. 10 per cent from German presses, mostly in Latin, including 7 incunabula.

Duke of Sussex

2.21 In 1844 over 1,000 Reformation tracts were purchased from the collection of H.R.H. Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex (1773-1843), the sixth, scholarly son of King George III, with the fund bequeathed to the University earlier in the century by General John Reid. It would appear that the collection of tracts formed part of the sale of the Duke's library on 23 July 1844, and that it had formerly belonged to Dr Johann Georg B. F. Kloss of Frankfurt (see below 3.2, Pegg, p. viii. For a description of the collection see above 2.9).

Special collections not in the Main Library

New College Library

2.22 New College Library has formed part of the University Library since 1929. Originally founded in 1843 (following the Disruption) to serve the needs of the newly-formed Free Church of Scotland, it now contains over 235,000 monographs, of which c. 100,000 are pre 1850-imprints. It includes c. 100 incunabula, and rare editions of Bibles and early editions of the works of Luther and Calvin, e.g. Calvin's Institutiones religionis Christianae (Basel 1536). It is particularly rich in 17th to 19th-century pamphlet material. The library also incorporates numerous small ecclesiastical libraries such as the Church of Scotland Lending Library and private libraries, e.g. that of David Welsh, from which came five works by Luther of the 1520s and Melchior Adam's Collectio vitarum Germanorum theologorum (Heidelberg 1615), and an early work in German, Johann Bugenhagen's Eyn Sendbrieff widder den newen yrrthumb bey dem Sacrament des leybs und blutts unsers Herrn Jhesu Christi (Wittenberg 1525). (Reformation pamphlets are also listed in Pegg, see below 3.2.)

2.23 The library stocks, also from larger institutions: (1) Edinburgh Theological Library, the original theological library of the University, dating back to 1593. It includes e.g. M. Bucer, Scripta Anglicana fere omnia ...a C. Huberto collecta (Basel 1577) and Melchior Adam's Vitae Germanorum theologorum (Frankfurt 1618 and Heidelberg 1620). (2) The General Assembly Library of the Church of Scotland, which contains three works by Andreas Hyperius printed in Basel in the 1570s, three works by Johann Heinrich Heidegger (Zürich 1667, 1678 and 1696) and Joannes Oecolampadius's In prophetam Ezechielem commentarius (Strasbourg 1534). (3) The contents of the United Presbyterian Church Library which includes several 16th-century Greek and Latin New Testaments by Beza. It comprises 300 vols of pamphlets and c. 3,000 items of 17th to 19th-century material.

2.24 There are several special collections: (1) Dalman-Christie-Collection, received in 1947 from Jerusalem. This collection of 16th to 19th-century material consists of 83 vols, including some incunabula of Hebrew texts and rabbinic and biblical works, c. 10 per cent of which come from German presses. (2) Dumfries Presbytery Library which contains c. 1,500 vols of mainly 16th and 17th-century works on theology, history and literature, including Andreas Hyperius, Methodi theologiae ...libri tres (Basel 1567).

Reid Music Library

2.25 The library comprises approximately 60,000 books and music scores. Its nucleus is the private library of General John Reid (1721-1807), who left an endowment for a Professorship of Music to the University. The library, which also bears his name, opened in 1850. His music books include first and early editions of works by Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Weber and others. The collection is rich in theoretical works of the 18th century, such as Johann Mattheson, Der vollkommene Kapellmeister (Hamburg 1739); Johann Joseph Fux, Gradus ad Parnassum (Vienna 1725; Leipzig 1742); Johann Nicolaus Forkel, Allgemeine Geschichte der Musik (Leipzig 1788). The collection is the largest of any university outside Oxford or Cambridge, covering Western music of all periods. Important bequests include that of Sir Donald Tovey, the Reid Professor from 1914 to 1939; the Frederick Niecks collection; and the Weiss Collection on Beethoven purchased in 1948; the Scottish Musical Society; Theophile Bucher; John Thomson and John Petrie Dunn.

2.26 A few of the Reid Library's holdings date from before 1700, e.g. 6 vols of Orlando di Lasso's Patrocinium musices (Munich 1573-1589), Sebastian Virdung's Musica getutscht und außgezogen (Basel 1511), Michael Praetorius' Syntagma musicum (Wolfenbüttel 1619), Sebaldus Heyden's Musicae: id est, artis canendi libri duo (Nuremberg 1537) and Joannes Galliculus's Libellus de compositione cantus (Wittenberg 1538).


3.1 Modern general catalogues

Main Library:

Guardbook catalogue

Online catalogue (OPAC) now available on the Internet

[Contains all accessions post 1984; only a small portion of early printed books has been included.]

Consortium of University Research Libraries (CURL) [The University is a member of CURL, and all its library holdings which are recorded online are included in the COPAC union catalogue: http://copac.ac.uk/copac/.]

New College:

Slip catalogue

Online catalogue

Reid Music Library:

Card catalogue

Online catalogue

3.2 Modern special catalogues


The incunables are recorded in the Incunabula Short Title Catalogue (ISTC).

Medical Books:

Bird, D. T.: A catalogue of sixteenth-century medical books in Edinburgh libraries. Edinburgh 1982

[lists Edinburgh University Library locations]

Nairn Collection:

Simpson, Murray C. T.: A Catalogue of the library of the Revd James Nairn, 1629-1678, bequeathed by him to Edinburgh University Library. Edinburgh 1990

Reformation pamphlets:

Pegg, Michael A.: A catalogue of German Reformation pamphlets (1516-1546) in libraries of Great Britain and Ireland. Baden-Baden 1973 (Bibliotheca Bibliographica Aureliana 45)

[lists Edinburgh University Library and New College Library locations]

Unpublished catalogues in the Special Collections Department:

Abercromby bequest

[author catalogue and classified catalogue]

Buchanan collection

[author catalogue and shelf catalogue]


[author catalogue]

Royal College of Surgeons

[author catalogue]

Dugald Stewart Collection

[author (card) catalogue]

There are special catalogues of binding rubbings, provenance and printers, all of which are incomplete.

3.3 Historic catalogues

Auctarium Bibliothecae Edinburgenae sive catalogus librorum quos Guilielmus Drummondus ab Hawthornden Bibliothecae DDQ Anno 1627. Edinburgh 1627, repr. 1815

MS catalogue by Robert Lumsden 1637

Catalogus librorum quibus Bibliothecam Edinburgenae adauxit R D Jacobus Narnius ...pastor Vaemiensis. 1678

MS catalogue by Robert Henderson 1695

Alphabetical MS catalogue in 17 vols, 1824

Miscellany of the Maitland Club. Vol. 1. Edinburgh 1834 [pp. 285-301 concerning the Clement Little bequest]

Catalogue of the printed books in the library of the University of Edinburgh. 3 vols. Edinburgh 1918-23

Reid Music Library:

Catalogue of manuscripts, printed music, and books on music up to 1850 in the library of the Music Department at the University of Edinburgh (Reid Library), ed. by Hans Gal. Edinburgh and London 1941

New College:

Catalogue of the printed books and manuscripts in the Library of the New College, Edinburgh. Edinburgh 1868

Abridged catalogue of books in New College Library. Edinburgh 1893

Supplementary catalogue. Edinburgh 1906

A catalogue of the books in the library belonging to the Presbytery of Dumfries. Dumfries 1784

Catalogue of books, pamphlets and manuscripts on the Library of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. Edinburgh 1907


4.1 Archival sources

Annual Reports

Donations lists, from the early 17th century

Accession lists

4.2 Publications

Grant, Sir Alexander: The story of the University of Edinburgh during its first three hundred years. London 1884 [on the library: vol. 2, pp. 168-184 (Appendix 0)]

Cuthbertson, David: The Edinburgh University Library. An account of its origin with a description of its rarer books and manuscripts. Edinburgh 1919

Nicholson, Frank Carr: Edinburgh University Library. A lecture delivered in the Heriot-Watt College on Friday 15th October 1937. Edinburgh 1940

Watt, Hugh: New College, Edinburgh. A centenary history. Edinburgh 1946

Fifoot, E. R. S.: Edinburgh University Library. In: Encyclopaedia of Library and Information Science, ed. by A. Kent and H. Lancour. New York 1972, vol. 7, pp. 400-408

Finlayson, Charles P.; Simpson, S. M.: The Library of the University of Edinburgh. The early period, 1580-1710. In: Library History 1, no. 1 (Spring 1967) pp. 2-23

Finlayson, Charles P.; Simpson, S. M.: The Library of the University of Edinburgh. The copyright period, 1710-1837. In: Library History 3, no. 2 (Autumn 1973) pp. 41-58

Hancock, P. D.: A short history of Edinburgh University Library. Edinburgh 1980

Edinburgh University Library, 1530-1980. A collection of historical essays, ed. by Jean R. Guild and Alexander Law. Edinburgh 1982 [includes a full bibliography]

Birse, R. M.: Science at the University of Edinburgh 1583-1993. An illustrated history to mark the centenary of the Faculty of Science and Engineering 1893-1993. Edinburgh 1994 [chapters 1-3]

Guide to resources for German studies in Scottish research libraries. [Ed. by W. A. Kelly.] Edinburgh: Scottish Confederation of University and Research Libraries in association with Otto Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1995 [pp. 19-32]


Allan, J. M.: The Reid Music Library, University of Edinburgh, its origin and friends. In: Library World 51 (1948) pp. 99-101

Crawford, Kenneth C.: The Dugald Stewart Collection (Edinburgh University Library). In: The Bibliotheck 10, no. 2 (1980) pp. 31-34

Finlayson, Charles P.: Clement Littill and his library. The origins of Edinburgh University Library. Edinburgh 1980 [contains a catalogue with full bibliographical details]

Macdonald, Robert H. (ed.): The library of Drummond of Hawthornden. Edinburgh 1971 (Pt III)

Nicholson, Frank Carr: List of fifteenth century books in the University Library, Edinburgh. In: Publications of the Edinburgh Bibliographical Society 9 (1913) pp. 93-123, 185-186 [lists 258 incunabula]

Ritchie, J. M.: German books in Glasgow and Edinburgh, 1500-1750. In: Modern Language Review 57 (1962) pp. 532-540 [with numerous examples]

Special Collections of Printed Books in Edinburgh University Library. Edinburgh 1978 (Library Guides 17; under revision)

See also: A directory of rare book and special collections ...2nd ed. London 1997, pp. 627-630

Exhibition catalogues:

Benefactors of the library in five centuries. An exhibition of books and manuscripts selected from donations from the sixteenth to the twentieth century. Edinburgh 1963 (Exhibition Catalogue no. 3)

Edinburgh University Library 1580-1980. Edinburgh 1980

There to remain. Treasures of Edinburgh University Library. Edinburgh 1989

March 1999

Penelope Carter

William A. Kelly

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