Theses - Rare Books collections

Walter Scott's thesis
Walter Scott's thesis.
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Theses are academic dissertations submitted to universities for the purpose of gaining a degree. On the Continent, particularly in Germany and the Netherlands, there has been a tradition of printing such theses for dissemination at different universities and other places of learning. With Latin being the international language of scholarship well into the early modern period, theses tended to be submitted (and indeed orally defended) in Latin rather than the national language.

A law thesis in a wheel binding
A law thesis
in wheel binding.
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The National Library of Scotland holds a number of Edinburgh theses, most notably in Scottish herringbone and wheel bindings. They can be found under the shelfmark Bdg.s and Bdg.m. They are largely medical theses and theses presented by law students to apply for membership of the bar. Probably the most famous among these is Walter Scott's thesis of 1792 (shelfmarks: Adv.MS.20.5.9; Ry.IV.c.27) Proper runs of such law theses are held in the Advocates' Library.

A Dieterichs title
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The single largest collection of theses forms part of the Dieterichs Collection: it contains some 32,000 academic dissertations submitted to universities in Germany and Holland in the 17th and 18th centuries. Unlike modern theses, they are often not more than 30 or 40 pages long.

The theses in the Dieterichs Collection can be accessed through an manual alphabetical sheaf catalogue. Some 2000 are also available through the main catalogue.


Rare books subjects and date ranges


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