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Welcome to the History subject guide - your guide to using the library resources, services and facilities for your subject.

Archives, manuscripts, rare books at the University of Edinburgh

The Centre for Research Collections (CRC) is the main space for anyone using the University of Edinburgh's historic and special collections, including rare books and manuscripts, University of Edinburgh archives, personal and institutional archives, Lothian Health Services Archives (LHSA), University of Edinburgh PhD theses, art collection, musical instrument collection and a wide range of other museum objects from geological specimens to anatomical models. 

  • 400,000 rare books
  • Over 6km of manuscripts and archives
  • 8,000 works of art
  • 5,000 historical musical instruments
  • Over 40,000 digital images
  • Over 10,000 PhD theses available digitally

The CRC are based on the 6th floor, Main Library.

Centre for Research Collections

Iconic Items at the University of Edinburgh

The collections in the CRC are considered exceptional and one of the greatest in the world and some of the iconic items in these collections include:

  • the finest surviving copy of the Aberdeen Breviary
  • an Anglo-Saxon charter
  • the last surving copy of Derricke's Image of Ireland
  • Rashid al-Din's History of the World (AD1314), considered one of the University's greatest oriental treasures
  • a collection of early editions of William Shakespeare
  • Zhouyi zhuanyi daquan (Book of Changes), which is the earliest printed book in the University's collections
  • Celtic Psalter, a beautiful, pocket-sized book and perhaps the University's greatest treasure

Detail from a page of the Celtic Psalter, 11th C. © The University of Edinburgh.

See images from more of the University's iconic items.

PhD Theses

The CRC hold theses presented for most higher degrees at the University of Edinburgh. 

All University PhD's in the print collections have been digitised, thereby making unique Edinburgh research (around 25,000 PhD's) available to all.

Bullet found in thesis during the digitisation project.

Lothian Health Services Archive (LHSA)

Lothian Health Services Archive (LHSA) holds the historically important local records of NHS hospitals and other health-related material. LHSA are part of the Centre for Research Collections (CRC).

Museums and galleries

The University of Edinburgh is home to around 200,000 artefacts, works of art, potted material, models, specimens, musical instruments and scientific apparatus. Some collections support scholarly research, while others are used daily as teaching collections. Some collections are on permanent display, such as the Musical Instrument collection at St. Cecilia's Hall, and are open to the public as well as staff and students at the University, whilst others are held in public or private spaces around the University and are used for exhibitions both within the University and outwith.

University of Edinburgh Image Collections

The University of Edinburgh Image Collection display highlights of the resources of the University of Edinburgh Library, principally from within Special Collections. At present there are almost 12,000 images available.

Collections include: Hill and Adamson, the Salvsen Collection, Walter Scott Collection, Western Medieval Manuscripts, the Laing Collection, Oriental Manuscripts and Images from the School of Scottish Studies.

You  may also be interested in:

Finding archives and special collections outwith the University

National Library of Scotland

The National Library of Scotland is Scotland's largest library and the world centre for the study of Scotland and the Scots. One of five legal deposit libraries in the UK it is also one of the major research libraries in Europe and their collections range from rare historical documents to online journals, covering every subject.

You must register to join the National Library of Scotland. Do check their website for information on types of ID required before visiting.

National Library of Scotland

National Museums Scotland

National Museums Scotland has the largest museum library collection in Scotland. Their library services support the research and learning needs of Museum staff, visitors and the wider external research community. There are two libraries which have public access - the Research Library in the National Museum of Scotland (the main reading room) and the National War Museum Library.

Main hall at the National Museum of Scotland

Keep up to date with the Centre for Research Collections (CRC)