About the Rare Books Collections

The University of St Andrews Library contains approximately  200,000 volumes of rare and older books, acquired by purchase and gift, since its foundation in the 15th century. The libraries of the colleges of St Leonard, St Salvator and St Mary, founded before that of the University itself, formed the first collections of books within the institution, and these were incorporated into the main library in the 18th century. The University library itself was founded by royal gift in 1611-12, when King James VI and I and members of his family presented over 200 volumes to the University to mark the founding of the Common Library.

From 1710 to 1837 the Library was entitled to a copy of every book printed in Britain under the Copyright Deposit Act, as a result of which it is particularly strong in 18th century material, with a special emphasis on books relating to the Scottish Enlightenment. The copyright privilege was lost in 1837, but the Library has continued to purchase rare books, particularly in fields related to the University’s teaching and research.

The main subject areas of the collections are theology, classics, history, English and Scottish literature, philosophy, science and medicine. There are about 150 incunabula, 5,000 16th century, 7,000 17th century, as well as a substantial general collection of 18th and 19th century items.

For more information on collections held and for access, please visit our website:

2 responses to “About the Rare Books Collections

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