On its foundation in 1925 the National Library inherited from the Advocates' Library important historical and heritage collections built up through purchase, gift and deposit since the 1680s, making it the most important repository of printed material relating to Scotland. Since 1925 one of the Library's principal functions has been to add to those collections, and this is work that is given a high priority within the Rare Books team. Although our collection development policy runs to over twenty pages, essentially it says that we collect the printed record of Scotland and of the Scots, from the earliest period up to ten years before the current date (1993), when our modern buyers take over. Works by Scottish authors, works printed in Scotland, or works with Scottish content fall within our compass; fine bindings, photographs, and books with a Scottish provenance would also be included. Outside that remit we enjoy a certain degree of flexibility, especially in relation to donations, where we can strengthen the diversity of existing non-Scottish printed Special Collections. In line with other national libraries, we also collect landmark publications that map the history and development of the book. Increasingly, however, and owing to the fact that there is a space cost attached to every acquisition, we keep to our Scottish remit in the normal course of our activities.

Collection Strengths

Our collection strengths are many and varied. Since we have enjoyed the Legal Deposit privilege since 1710, effectively the right to claim a copy of every book printed in the UK, our holdings in this area have breadth as well as depth. Since the 1680s, the Library has also been buying books, from copies of the works of great Scottish writers published abroad to large collections of books on subjects as diverse as the Lutheran Reformation, the English theatre, Scandinavian and Icelandic literature, and Giuseppe Verdi. We have over 150 special and named printed collections of books, each one a library in its own right, a significant proportion of which cover the range of Scottish subjects such as Gaelic folklore and poetry (J F Campbell), Mary Queen of Scots (Rosebery), Jacobitism (Blaikie), and Witchcraft (Keiller). All special and named printed collections are listed and described at www.nls.uk/catalogues/online/snpc/index.cfm

Cataloguing Information

Since 1978, all books received into the Library have been recorded in the National Library's OPAC (Online Public Access Catalogue). For books received before that date, the majority of the earlier card catalogue entries have now been added to the OPAC. However, the conversion process is not yet completed, and for pre-1801 books the RLIN ESTC file should be consulted (visitors to the Library should consult the fiche catalogue). The NLS OPAC can be viewed through http://main-cat.nls.uk

Budgets and Trust Funds

Our acquisitions activity runs according to the financial year in Great Britain (1 April to 31 March) and there is a noticeable cycle in the British booktrade that mirrors this. For our purchasing we use an allocation from the National Library's Book Purchase Fund. This is supplemented by contributions from internal trust funds and from applications to external funding bodies and charities, such as the Friends of the National Libraries, The National Art Collections Fund, and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Contact Information

Rare Book Collections
National Library of Scotland
George IV Bridge

Tel: 0131 623 3700.
E-mail: rarebooks@nls.uk

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