Bonar Collection

The Bonar collection includes:

  • 21 volumes from the library of Adam Smith (1723-1790), the majority bearing his bookplate
  • books on economics from Bonar's library, identified by his bookplate

Presented to the University in 1931 by James Bonar (1852-1941), a leading authority on Adam Smith and T.R. Malthus (1766-1834). During his long career, Bonar came to be regarded as the doyen of British political economists.

Around 1,000 volumes were presented to the Department of Political Economy in the 1950s and the majority of this collection was transferred to the Adam Smith Library in 1967.

Of further interest are over 500 letters from Bonar to the economist George Findlay Shirras (1885-1955). The letters concern:

  • contemporary economics/statistical debates
  • the Adam Smith Society
  • activities of their peers and each other

The letters were acquired in 1983 with support from the Local Museums Purchase Fund.

Also in the Special Collections Department are a further 40 Adam Smith related volumes, acquired from various sources (including 9 volumes gifted by Harry H. Livingstone, in 1962): some are from Smith’s library, and others are Smith’s presentation copies of his own works.  The volumes are dispersed throughout various collections.

How to find material from the Bonar collection

  • List of titles bearing the bookplate of James Bonar
  • List of titles by James Bonar (click on name entry to see list)
  • Letters from Bonar to George Findlay Shirras are located at MS Gen 518/1-519
  • List of titles of books once belonging to Adam Smith (from various collections, including Bonar)