About the Library


Edinburgh University Library is one of the oldest and largest research libraries in the country, its books and manuscripts attracting scholars and students from all over the world. The Library traces its origin to the gift of 276 books to the Town and Kirk of Edinburgh, by Clement Little, an advocate who died in 1580.  In 1579 Clement and his brother William had served on a committee set up ‘for taiking of ordour anentis the founding of ane universitie’, and by the end of the year the founding of ‘ane college of theologe’ had been decided. This became the ‘Tounis College’ and subsequently the University. Further donations of books followed, notably that by William Drummond of Hawthornden in the 1620s.

From 1827 to 1967 the Library occupied William Playfair’s imposing Upper Library Hall on the south side of Old College. However, the growth of the collections and the need for space for new services compelled the move to the current building in George Square, custom-designed by renowned architect Basil Spence. This iconic ‘A’ listed building has undergone significant redevelopment in recent years to provide a Library that is:

  • an intellectual hub for the University
  • the focus for a wide range of activities in learning and research
  • a place where users can engage and converse with each other and with information specialists
  • open and accessible
  • flexible to accommodate future changes

The University’s collections are unique in their depth and diversity. But its collections need care and conservation, and they must expand and be updated to meet the challenging needs of their readers. The help of the Friends in this task is even more necessary now than when it was founded in 1962.

More information on the University Collections (including the Library) is available here. And a useful source of information on current projects and exciting discoveries is available on the Library and Collections blog.


One Response to “About the Library”
  1. Nice blog!

    Best regards from Uppsala University Library, Cultural Heritage Group:

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  • Except where indicated, all images were created by the Digital Imaging Unit, Centre for Research Collections, Edinburgh University Library and are © The University of Edinburgh.
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