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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)






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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)


The 1691 Catalogue of Glasgow University Library


This web exhibition is adapted from a talk delivered by Stephen Rawles, to the Friends of Glasgow University Library, on 16th February 2005.  It is intended to document his ongoing work in transcribing the entries of the 1691 Glasgow University Library catalogue. The 1691 catalogue is the earliest full catalogue of Glasgow University Library holdings still extant. It is stored in the Special Collections Department, Old Library collection and remains a wonderful resource for researchers.

Talk adapted for the Web by Robert MacLean, October 2007

Glasgow University was founded by the Bull of the humanist pope Nicholas V in 1451; from the beginning, the University was undoubtedly furnished with some books for teaching, which took place initially within the cathedral church of St. Mungo. It was also probably the case that the masters had free access to the resources of both the Dean and Chapter library of the cathedral, and the library of the adjacent Dominican house.  The first explicit mention of the University library is dated November 1475 when the first donations by the University's chancellor, Bishop John Laing were recorded - a manuscript compendium of Aristotle and Pseudo-Aristotelian texts, and a paper volume of "quaestiones".

An etching of Glasgow Cathedral from the Nineteenth Century (from Mu23-x.10). The Dean and Chapter libraries along with the library for the nearby Dominican house would have been available for the use of Masters in the early years following the University's foundation

Title page from MS Gen 1312

The 1691 catalogue is the earliest surviving formal attempt to list the holdings systematically, even if earlier documents imply the existence of an earlier catalogue or catalogues. Indeed, what amounts to an acquisitions register from 1578 is called the Catalogus librorum communis Bibliothecae Collegii Glasguensis (Munimenta, p. 407 ff). The Library regulations of 1659, rule V, imply some form of catalogue, since the text begins: "That no bookes be writtin in the Publict Catalogues by the Bibliothecarius or any maister of the house..."

The 1691 Catalogue itself is actually two catalogues, one being a more or less fair copy of the other. The original copy, (MS Gen 1312), is a manuscript written on paper, rebound in the mid Twentieth Century. There are 296 numbered pages, followed by 208 unnumbered pages. The basic text is in a fairly typical and quite readable seventeenth century hand, with various additions in other hands, some of them very difficult to decipher. At this time the catalogue described both manuscripts and printed books.

Detail from the title page of MS Gen 1312

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


Pages maintained by: Robert MacLean

Specific enquiries relating to content should be sent to: Stephen Rawles