A Library from libraries

Wednesday 20 July 2011

This week’s posts are both focused on the historical collections of St. Andrews, look for the new bindings post on Friday!

Many of the books in the Special Collections department have been in the University’s possession for centuries. All of the collections from the old college libraries (i.e. St. Salvator’s, St. Mary’s, St. Leonard’s) were gathered together to form one central collection (in the old library building in St. Mary’s Quad, and the progenitor of our current library) in 1783. Some of the identities of these old collections were lost as items were mixed in with each other in their new home. However, through cataloguing, we are slowly beginning to see the picture of what each of these libraries held before their amalgamation.

One of the first things I began working on when I first started this post was bringing our authorities headings in-line with Library of Congress headings, especially things of local interest. This allows a researcher to click on a hyper-linked term in the catalogue record to see items described in the same manner. Working with the cataloguing team, we were able to bring together all of the older records that had used various headings for ownership identification and bring them all under their own uniform heading. So now, if someone wants to see what items (that have been catalogued) were in St. Salvator’s, St. Mary’s or St. Leonard’s before the amalgamation, they can, and, as we continue to work through the Rare Book Collections, this list continues to grow.

This is quite important for researchers of the University’s history, as one can begin to reconstruct not only what was in these libraries, but what scholars had on access to them. These books would have been the main source of information to the early scholarly community here, and provided one of the main foundations from which this University grew to greatness. Usually, items from one of the college libraries has an ownership inscription on the title page or front fly-leaf (see images below), but occasionally we get a bit more information. Such is the case with TypBE.C09FS, an early collection of Scottish laws compiled by John Skene, which has the standard St. Salvator’s ownership inscription on the title page and on the title page verso is an inscription of when the book was bought and for how much (pictured below).


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