University of St Andrews

University Library Special Collections


Papers of Principal Sir James Irvine (UYUY250/Irvine)

Principal Sir James Irvine

This project is a high priority because a significant recent gift of papers has added huge value to an existing collection which had been saved for posterity and stored within the muniment collection.

The Irvine papers are in two parts. After his death a selection was made for the official university record. That material has been listed at box level and has been widely used over recent years by those interested in the life of the institution from 1920-1952.

One of those who mined the papers in her research on the biography of her grandfather, Principal Sir James Irvine, was Julia Melvin (James Colquhoun Irvine:St Andrews' Second Founder, Edinburgh 2011). Once her research was complete and the book published, Julia fulfilled her earlier promise to return to the University papers retained by the family after Irvine's death.

As she said, “when I inherited the Irvine Papers on my mother's death, they had been all thrown into a large box, higgledy-piggledy. Before I could begin to research Irvine's life I had to put them in some sort of order: the concept of an as-found archival arrangement just wasn't an option.” Our cataloguing work is preserving Julia's arrangement and is bringing to light fascinating details about the inner workings of the University at a time when the Principal was still in personal touch with all aspects of its life.

Among the treasures hidden in this collection are the letters between Irvine and his wife and the significant figures holding office as Rector between 1916-52: Field Marshal Earl Haig, J M Barrie, Rudyard Kipling, Fridthof Nansen, Sir Wilfred Grenfell, Jan Smuts, Guglielmo Marconi, Sir David Munro, Sir George Cunningham and Lord Burghley.

The papers are being listed and will be searchable via our online catalogue.

Manuscript or muniment?

Not quite sure what the difference is? Learn about how to distinguish between our different archival collections.

Collection development policy

Discover how the Special Collections Division makes decisions on the development of its manuscript and muniment collections.

Current projects

Read about the exciting projects the Archive team is currently working on, and those that have been completed recently.