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Image showing a view of the Old College (Glasgow University) from Slezer's Thatrum Scotiae, London, 1693 (Sp Coll Bi8-a.1)






Library layout


Library Stock





Image showing a view of the Old College (Glasgow University) from Slezer's Thatrum Scotiae, London, 1693 (Sp Coll Bi8-a.1)

The 1691 Catalogue of Glasgow University Library


The catalogue entry for one of the Elsevier guides, Gilles's Bosporo Thracio Lib. III. Follow hyperlink for a larger image

We can be fairly certain that acquisition of materials was not haphazard - then, as now, the Library had a some sort of "acquisition policy". This is apparent from the presence of clearly linked publications. Two examples spring easily to mind.

Early in the Seventeenth Century, the Leiden publisher Elsevier brought out a series of small format guides to the countries of Europe. Glasgow University Library appears to have acquired them all systematically, possibly as a result of the generosity of the one-time Professor of Divinity and Principal Robert Baillie whose signature is on the title, at least of this book (See right), Pierre Gilles's Bosporo Thracio Lib. III (Sp Coll Bh2-l.15).

Towards the end of the period under consideration, the Library acquired a set of at least 32 handsome French quarto editions of classical authors, all of which were published in Paris ‘in usum Delphini’. These date from between 1674 and 1687, and must therefore have constituted a large proportion (possibly as much as 40%) of the acquisitions in the 1680s. In this case the 1691 entry wrongly describes the edition of Caesar (Sp Coll Bm6-f.18) as a folio.

The title page for one of the small format guides published by Elsevier, Gilles's Bosporo Thracio Lib. III. Note Professor of Divinity, Robert Baillie's signature at the head of the page. Follow the link for a larger image of the signature

Title page and corresponding catalogue entry for Julius Caesar's 1678 Works, acquired by the Library during the 1680s. Follow the hyperlink for a larger image of the catalogue entry

A tantalising source of information on book purchase lies in the University Archives, where financial records for at least the end of the period still exist. To date this has only been investigated briefly, but the information is potentially very interesting. Here is a record of expenditures dating from 1678 to 1680. One entry is especially intriguing, and will have to be followed up: 'Item to James Fairfoull for the Libraryes cattalogue: £5-16s-0d'.

A matter to be investigated will be whether the price for the "Libraryes cattalogue" is in Sterling or pounds Scots, although a Library record of 1659 already discusses prices in Sterling.


Record of University expenditure for the period 1678-1680.  (From Glasgow University Archive Service University Records Quaestor's book GB0248 GUA)

Catalogue entry for Littleton's dictionary. Follow hyperlink for a larger image

Further down is a payment which can be related to a known book in the Library: ‘Item the 31 March 1680 to William Colvane to give to John Rae for Littletounes Dictionary: £10-16s-0d.’  This corresponds to AM:3:25 (Sp Coll Bn2-g.13): Adami Litletoun Ling: Lat: Dictionarius Liber Quadripartitus in 4to Edit: Lond: 1678

The entry for Littleton’s dictionary also shows that the colleagues in 1691 or shortly thereafter moved books around - you will see the note: ‘These stands now in BB: f.4.n.1 & 18’ Perhaps we must assume that there were space problems, or that someone thought these books would be better shelved in the other Philology section.

In addition to book purchase, a considerable portion of the Library stock was acquired by donation - perhaps as much as 20%. We know this, because the Library kept good records of donations. Any analysis of acquisition must take account of the significant donations which were made to the stock over the first 200 years or so. For example, the 1691 classification allowed a whole tier for the John Snell donation (Not yet transcribed). Another famous donation, also not dealt with here, of Greek material was made by the humanist George Buchanan (1506-1582) in about 1578.

This 1618 edition of Vestigatio arcani sensus in Apocalypsi by Luis d'Alcasar bears a provenance note at the foot of the title page stating that it and 49 other volumes were, in 1634, donated to the library by William Struthers. Follow hyperlink for a larger image of the manuscript note


There is a lot of work to be done on donations, the majority have not yet been transcribed. However, of those examined so far examples include: William Struthers donation - he left 50 books to the Library in 1634, and it is made very clear on each book what was to happen, and the extent of his donation. The note at the foot of the title page of Luis d'Alcasar's Vestigatio in Arcani sensus in Apocalypsi (Sp Coll Bi8-c.7) describes the extent of the donation. It reads:  

'Hoc volumen cum 49 aliis Testamento legatum est Acad. Glasguens à Gulielmo Struthero Eccles. Edinburg. Pastore. Anno Dom. 1634.’


Portrait of George Buchanan (1506-1582) (from Sp Coll Bh2-a.5) who donated 20 volumes in 1578. His donation was described by the Principal, Robert Baillie, as "a parcel of good Greek books noted with his [Buchanan's] hand"

Catalogue entry for Pineda's 1620 Commentaries. Follow the hyperlink for a larger image

One of the major and most interesting donors to the Library was James Law, Archbishop of Glasgow. On 25 July 1627 Law signed a document listing some 84 works which were to be given to the Library on his death. Possibly the most notable work was Plantin’s famous polyglot Bible (Sp Coll Bm6-a.1-5).

Another example from Law’s donation is entered in the 1691 catalogue:

The entry for O:3:7 (Sp Coll Bl2-d.7)- that is Section O (Comentarii Pontificii, i.e Catholic biblical commentary), ‘in forulo tertio’, i.e. the third shelf up, and the seventh book along reads:

'Pineda in Ecclesiasten in Fol: Edit: Antwerp: 1620.’

This corresponds to a typically handsome piece of typography from Antwerp, pictured here on the right.

Title page of Pineda's commentaries bearing manuscript provenance details

There are several annotations on this title page:

Next to the word ‘IN’ we read O f.3 n.7, with the now familiar old shelf mark. 

Just above, either side of the word ‘JESU’ we read ‘Ja Glasguen’. This is ‘Jacobus Glasguensis’ indicating that this book belonged to James Law, Archbishop of Glasgow.

Lower down, either side of the engraving towards the bottom:

‘Emp Edinb xii lb’

This indicates that the book was bought for 12 pounds (presumably Scots) in Edinburgh. Anyone in the old book world will tell you that information like this on the cost of books is rare and useful.

So, in conclusion, the point of dealing with this book in a bit more detail is to indicate that a simple transcription of the entries for the books in the 1691 catalogue, while useful, is by no means adequate to do justice to the Library of the period.

Close up detail of the manuscript provenance details inscribed on the title page of Pineda's Commentaries

Image showing a view of the Old College (Glasgow University) from Slezer's Thatrum Scotiae, London, 1693 (Sp Coll Bi8-a.1) Go to: Conclusion

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