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National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh

Historical note

The National Library of Scotland is the descendant of the Advocates’ Library in Edinburgh, formally inaugurated in 1689, and its collections bear testimony to more than 300 years of acquiring printed and manuscript material in a variety of subject fields, through purchase, gift and deposit. The foundation collection of the Advocates’ Library comprised mainly civil law texts in continental printings of the 16th and 17th century; however, during the 18th century the Library, principally through the right of statutory deposit (first granted by an Act of Parliament in 1710), began to build up a broad-based collection of books in the humanities which made it the ‘national library of Scotland’ in all but name. Legal deposit did not begin to be rigorously enforced until the late 19th century and largely covered the acquisition of current British publications; a policy was therefore established whereby significant and up-to-date works of scholarship published on the Continent were acquired by purchase.

In 1925, the National Library of Scotland was founded when the Advocates’ Library gave its non-legal collections of manuscripts and printed books to the nation. Next door to each other, the Advocates Library and the National Library have since existed as two separate institutions, although they are closely linked in several ways. The National Library has grown rapidly and has steadily increased its holdings of both modern and early material; apart from that, it has acquired - as gifts or deposit - an impressive number of special collections. It has a long-standing tradition of acquiring specialised and antiquarian material, and its holdings, which cover a broad range of research subjects, are now particularly strong on early Scottish printing, Gaelic material and works relating to Scottish literature, history and culture.

Name and coverage of file

The file consists of 14,295 records from the Library’s General Catalogue of Printed Books. These were extracted on the basis of record quality only and therefore cover a wide range of material which originates from the general and certain special collections as well as recent acquisitions. While much is connected with aspects of Scottish literature, history, culture and printing, including over 1,000 records from the Library’s Gaelic-related collections, there is a substantial amount of more wide-ranging material on a variety of subjects and in a number of different languages. Likewise, publication dates span the entire hand press era, from the fifteenth century to 1830. The file does not contain any retroconverted records unless these were created book in hand. Some of the more recent records will be found to have no shelfmark but a note “IN PROCESS”; if required, consulting the National Library of Scotland’s on-line catalogue (available on its website at http://www.nls.uk) will in most cases give access to the current shelfmark.

Books printed before 1501 (incunabula)

Records in HPB

The National Library of Scotland holds over 600 15th-century books or incunabula (from the Latin word for 'cradle'). These include the only copy of the Gutenberg or 42-line Bible held in a Scottish library and a number of only-known copies, such as 'Information for Pilgrims', printed at Westminster by Wynkyn de Worde.

Mode of cataloguing

Records in this file have been catalogued book in hand and to full AACR2 standard. In addition, in the case of all works printed before 1801, but also of some of the later material, the cataloguing follows the rules of DCRB (Descriptive Cataloguing of Rare Books). For works printed before 1801 the option of “double punctuation” has been followed, which means that the original punctuation as found on the title pages of the items re-appears on the records, in addition to the punctuation prescribed by cataloguing rules. Name and subject headings conform to the Library of Congress Authority Files. The records will have bibliographical notes and references to Wing, STC, Aldis, ESTC and other bibliographies where appropriate.

Present/Absent fields in cataloguing

For the new upload in 2013, 752 fields are being added to new records.

Recommendations for searching

There should not be any limitations to the usual search strategies, but it would be useful to bear in mind the following two points:

1. In accordance with the rules of DCRB, placenames and names of printers and publishers have been transcribed exactly as they appear in the imprint, with the result that on some records, this information will appear only in its Latin, Gaelic, French or other form, which may be further affected by its grammatical case. A search on the country of publication, or a truncated search, may be more successful in such cases. For parts of the new update in 2013, place and country of printing are indexed.

2. Since Library of Congress name headings have been used, the author’s name in the author field may be different from the way in which it appears on the title page; if this is causing difficulties, try to search for the author’s name in a title word search.

Frequency of updates

A major update is planned for 2013.

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 resources/hpb/content/national_library_of_scotland_edinburgh.txt · Last modified: 2024/05/30 14:00 by liventsova



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