This section gives some idea of the main areas of current purchasing. Contact Dora Petherbridge at for further information.

Modern printed collections

Under the privilege of legal deposit the Library has a right to claim all materials published in Britain, and many books issued in this country by some of the major American University Presses and other US publishers are also acquired in this way. The Library further supplements its holdings of legal deposit material by purchasing substantial numbers of US publications on both US and British subjects.

US publications relating to Scotland and the Scots are extensively acquired, and the Library's holdings include much on Scottish-American links, Scottish emigration to the US and genealogy. Purchasing concentrates on the humanities, and most important works in the fields of US literature and history can be found in the collections, especially works of reference and bibliographical material, for example on presidential history, colonial history and the civil war, and including collected works and standard editions of authors. Books are also acquired more selectively in other areas, including social sciences, and incorporating politics, women's studies, African-American and gay and lesbian studies.

Current collecting is also strong in mountaineering and polar exploration, and US official publications (amounting to approximately 10% of monthly output) were received by the Library under an exchange arrangement with the Library of Congress from 1950 to 1994. The Library also subscribes to substantial numbers of major US periodicals, again with the emphasis, in the humanities, on literature, notably including a significant number of author newsletters.

Non-current material and special collections

The library holds a great number of 18th- and 19th-century works relating to the US, especially travel, topography and history, and much material related to Scottish emigration to North America, although current purchasing of antiquarian publications is largely confined to US editions of works by or about Scots. Over the years a number of individual antiquarian works of interest to American Studies have been acquired and there are also a number of US newspaper titles (see Holdings of US and Canadian Newspapers in Scottish Libraries).

The Library holds some special collections of interest to American Studies [see Special and Named Printed Collections in the National Library of Scotland], notably the Hugh Sharp Collection (over 300 volumes) of first editions of English and American authors, which includes a signed copy of George Washington's 'Official Letters to the Honorable American Congress', as well as works of travel and exploration in America, and the Henderson Memorial Library of Books on America (over 700 volumes), which contains mainly 19th- and early 20th-century works on history, description and travel, sociology and biography relating to the Civil War. Also of note is the Combe Collection of over 600 19th-century books on phrenology. The Birkbeck Collection of works dealing with professional and amateur printing contains a significant number of American items. There are also some smaller collections dealing with typography and design.

Non-print collections

Holdings of earlier works on the US are supplemented by a subscription to full-text microfiche editions of 'Selected Americana from Sabin's Dictionary of Books Relating to America', with approximately 150 titles received annually. As well as numerous collections of personal and family papers, the Library holds a number of American microform collections including many of interest to American Studies, for example:

  • The 'American Biographical Archive, the Afro-American History Files'
  • The 'Hessian Documents of the American Revolution, 1776-1783'
  • 'Unpublished US House of Representatives Committee Hearings, 1833-1936'.

Manuscript, map and music collections

The manuscript collections are rich in items relating to Scottish-American history, including, for example, the Darien Company affair and personal accounts of immigration and business and trade with the US.

The extensive map collections (over 1.5 million items) include detailed coverage of the US, including many atlases. The Library is a depository for current USA 1:24,000 maps and holds DeLorme atlases for all states. CD-ROMs include Street Atlas USA and Omni Gazetteer. The Library has a good collection of antiquarian atlases which include North American material. Facsimile maps and atlases are collected and there are some early manuscript maps.

Music by American composers is purchased selectively, and some American composers are well represented.


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