Ferguson Collection

This collection consists of some 7,500 volumes from the library of John Ferguson (1838-1916), bibliographer and Regius Professor of Chemistry at the University of Glasgow from 1874 to 1915. The main strengths of the collection lie in alchemy, chemistry and related topics such as books of secrets, with important offshoots into the occult sciences and witchcraft, Cabbalism, Rosicrucianism, Free Masonry and Gypsy literature. Whenever possible, the Library fills in gaps in the collection - particularly in the alchemical section.

The collection includes 118 incunabula and 317 manuscripts - almost all of the latter are of alchemical interest and several date back to the 15th century. Ferguson’s own extensive bibliographical notes and papers accompany his alchemical and related books, which the University purchased in 1921 for the sum of £7,000.

Ferguson’s valuable collection of general literature was not included in the purchase and this section of his library was auctioned in Glasgow, 23-25 June 1920 (Morrison, Dick & McChlery) and London, 15-17 November 1920 (Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge). Ferguson is probably best remembered as the author of Bibliotheca chemica: a catalogue of the alchemical, chemical and pharmaceutical books in the collection of the late James Young (Glasgow, 1906).

The Young collection of alchemical literature, which is now in the keeping of the University of Strathclyde Library, is frequently confused with Ferguson’s own collection.

See also the Alchemy web site, which includes a detailed description of the Ferguson collection.

How to find material from the Ferguson collection

See also the following 'book of the month' articles that feature items from the Ferguson collection: