The guide is intended to give an impression of the scope and diversity of the Library's research holdings of printed books and pamphlets, and music (manuscript and map items associated with individual collections of books are referred to in context). Each entry includes information on when and how the collection was acquired and gives a general idea of its scope and content. There is also information on finding aids which are available to provide access to any published information on the collection. Unless otherwise stated, all printed items are entered in the Library's General Catalogue of Printed Books.
The formation of the Library's rare book and special collections dates back to 1695, when the library of Lord George Douglas, youngest son of the first Duke of Queensberry, was presented in his memory to the Faculty of Advocates by his father (see Lord George Douglas Collection). The first major collection of printed books of a specialised research nature, deliberately acquired by the Faculty, came in 1705, with the acquisition of the library of numismatic works collected by James Sutherland (1638?-1719) (see em>see James Sutherland Collection). It was not until the first quarter of the 19th century that further important additions began to be made to the collections, beginning with the purchase in 1819 of part of the library of Scandinavian and Icelandic literature, history and philology formed by the Icelandic scholar Grímur Jónsson Thorkelin (see Thorkelin Collection). Other collections acquired in the 19th century were the Spanish books from the library of the Marqueses de Astorga (1826 - see Astorga Collection), the Dieterichs collection of German academic dissertations and imprints from the early 16th to the end of the 18th century on diverse subjects (1820 - see Dieterichs Collection), John Francis Campbell's collections of Gaelic folklore and poetry (1885 - see J.F. Campbell Collection), and the collection of works on phrenology and secular education assembled by George Combe (c. 1868 - see Combe Collection).
The founding of the National Library of Scotland in 1925 had an immediate impact on the Library's rare book and manuscript collecting activities with the presentation of a number of collections and individual gifts, most notably the Lauriston Castle Collection (1926) and the Rosebery Collection (1927), which substantially increased the holdings of books printed in Scotland and of works of Scottish interest and association. Since then the growth of the Library's research resources and the broadening of its collecting areas have been enriched through the interests of individual collectors and the professional activities of institutions, as reflected in the libraries which have been received.
Enquiries regarding printed special collections can be sent via e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org.