Western Medieval Manuscripts Collection

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

There are about 330 medieval manuscripts, about half of them drawn from the Laing Collection. They are of diverse origin and subject matter, with some manuscripts representing the Benedictine and Carthusian monasteries at Erfurt, some material from Bury St. Edmunds, Reading and Syon and other British locations, and also from Aberdeen, Dunkeld, Elgin, Sciennes, and Inchcolm, in Scotland. Well represented are biblical, liturgical and theological texts, especially a good collection of late medieval illuminated books of hours. Within the Biblical manuscripts there are Bibles, parts of the Bible, Bible histories, Lives of our Lord and the Blessed Virgin Mary, and other saints. The Liturgical manuscripts include Antiphoner, Breviaries, Directories, Grails, Horae, Martyrology, Missals, Pontificals, Psalters etc. Theological texts include Apocryphal material, Commentaries, General, Moral, Mystical, Sermons, and Patristic material. There are Philosophy texts, Law, material on Medicine and History. The manuscripts include Classical and Medieval Literature.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Clement Little Collection which formed the earliest nucleus of in 1584, contained no manuscripts. The Drummond Collection presented in 1626, by William Drummond (1585-1649), included only one manuscript belonging to the medieval period. The first complete Edinburgh University Library catalogue made in 1636 mentioned the Sciennes Manuscript acquired circa 1593, and five others. During the seventeenth century, the Library frequently received gifts and legacies from University graduates, professors, officials and students, and also from Edinburgh merchants and citizens, and by 1697, the Library catalogue contained twenty-three medieval manuscripts. By 1767 there were thirty-one. The first attempt at a separate catalogue of manuscripts was a scroll list drawn up by David Laing (1793-1878), probably in 1825. This contained only thirty-six manuscripts. The bulk of the material in the modern collection of Western Medieval MSS was acquired after that date, probably through the Reid Bequest after 1846. The Library's Erfurt MSS and other German books contain descriptive notices from sale catalogues from this period. The work entitled A descriptive catalogue of the Western medieval manuscripts in Edinburgh University Library, by Catherine R. Borland (Edinburgh: T. and A. Constable, 1916) contains a full list of donors, scribes, and owners of manuscripts in the collection.

Conditions Governing Access

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Note

The biographical history was compiled using the following material: (1) A descriptive catalogue of the Western medieval manuscripts in Edinburgh University Library, Catherine R. Borland (Edinburgh: T. and A. Constable, 1916). (2) Medieval MSS in Edinburgh University Library, Neil R. Ker, being pp.589-624 of Medieval manuscripts in British libraries, Vol.2. (Oxford, 1977).

Other Finding Aids

Handlist H6 which is A descriptive catalogue of the Western medieval manuscripts in Edinburgh University Library, Catherine R. Borland (Edinburgh: T. and A. Constable, 1916); Handlist H6.1 which is the Celtic Psalter, introduction by C.P. Finlayson (Amsterdam: North-Holland Publishing Co., 1962); and, Handlist H7 which is Medieval MSS in Edinburgh University Library, Neil R. Ker, being pp.589-624 of Medieval manuscripts in British libraries, Vol.2. (Oxford, 1977). Another important finding aid is the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives. Additions to the typed slips in sheaf binders were made until 1987.

Additional Information

The biographical history was compiled using the following material: (1) A descriptive catalogue of the Western medieval manuscripts in Edinburgh University Library, Catherine R. Borland (Edinburgh: T. and A. Constable, 1916). (2) Medieval MSS in Edinburgh University Library, Neil R. Ker, being pp.589-624 of Medieval manuscripts in British libraries, Vol.2. (Oxford, 1977).