Historical Bibliography

Our outstanding collections are a wonderful resource for researching all aspects of historical bibliography and the history of the book. They include:

  • one of the best collections of15th century books (incunabula) in a UK academic library
  • 10 books printed by William Caxton (1422?-1491)
  • one of the finest 18th century libraries to survive intact
  • excellent examples of fine bindings, dating from the 15th to the early 20th century 
  • extensive collections of ephemera, University of Glasgow press publications and Glasgow imprints

This page lists:


Collections of general interest for historical bibliography


  • Euing: particularly for fine typography of the 18th and 19th centuries, especially Baskerville, Barbou, Bodoni, Didot, the Strawberry Hill Press and Foulis Press
  • Hunterian: William Hunter's 18th century library is one of the finest to survive intact; the printed books include 534 incunabula (including 10 Caxtons) and over 2,300 volumes with 16th-century imprints; Hunter was especially keen on the products of the scholar-printers of Venice, Florence and Paris
  • MacLehose: comprising over 2,000 University of Glasgow press publications, forming a representative sample of the output of the MacLehose printing firm
  • Murray: includes a wealth of 17th and 18th century Glasgow imprints, especially the products of the presses of Robert Sanders, the Foulis brothers, and Robert Urie; Murray also collected catalogues of book sales and libraries extensively
  • Within our general manuscript collections there are records of the Maitland Club (1828-1850) and the Glasgow Bibliographical Society (1912-1968).

The following web exhibitions and course resources highlight significant material:


Searching for printers and provenance


The printers, place and provenance index can be searched to find books produced by a specific printer or which were printed in a specific place and at specific dates or which once belonged to a particular person or institution. For example:

  • to find books printed by William Caxton, type "Caxton" into the search box
  • to find books produced in Venice in the 16th century, type "Venice 15" into the search box
  • to find books produced in Paris in 1610, type "Paris 1610" into the search box
  • to find out if we have any books that once belonged to Charles Dickens, type "Dickens" in the search box

The following web exhibition highlights significant material:




The following collections hold our highest concentrations of 15th century books (incunabula): Euing, Ferguson, Hamilton, Hunterian, Murray, Trinity College Library and Veitch. 

See our Incunabula Project for illustrated records of some 1000 books with provenance, printing and place indexes. NB: this project is currently in progress.

The following book of the month articles feature 15th century books:




We have excellent collections of ephemera. See the following:

  • Chapbooks: over 1000 items
  • Broadsides: examples ranging from the 16th to 20th centuries, including accounts of executions, advertisements for trade ventures and calls for political agitation; includes a major collection of 408 black-letter ballads, many of which are illustrated by woodcuts
  • Murray: includes abundant holdings of broadsides, street literature, chapbooks, advertisements and files of newspaper cuttings
  • Smith: includes some 5,000 ephemeral items relating to the history of Glasgow, including posters, advertisements, tickets etc
  • Wylie: includes broadsides, playbills, advertisements, valentines and chapbooks

The following web exhibitions and course resources highlight items of ephemera:


Fine Bindings


For fine bindings see, particularly, items in the following collections:

  • Euing: many attractive examples including embroidered bindings 
  • Hepburn: a number of fine bindings and a dozen fore-edge paintings
  • Hunterian: William Hunter had many of his books rebound in the 18th century, but some 15th and 16th-century volumes remain in their original bindings, including some examples from the library of Jean Grolier (1479-1565)
  • Morris: over 100 books designed by Talwin Morris (1865-1911) in the "Glasgow style".

Some examples are highlighted in the following web exhibition:

If you know the name of the binder you are interested in, use our provenance search. For example:

  • to find any books we have recorded as having been bound for Grolier, type "Grolier" into the search box

Other sources of information:

  • MS Gen 759: James Basil Oldham, Notes on bindings in the Hunterian and general libraries in Glasgow University (1938). This is an unpublished typescript listing of bindings which has since been supplemented by further information from various researchers.
  • Manual listings and reference guides available in the Special Collections reading room. For example, there are several sheaf binders that record interesting examples of bindings, fore-edge paintings etc.

NB: Information about bindings is now recorded in the "local" note field of catalogue records for books; however, this information is currently difficult to extract in the rare books search.