University of Glasgow


Part of the Library and University Services

Please note that these pages are from our old (pre-2010) website; the presentation of these pages may now appear outdated and may not always comply with current accessibility guidelines.

History Dissertation Workshop

Finding primary source material in Special Collections

Some 60,000 items are indexed on the manuscripts catalogue

The catalogue may be searched via name, document or collection: for more guidance see the help page (from the drop down menu at the left of the screen).

Some search strategies: -

  • to find any items relating to James I, use the Name Search option, typing 'James I' in the top name box
  • to find any items produced in the eleventh century, use the Document Search option, typing '1000' in the Year of Creation after box and '1099' in the and before box
  • to find any items relating to child evacuation use the Document Search option, typing 'evacuation' in the Word (or Phrase) in Description box

NB: Use the Word (or Phrase) in Description box for keyword-type searches; note, however, that the manuscripts catalogue is not currently subject indexed, and successful searches therefore rely upon matching words that have been used in the descriptions section of the record.

Records for all the printed material held in Special Collections are indexed on the main library catalogue

Use the Advanced Keyword Search option to limit searches to material held in Special Collections and/or by date:

  • to find any books relating to witchcraft published before 1736, use the Advanced Keyword Search option, typing 'witch' in the main search box and '1736' in the Year: Before box in the Optional Limits section; try the same search using 'witches', 'demon', etc as keywords.

There are separate rare books indexes available for the extra fields provided in the catalogue records for pre-1800 rare books. These fields include details of early printers and booksellers, places of publication in standardised form, provenances and standard references:

  • to find any books published in Mainz in the fifteenth century, type 'mainz 14' in the rare books search box (at the bottom of the main catalogue menu amongst the 'Other search' options)

NB. There are also separate catalogues for:

Collection Descriptions

Each of the collections is described fully along with guidance about finding aids (including links to relevant catalogue records) on the collections descriptions page.

Use the selective subject index to ascertain which of the collections might be of most relevance to your topic.

Collections that might be of particular interest:

  • Bissett: left-wing pamphlets, largely published in Glasgow
  • Ferguson: includes substantial collection of witchcraft literature
  • Hunterian: wide ranging 18th century library (including many early printed books & medieval manuscripts)
  • MacCallum Scot Papers: politics during World War I and 1920s
  • Murray: collection strong in west of Scotland regional history
  • Ogilvie: English civil war pamphlets
  • Schlesinger Papers: Soviet history & German communist party
  • Spencer: Darien scheme

Virtual Exhibitions and Book of the Month

The virtual exhibitions page can provide a useful starting point for searching for material by subject.

Some exhibitions that might be of particular interest to historians:

More in-depth articles on specific books may be found in the book of the month archive.

Some book of the month articles that might be of particular interest to historians:

Course Material

The Course material pages have been set up to support the teaching of specific courses and new pages are continually being added.

For course material pages specifically set up for historians, see:

Sheaf binder indexes

While most of the records for Special Collections material are now on-line, there are additionally a number of (incomplete) indexes available for consultation in the reading room. These include a partial subject index, and indexes of newspapers, maps and views, ephemera, broadsides and chapbooks. Although these are no longer kept up-to-date, they can still provide a useful starting point by subject.

Exhibition catalogues

A series of old exhibition catalogues of Sp Coll material are also available for consultation in the reading room (some of these have been digitised and appear as virtual exhibitions); again, these are useful for a subject approach.

Reference material

There is a small collection of reference material in the reading room, including (mostly superseded) guides and hand lists to some of our named collections, as well as some guides and descriptions of other Special Collections.

I am always happy to try and help locate relevant material and advise on best use of the collections:
Julie Gardham:; 330 3791 (office); 330 6767 (Special Collections reading room).