National Library of Scotland

National Library of Scotland
National Library of Scotland
National library Scotland logo.png
National Library of Scotland.JPG
The building on George IV Bridge
Country Scotland
Type National library
Established 1925
Reference to legal mandate National Library of Scotland Act 1925
Location Edinburgh
Coordinates 55°56′55″N 3°11′31″W / 55.948554°N 3.191899°W / 55.948554; -3.191899Coordinates: 55°56′55″N 3°11′31″W / 55.948554°N 3.191899°W / 55.948554; -3.191899
Size 14M printed items
Legal deposit United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland
Access and use
Access requirements [1]
Other information
Budget operating budget 2008/9 13.834 GBP [2]
Director Martyn Wade, National Librarian and Chief Executive
Staff 340

The National Library of Scotland (Scottish Gaelic: Leabharlann Naiseanta na h-Alba) is the legal deposit library of Scotland and is one of the country's National Collections. It is based in a collection of buildings in Edinburgh city centre. The headquarters is on George IV Bridge, between the Old Town and the university quarter. There is also a more modern building (1980s) in a residential area on the south side of the town centre, on Causewayside. This was built to accommodate some of the specialist collections (e.g., map library, science library) and to provide large-scale extra storage.

The National Library of Scotland holds 7 million books,[1] 14 million printed items and over 2 million maps. The collection includes copies of the Gutenberg Bible, the letter which Charles Darwin submitted with the manuscript of Origin of Species, the First Folio of Shakespeare and numerous journals and other publications.



The National Library of Scotland is a relatively recent body, only formally established by Act of Parliament in 1925. Previously, Scotland's national deposit library was the Advocates Library belonging to the Faculty of Advocates. This was opened in 1689 and gained national library status in the 1710 Copyright Act, giving it the legal right to claim a copy of every book published in Great Britain. In the following centuries, the library added books and manuscripts to the collections by purchase as well as legal deposit, creating a national library in all but name.

By the 1920s, the upkeep of such a major collection was too much for a private body, and, with an endowment of £100,000 provided by Sir Alexander Grant of Forres, the library's contents were presented to the nation. The National Library of Scotland was formally constituted by an Act of Parliament in 1925.

Sir Alexander Grant gave a further £100,000 – making his combined donations the equivalent of around £6 million today – for a new library building to be constructed on George IV Bridge. Government funding was secured which matched Sir Alexander's donation.

Extension building at Causewayside (opened 1988)

Work on the new building was started in 1938, interrupted by the Second World War, and completed in 1956. The architect was Reginald Fairlie; the architectural sculptor was Hew Lorimer.

By the 1970s, room for the ever-expanding collections was running out, and it was obvious that other premises were needed. The Causewayside Building opened in the south-side of Edinburgh in two phases, in 1989 and in 1995, at a total cost of almost £50 million, providing much-needed additional working space and storage facilities.

Since 1999, the Library has been funded by the Scottish Parliament. It remains one of only six legal deposit libraries in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and is governed by a board of trustees. It also enjoys JSTOR access.

The Library also holds many ancient family manuscripts including those of the Clan Sinclair, which date back as far as 1488.[2][3]

On 26 February 2009, areas of the building were flooded after a water main burst on the 12th floor. Firefighters were called and the leaking water was stopped within ten minutes. A number of items were lightly damaged.[4]

The last letter written by Mary Queen of Scots made a rare public appearance to mark the opening of a new Library visitor centre in September 2009.[5]

See also

  • John Murray Archive
  • Scottish Publishers Association
  • Ask Scotland, Scotland's online information service provided by Scotland’s libraries
  • Social Networking and UK Libraries


External links

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