University Collections

Special Collections include manuscripts and archives, rare books, photographs, printed and handwritten music, architectural drawings, theses and microfilms. The collections relate to University of Edinburgh and its history, and to Scotland and the wider world.

In total we have about 35 kilometres of historic material, much of which cannot be found anywhere else in the world. collections.ed.ac.uk

Centre for Research Collections

Further information about the Centre for Research Collections.

The Guardbook

The Guardbook was the University Library's last catalogue on paper, before computerisation. It was closed to new additions and amendments in 1985, and the electronic catalogue now replaces it for all General Collections material. It remains a useful source of information for Rare Books, as retrospective conversion of the Guardbook's contents was not completed for the older collections. Please bear in mind that many shelf locations have been changed since 1985, so this catalogue should always be used in conjunction with the current electronic catalogue. Recataloguing of our rare books collections onto the online system is ongoing.

The Guardbook is a valuable historical document, showing the state of the library collection at a single point in history, and is of value for research into the history of the collections. The original was typed onto loose sheets, punched with four holes, and held in binders of a proprietary design. The entries were arranged in a single sequence using only the left-hand page of each opening. Additions were made to it by removing the sheets from the binder and typing new entries in the appropriate place. If there was no space on the page, additions were made on a narrower sheet, bound to face it. Eventually, the whole sheet would be re-typed. Originally the library maintained two copies of this catalogue: one for public use and a master copy held in the Cataloguing Department. The copy digitised here is the public copy. The Cataloguing Department copy is now held by the University Archives.

The Guardbook is the last in a sequence of catalogues in very similar format which go back to the seventeenth century, which are now held in the University Archives. The earliest were handwritten in bound volumes. The first in a looseleaf format seems to date from about 1920; only parts of this survive. The Guardbook digitised here was started in the late 1950s."

Contact Details

For further information about the University of Edinburgh Special Collections please contact:

Centre for Research Collections
University of Edinburgh,
Main Library,
30 George Square,
Edinburgh,
EH8 9LJ