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National Library of Scotland
National Library of Scotland
Street address: George IV Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1EW, Scotland, United Kingdom
Telephone: 44 (0) 131 266 4531
Fax: 44 (0) 131 622 4803
Proprietor: Scottish Government
Contact: Martyn Wade National Librarian
Opening hours: 9.30am-8.30pm Mon-Tue and Thu-Fri, 10am-8.30pm Wed, 9.30am-1pm Sat, closed Sun
Accessibility: Wheelchair access to some public areas, disabled toilets
NLSThe National Library of Scotland is an Executive Non-Departmental Public Body (NDPB) which receives annual funding from the Scottish Government. It is managed by a Board of Trustees accountable to Ministers.
Originally founded as the Advocates' Library in 1682, and granted the right of legal deposit in 1709, the National Library of Scotland assumed its current name in 1925.
As a legal deposit library it is entitled to claim copies of all works published in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and holds large collections of printed books, manuscripts and maps, including an unrivalled collection of Scottish materials and copies of the Gutenberg Bible and the First Folio of Shakespeare.
The National Library of Scotland is Scotland's largest library and the world centre for the study of Scotland and the Scots. Thanks to its UK legal deposit status, it is also a vast reference library, covering all subjects, from art to mountaineering, and from early times to the digital age.
As well as more than 13 million printed items, it has over 100,000 manuscripts, around two million maps, and 25,000 newspaper and magazine titles. It receives roughly 320,000 new items every year, and has material in 490 languages.
The British Printed Materials Collection reflects its special status as a British and Irish legal deposit library, and is by far the largest in Scotland. It ranks among the four or five largest in the British Isles and probably throughout the world. Its greatest virtue lies in the richness and diversity of its holdings of printed materials of all kinds from the past three centuries, since the conferment of the privilege of legal deposit. British Printed Materials include the National Library's Scottish Collections - the legal deposit collections of Scottish material play an important part in the Library's aim to act as the international focus for the record of Scotland, as well as providing a major resource within Scotland and the United Kingdom generally.
The Foreign Collections have grown considerably since the Library's forerunner – the Advocates' Library – acquired its first foreign books in the 1690s. Purchase of some special collections in the 18th and 19th centuries laid the foundation for present-day holdings. Increasingly over the last half-century, new works added to these collections have resulted in a large and varied intake of current material from overseas, including material from France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the USA, Canada and South Asia, plus Slavonic and East European material and documents on the visual arts and mountaineering/polar exploration.
The Rare Book Collections comprise over one million original printed volumes dating from 1455 to the present day, plus microfilms and digital images of originals kept in other libraries. The Rare Book Collections also include photographs, posters, newspapers, postcards and prints. At the heart of the collections are Scottish material, particularly early books written by Scots, about Scottish topics, in Scottish languages, or published in Scotland. There are also rich special collections, covering subjects ranging from witchcraft to the French Revolution, and from beekeeping to Esperanto. Highlights include: James Watson's Rules for Scottish printers, 1721; three books by Aldus Manutius (c 1445-1515), the most celebrated scholar-printer of the Renaissance; Albrecht Dürer's four 16th-century books of research into human proportions, Vier Bücher von menschlicher Proportion; the first edition of the complete Bible in Icelandic, Guðbrandur Þorláksson's Biblia; the Astorga Collection of pre-1800 Spanish books; the first illustrated travel book, Peregrinatio in Terram Sanctam by Bernhard von Breydenbach, 1486; The Catechisme, 1552 (a key work in Scottish religious and publishing history; the Keir Hardie/Emrys Hughes Collection of some 160 printed items relating to left-wing politics; Description de l'Egypte, 1802-1822; and Scotorum historiae a prima gentis origine by Hector Boece, 1527, the first printed book dedicated to the history of Scotland. See also Bibliography of Scottish Literature in Translation (BOSLIT).
The Manuscript Collections originated with the first manuscript acquired by the National Library of Scotland's predecessor, the Advocates Library, in 1683; since 1925 the Library has been the repository of the major collections of manuscripts and archives, which cover many aspects of the lives, activities and interests of Scots at home and abroad. The Collection includes Medieval Manuscripts and Documents, Older Scottish Literary Collections, Modern Scottish Literature, Printing and Publishing Industry Archives, Music Manuscripts, Scottish Historical Documents, Political and Diplomatic Papers, Military and Naval Papers, Scottish Labour History Collections, Scientific and Engineering Papers, Philosophy, Art and Architecture, Church History and Mission Papers, Estate Papers, Sporting and Recreational Archives, Cultural Organisations & Theatre Archives, Na Cruinneachaidh Ghaidhealach (Gaelic Collections) and Trades and Crafts Collections.
The National Library of Scotland has the largest Map Collection in Scotland and is one of the biggest in the world, with around two million cartographic items. These include over 1.5 million sheet maps, 15,000 atlases, 100,000 maps on microfilm and more than 250,000 digital maps. It also has gazetteers, cartographic reference books and periodicals, and map ephemera. The Library's map holdings cover all parts of the world, through some 700 years, from medieval manuscript maps to current digital mapping.
The Library also holds an important Music Collection which has been acquired through its legal deposit privilege, as well as through bequests, donations and purchases. The music collections now include extensive British holdings, especially Scottish music. There is a wide selection of foreign music editions, special collections of early editions of Handel, Berlioz and Verdi, special collections of Scottish music collectors, and music sound recordings. NB Music manuscripts are administered by Manuscript Collections.
The National Library of Scotland's Scientific Information Collection is one of the largest in Scotland. The collections are strong in key areas of importance to Scotland, and include: over 5,000 current scientific and technical journals, and extensive historical runs of UK journals; indexes and abstracts on subjects ranging from agriculture to zoology; an Electronic Resources Network allowing access to a number of scientific databases on the network, including the ISI Web of Science database; science books; a complete printed set of British Standards; and the Royal Society of Edinburgh Periodicals Collection.
With over one million items, the National Library of Scotland's Official Publications Collection is one of the largest in the United Kingdom and the largest collection of official publications in Scotland. The legal deposit privilege ensures comprehensive coverage of publications from the Westminster and Scottish Parliaments, together with the publications of their respective government departments and agencies. In addition the Library has extensive collections of overseas publications, including material from the United States and Commonwealth countries. The Library acts as a depository library for the United Nations and for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
There is also an extensive Business Information Collection which, in addition to a wide range of electronic material, provides details on 11 million companies worldwide. Now housed on the mezzanine floor of the General Reading Room, the collection includes over 1,200 printed business directories and over 3,000 market research reports. This unique collection, which is the largest of its kind in Scotland, is supported by the expertise of the Library's business information staff.
Since 1 April 2007 the National Library has also managed the Scottish Screen Archive, which preserves and provides access to moving images reflecting Scottish 20th- and 21st-century culture and history. The Archive also includes a wide range of written and photographic materials relating to the development of cinema exhibition and film production in Scotland over the past 100 years.
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The Scotland Cultural Profile was created in partnership with the Scottish Government and the British Council Scotland
Date updated: 9 January 2008
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