The University of Edinburgh's rare and unique collections catalogue online.

The Laing Collection

TitleThe Laing Collection

Our most important manuscript collection was assembled by the great antiquarian David Laing (1793-1878). The son of an Edinburgh bookseller, Laing became the leading Scottish expert on early books and manuscripts. He travelled across Europe to buy precious volumes, but also rescued countless important papers from offices and family homes. When he died, his manuscript collection was gifted to Edinburgh University Library.

The Laing collection contains beautiful items of iconic importance. Some of the known highlights include 103 Western medieval manuscript books, very finely illuminated or textually important; early Islamic manuscripts, including fragments from a 9th century Koran; letters by Kings and Queens of Scotland and England; poems in the hand of Robert Burns; more than 3,000 charters, many with original wax seals; manuscripts on the arts and performance, including dance and theatre; early manuscripts in Gaelic and Middle Scots; early manuscript music books; finely painted manuscripts on European heraldry and travel; early writing by women, such as the 17th century poet Elizabeth Melville; Laing’s personal papers, journals and 9,000 letters, including correspondence with great writers such as Thomas Carlyle, Sir Walter Scott and William Woodsworth; and crucial Scottish governmental and legal documents.

Access to the collection is currently through a variety of handlists and printed finding aids, some of which have been made available online. Work is in progress to develop a project that will create a modern online catalogue.

OriginScotland; Europe; England; France

Image: Records made by Jonathan Greenfield from his time with the ship, Essex (La.III.578)