Royal Edinburgh Asylum Medical Library

Scope and Content

Annual Reports of Asylums 1814-1908; General Board of Commissioners in Lunacy and General Board of Control Reports 1851-1939; printed journals and books 1823-1946

Administrative / Biographical History

The earliest reference to books being borrowed from a specifically medical as opposed to a patients' library at the Royal Edinburgh Asylum occurs in 1855, and it is reasonable to assume that it was founded around that time. This coincides with an increased emphasis placed on clinical teaching by the Asylum's Resident Physician, Dr David Skae (1814-1873). The majority of the library was transferred to the Royal Edinburgh Hospital Library, with remaining items going to Edinburgh University's Department of Psychiatry Library.


Chronological within record class

Access Information

Public access to these records is governed by the UK Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 and the latest version of the Scottish Government Records Management: NHS Code of Practice (Scotland). Whilst some records may be accessed freely by researchers, the aforementioned legislation and guidelines mean that records with sensitive information on named individuals may be closed to the public for a set time.

Where records are about named deceased adults, they will be open 75 years after the latest date in the record, on the next 01 January. Records about individuals below 18 years (living or deceased) or adults not proven to be deceased will be open 100 years after the latest date in the record, on the next 01 January. Further information on legislation and guidelines covering medical records can be found on the LHSA webpage (

LHSA can support the use of records closed to public access for legitimate clinical, historical and genealogical research purposes. Please contact the LHSA Archivist for more details regarding procedures on how you can apply for permission to view closed records. Telephone us on: 0131 650 3392 or email us at

Acquisition Information

Royal Edinburgh Hospital


Compiled by Mike Barfoot and Jenny McDermott using existing handlists

Other Finding Aids

Manual item-level descriptive lists and card index available

Custodial History

Items held within Royal Edinburgh Hospital


No further accessions are expected

Related Material

Rosslynlee Hospital (LHB33)

Royal Edinburgh Hospital (LHB7)

Royal Medico-Psychological Association, Scottish Division (GD15)