University of St Andrews

University Library Special Collections

University Library records

Images of the University Library records collection

The archive of the University Library is a particularly fine series of records. It includes catalogues from 1644, registers of readers and borrowing records from 1697, and material relating to the acquisition of books as well as papers produced in the administration of the Library. It consists of some 50 metres of volumes and 70 metres of boxed material.

A library for the whole University, or 'Common Library' was established in 1611-12. Foundation gifts were given by the family of King James VI and I, by the Archbishop of Canterbury and other leading figures of the period. This supplemented the libraries of the colleges of the University.

The book presses in the Cathedral Church in St Andrews and the existence of a priory library indicate that book collecting has been going on in this place for many centuries. In 1416 £5 was allocated by the Faculty of Arts for the purchase of books from Paris, but the money was instead diverted to pay for a mace. The earliest recorded gift of a book came in 1456 and there is mention of a book room in St Salvator's College at that time. St Leonard's College had the best library in St Andrews because of its links with the Priory. Some of the books which were originally to be found in the college libraries remain in the University Library collections. From 1710-1837 the Library was a copyright library. More information on the history of the library can be found in Treasures of St Andrews University Library and at 600 years of book collecting.

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.