Visit the free exhibitions in our George IV Bridge Building. Open daily, except on some public holidays. No need to book.


Lifting the lid: 400 years of food and drink in Scotland

12 June to 8 November

Illustration of dishes of vegetables
Vegetables, from
'Superior cookery', by
Margaret Black, 1887.

What is 'scarfie soup'? Did you know that Edinburgh grocers sold curry powder in 1798? Or that cooks in the 17th century made 'marmalade with very little sugar' because of the cost?

Using the Library's rich collections of manuscript and printed recipe books, our summer exhibition explores Scotland's changing relationship with food and drink over the centuries, as part of the Year of Food and Drink Scotland 2015.

Among the fascinating items that visitors can see in 'Lifting the lid' are:

  • Historic recipe books, some dating as far back as the 17th century
  • Household accounts and tradesmen's bills
  • Amateur and government films about food.
'Lifting the lid' exhibition graphic

The Scots have been branded the 'sick man of Europe' and our eating habits condemned. Yet, before the Industrial Age the rural poor were said to be 'remarkably healthy', with a simple, frugal and wholesome diet — despite the limited availability of food.

'Lifting the lid' uses a variety of material to contrast the richness and diversity of Scotland's larder with the myths and traditions associated with its people's diet.


Treasures displays

Book cover showing man jumping from a train

View a small sample of the many treasures in the National Library of Scotland's collections. From hand-written documents to printed books, maps, musical scores, bindings and other art work.

All our treasures are important pieces of Scotland's cultural heritage. Some are unique. Some are beautiful. Some are huge. Some are tiny. Some are rarely seen in public because their age makes them fragile.

Throughout the year we change the theme of the treasures display, bringing to light more of the millions of items we hold.

Read more about our treasures displays



The John Murray Archive

Permanent exhibition.

Lady Caroline Lamb
Lady Caroline Lamb.

The writers and thinkers of John Murray's publishing firm shaped the modern world through their works of literature, science, exploration and politics.

This exhibition draws on material from the John Murray Archive. It uses state-of-the-art exhibition technology to bring to life the work and lives of a selection of the publisher's most influential figures.

Those featured in the present line-up include Lord Byron, Lady Caroline Lamb, Charles Darwin and David Livingstone.

Learn how they contributed to one of the greatest periods of human progress and creativity. See if you could publish your own international bestseller.


Opening times for exhibitions at the Library

Monday to Friday: 10.00-20.00
Saturday: 10.00-17.00
Sunday: 14.00-17.00
Special notice: Early closing of George IV Bridge builidng on 24 September


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