Special and Named Printed Collections in the National Library of Scotland


(As from 9 August 2013 the Blairs College Library will no longer be available for consultation in NLS as it is due to be transferred to Aberdeen University Library later this year}. In 1974 the Trustees of St Mary's College, Blairs, Aberdeen, deposited on long-term loan the library of the College, which was founded in 1829 to train students for the Catholic priesthood. As the only such institution in Scotland it accumulated books and manuscripts both from the Scots Colleges founded on the Continent at Douai, Paris, Rome and Valladolid after the Reformation, and from the semi-clandestine seminaries established within Scotland during the 18th century. The collection contains c. 27,000 books and pamphlets (over 50 manuscripts were also deposited in the National Library but were returned to the depositor in 2005). There are 17 incunables, c. 200 STC (see p. 3) and 1,000 Wing (see p. 3) items, and c. 13,500 books printed before 1801. Works on theology and religious controversy naturally predominate, but the collection covers a wide range of subjects, including French and English literature, history, geography, natural history, science, architecture, numismatics, agriculture and accountancy. Several works in the library are only-known copies: John Weddington's A Breffe Instruction, and Manner, Howe to Kepe, Marchantes Bokes of Accompts (Antwerp, 1567); a work by John Hamilton, last pre-Reformation Archbishop of St Andrews, Ane Godlie Exhortatioun (St Andrews or Edinburgh, 1559) - known as 'The Twapenny Faith'; and 'The Copland Tracts', containing nine devotional tracts printed in London by Robert Copland in 1522-31. A notable feature of the collection is the large number of books with provenance and association interest, and the close links between the Scots College in Paris and the exiled Stuart court at St Germain-en-Laye are highlighted by a fine group of Jacobite bindings with the armorial stamps of members of the Royal House and their prominent supporters.

The medieval manuscripts, formerly deposited in the Library, are described in detail in N.R. Ker, Medieval Manuscripts in British Libraries, Oxford, 1977, 2, 113-29. T.A. Cherry, 'The Library of St Mary's College, Blairs', Bulletin of the Association of British Theological and Philosophical Libraries, n.s. 3 (1975), 10-13. ----, 'The Library of St Mary's College, Blairs, Aberdeen', The Bibliotheck, 12 (1984), 61-69. W.S. Mitchell, 'Blairs College Bindings', Aberdeen University Review, 32 (1949), 23-29. D. McRoberts, 'What the Church has done for Scholars ...', Scottish Catholic Observer, 5 July 1974. ----, 'Catholic Library becomes National Asset', Aberdeen Press and Journal, 6 July 1974. J. Robertson, 'Aberdeen Libraries in Move to Edinburgh', The Scotsman, 6 July 1974. ----, 'Blairs Treasures come to Edinburgh', Scottish Catholic Observer, 28 February 1975.

Shelfmark: BCL.

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