Bequest of Laing Collection, 1878

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In 1878 scholar and antiquarian David Laing (1793-1878) donated Edinburgh University Library's most important manuscript collection.

Laing was a friend of the University over many years. His first publication was a reprint of the catalogue of the library of William Drummond of Hawthornden, given to the University in 1626, and it may be that Drummond’s example inspired Laing to make his later, even more generous gift. Before 1878 Edinburgh University Library had only a handful of manuscripts - since then, building on the Laing bequest, it has become an internationally important centre for Special Collections.

  • Some of the highlights of the Collection include
  • Western medieval manuscript books
  • Early Islamic letters
  • Letters by Kings and Queens of Scotland
  • Poetic manuscripts by Robert
  • Manuscripts on the arts and performance, including dance and theatre
  • Early manuscripts in Gaelic and Middle Scots
  • Early manuscript music books
  • Manuscripts on science, alchemy and medicine
  • Manuscripts on European heraldry and travel
  • Early writing by women, such as the 17th century poet Elizabeth Melville
  • Laing’s personal papers, journals and 9,000 letters
  • Crucial Scottish governmental and legal documents

External Links

For further information please contact staff at the Centre for Research Collections.