National Library of Scotland

National Library of Scotland in winter sun
Venue details
George IV Bridge
Edinburgh Area
Telephone (info)
+44 (0)131 623 3700
Telephone (box office)
0131 623 3918
Fringe Venue
About the venue

The National Library of Scotland is also known as the copyright or legal deposit library in the UK, and is one of the main research libraries in Europe. It is not a lending library but stores around 14 million books, rare Scottish manuscripts, maps and cartography, music scores, illustrations, advertising, photographs and more.

The online catalogue contains millions of records of printed material acquired by the Library since 1801 and earlier.

Since 1999, the Library has been answerable to the Scottish Parliament and funded by the Scottish Government.

The National Library changes its free displays of artefacts several times a year.

The library extensive digital resources that can be accessed, without registration, remotely (rather than going to the building itself). These include archive films and documentaries, photographs, and the National Library of Scotland's magazine Discover (as online videos and articles for current editions and as PDFs for archive).

The online map collection covers a range of different historical maps from military maps and coastal charts to soil maps and air photo mosaics.


Founded in the early 1680s, the Advocates Library in Edinburgh was formally opened in 1689. Under the 1710 Copyright Act it was given the legal right to claim a copy of every book published in Britain.

By the 1920s, the upkeep of such a major collection was too much for a private body. With an endowment of £100,000 provided by Sir Alexander Grant of Forres, the library's contents were presented to the nation. The National Library of Scotland was formally constituted by an Act of Parliament in 1925.

Sir Alexander Grant gave a further £100,000 - making his combined donations the equivalent of around £6 million today - for a new library building to be built on George IV Bridge. Government funding was secured which matched Sir Alexander's donation.


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