Historical background to British collections at NLS
The National Library of Scotland is the direct successor to the historic Advocates Library founded in the early 1680s.
In 1925 the Faculty of Advocates generously presented its library to the Scottish nation, and by the terms of the National Library of Scotland Act, 1925, all its collections, with the exception of its legal books and manuscripts, were transferred to the National Library of Scotland. The legal material is available to researchers in the appropriate reading rooms.
Access to Advocates Library material
Since 1925, the National Library has continued to have access to the legal collections through the Advocates Library and these can be consulted in the General Reading Room. If you wish to consult pre-1801 Advocates Library books, please speak to a member of Rare Book Collections in the first instance.
- General memorandum of agreement — National Library of Scotland and Faculty of Advocates (PDF: 2 pages; 61 KB)
- Memorandum of Agreement — NLS and Faculty of Advocates on the ownership of items (PDF: 100 pages; 619 KB)
Adding to NLS collections
The privilege of legal deposit was first granted to the Advocates Library in 1710, and it has been confirmed by succeeding copyright and legal deposit legislation.
From the earliest period of deposit large numbers of books were received, but up to the end of the 19th century, and even later, the somewhat different statutory arrangements under which the Library had to discharge its privilege, together with a rather more limited view of what was worthy of preservation, meant that many books were not added to the collection at the time.
Large numbers of these have been acquired subsequently by gift or purchase, and the task of retrospectively filling gaps in the national collection continues at the present day.
Current legal deposit legislation
Currently the deposit privilege is based on the Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003. This Act continues the basic provisions for print publications established earlier by the Copyright Act 1911, Section 15, and allows for subsequent regulations to be introduced for non-print publications. By reciprocal legislation, UK libraries have similar rights in the Republic of Ireland. For further information, contact the Legal Deposit Unit.
Although previously linked with copyright legislation for historical reasons, since 1911 legal deposit has not had any connection with the registration or ownership of copyright, or with copyright protection. Official registration of copyright is not required in the United Kingdom.