The collection, developed by the Library during the present century from existing stock with additional purchases from time to time, contains around 4000 volumes representing an assembly of early printed books not in other special collections. It is arranged by country and town of printing, and includes Continental books to 1600, English and Irish books to 1640, and Scottish books to 1775 (with some later local imprints, i.e St Andrews, Cupar, Perth). A collection of this size and background naturally has many outstanding features. There are 13 incunabula owned by William Schevez (d1497), Archbishop of St Andrews and probably among the first printed books to come to St Andrews, 13 items presented to St Leonard's College by George Buchanan, and around 150 volumes from the 1657 bequest of William Guild (1586-1657), Principal of King's College, Aberdeen (including many books with important Scottish provenances).
Books printed in France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Switzerland and the Low Countries are all available through the searches on the online catalogue. The Library has developed three searches to enable readers to locate early printed books other than by author or title. A rare books keyword search looks in the descriptive notes fields, and will find information relating to provenance, binding, illustration etc. For example, a search on "dates" and "16th" will find books with a 16th century ownership inscription. You can also search by place of publication and name of printer, bookseller, former owner, engraver, etc. Work is proceeding on retrospective conversion of books printed in Great Britain. Classmarks for books in this collection have the prefix Typ.
On the bindings of some of the Schevez incunabula, see G D Hobson, Bindings in Cambridge Libraries, (Cambridge, 1929), p.36.
On Schevez and his books generally, see G H Bushnell, `Portrait of a bibliophile IV: William Schevez, Archbishop of St Andrews, d 1497', The Book Collector, 9 (1960), p. 19-29.