University of St Andrews

University Library Special Collections

Rare Books

J. D. Forbes Collection

Images of the J. D. Forbes Collection

The library of James David Forbes (1809-1868), an eminent scientist (especially in the field of glaciology) and Principal of the United College of St Salvator and St Leonard at St Andrews from 1859, was presented in 1929 by his son George Forbes, FRS. It contains c. 1350 volumes including books of the 16th-19th centuries, chiefly scientific, with some classics and alpine travel. The majority are pre-1851, over 500 pre-1801. It was essentially a working library in the physical sciences, but a strong interest in the history of science is evident, and there are many outstanding antiquarian items such as Paccioli's Divina proportione (1509) and Summa de arithmetica (1523); Copernicus, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (1543); several Galileos, including a presentation Difesa (1607); Kepler, Astronomia nova (1609); and Newton, Principia (1687) and Opticks (1704). The papers of James David Forbes are held within the manuscripts collection.

Finding aids

Classmarks for books in this collection have the prefix For. All the books from this collection currently on the online catalogue can be found here.


Find out how you can get copies of books, manuscripts or photographs held within Special Collections.

Collection development policy

Discover how the Special Collections Division makes decisions on the development of its rare book collections.

Current projects

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