Advocates Library shelfmarks

In 1925 the Advocates Library transferred many of its early printed books to the newly formed National Library of Scotland.

The Library used a large number of shelfmarks to record the location of books. Standard forms of shelfmarking identified a book's 'press' (bookcase), shelf, and its exact position on the shelf.

These examples show the evolution of Faculty of Advocates shelfmarks from the 1690s to the 1920s




Date: Before 1694

Notes: The first shelfmarks used by the Advocates Library began with letters running from 'a' to 'x' followed by the shelf number and then the number of the book on each shelf.

Source: Sacro Bosco. 'In sphaeram ... '. Leiden, 1602.

Shelfmark: Cb.1.4



f.7.17 and f.5.38

Date: 1695

Notes: Presses 'd', 'e' and 'f' were reserved for the Lord George Douglas collection. Of these, 'e' was for books bound in vellum. This book has been moved twice within 'f' and then to Hall.

Source: Lacy. 'De podagra'. Venice, 1692.

Shelfmark: Hall.292.a.7




Date: 1716

Notes: Some astronomical symbols, signs of the zodiac, and letters from the Greek alphabet were introduced in the early 18th century. Jupiter, featured here, is no longer in use. However other symbols, such as Mars and Taurus, are still used.

Source: Silius Italicus. 'De Bello Punico Secundo libri XVII'. Leipzig, 1695.

Shelfmark: K.58.f.23




Date: 1738

Notes: The use of double lower case letters was introduced in the early 18th century. This form of shelfmark still exists today although the book this example is taken from was moved to a sequence of shelfmarks used to shelve works relating to ancient Greece and Rome.

Source: Ovid. 'Heroidum epistolae ...'. Florence, 1528.

Shelfmark: K.55.f.21



Ab.5.14 and [Ai].3.10

Date: 1770

Notes: Further shelfmarks could be created by enclosing the initial letters in a box.

Source: Baldwin. 'A survey of the British customs'. London, 1770.

Shelfmark: [Ab].1.3a




Date: 1793

Notes: In use by the 1770s, shelfmarks composed of the names of seven early Scots kings were shelved together in what was known as the Regal Room. This room no longer exists and this particular example has been re-shelfmarked. However Regal Room shelfmarks are all still in use today.

Source: 'A general history of inland navigation'. London, 1792.

Shelfmark: [Tau].3/1.9



Date: 1796

Notes: Another shelfmark style from the later 18th century involved the use of Roman emperors: from the dictator Julius Caesar to Didius Julianus. These too had their own room, known as the Imperial Room. None of these shelfmarks are in use today.

Source: Fulton. 'A treatise on the improvement of canal navigation'. London, 1796.

Shelfmark: [Tau].3/1.10



Drill Hall

Date: 19th / 20th century

Notes: This shelfmark refers to a room in which Advocates, who had formed a militia in 1859, would practice their drill. The shelfmark still exists today as 'Hall'.

Source: Racine. 'Theatre complet'. London, [1869].

Shelfmark: As.5




Date: 19th / 20th century

Notes: By the late 19th century, the Advocates were able to store books in the redundant cells under the Law Courts. Despite their secure sounding name, the Vaults were used to store books to which the Advocates gave a low priority such as contemporary novels received via legal deposit.

Source: Bindloss. 'Ainslie's Ju-Ju'. London, 1900.

Shelfmark: Vts.10.c.11


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