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The Collections of Edinburgh Libraries

The Central Library opened in 1890 and ever since it has built in-depth collections relating to the history and culture of the city of Edinburgh, the topography, history and lives of the peoples’ of Scotland, and the fascinating story of Scots’ influence abroad.

Within Central Library, the collections are based around different departments. The Edinburgh & Scottish Collection is for all things related to Scotland and its capital. It holds the largest collection of material about Edinburgh in the world with many rare or unique items. It has an unrivalled collection of early photography including calotypes and prints by David Octavius Hill, Robert Adamson and Thomas Keith. The collection also features original work by artists such as James Skene and Walter Geikie.

The collection documents Scotland’s changing rural and urban landscapes in illustration and photograph. Highlights include the Highland Life Collection of photographs and drawings by Joseph Farington.

The Art and Design Library contains the most extensive public collection of printed material on art and design in Scotland. All subjects are covered including art history, architecture and town planning, sculpture, graphics, painting, prints and printmaking, industrial and folk art, the decorative arts and photography.

The Dyer Collection of Japanese material is one of the many Special Collections belonging to the Art and Design Library. The Dyer material comprises beautiful woodblock prints, painted scrolls and a collection of nineteenth century Japanese photographs, attributed to Baron Raimund von Stillfried.

The Reference Library has particular strengths in literature, military history, history, transport, genealogy and religion. The Collections include a precious and rare copy of the Bassandyne Bible printed in 1579 and the first to be printed in Scotland after the reformation.

The Collections of Edinburgh Museums & Galleries

We hold over 200,000 items in our rich and varied collections that relate to historical and cultural life in the city of Edinburgh. These fall into the areas of History and Art and can be found in our eight museum venues.

Some of our collections have been awarded National Significance status by the Scottish Government. These prestigious collections are at the City Art Centre, the Museum of Edinburgh, the Writers’ Museum and the entire collection of the Museum of Childhood.

The City Art Centre’s collection of Scottish art dates from the 17th century, and is one of the most comprehensive in the country. The Decorative Art collection is of items given beauty by skilful designers and craftsmen.

The Childhood collections cover childhood in Britain from the 18th to 21st centuries, as well as objects from other countries. The History collections tell the story of Edinburgh from earliest times to the present day and those of Edinburgh Life show the people of Edinburgh coming together to campaign, protest, celebrate and change their city.