Credits and Resources

This exhibition was curated by Karen ‘Kit’ Baston, Maxine Branagh-Miscampbell, Alex Deans, Katie Halsey, Gerard Lee McKeever, Matthew Sangster, Josh Smith, and Cleo O’Callaghan Yeoman of Books and Borrowing.

With special thanks to Elizabeth Quarmby Lawrence, Rare Books and Literary Collections Curator, and Bianca Packham, Engagement Officer (Exhibitions), both of the University of Edinburgh.

Books and Borrowing, 1750-1830:
An Analysis of Scottish Borrowers’ Registers

Employing formerly unexplored (or underexplored) library borrowing records, Books and Borrowing uses cutting-edge research to create a valuable new resource that will reveal hidden histories of book use, knowledge dissemination and participation in literate culture.

Drawing on the rare manuscript sources held at our partner libraries and heritage centres, it establishes which books readers actually engaged with in the period. Contradicting established narratives about which books are important to our national history, it hopes to show what people really borrowed from eighteen historic libraries across Scotland. To come to our conclusions, it analyses the reading of lead miners in Dumfries and Galloway, clergymen in Dunblane and Dumfries, advocates in Edinburgh, university students, professors and townspeople in the historic university towns of Aberdeen, Edinburgh, St Andrews and Glasgow, and what Daniel Defoe called the ‘middling sort’ of people in Selkirk, Wigtown, Kirkwall, Haddington, and rural Perthshire.

References & Resources

The Books and Borrowing Blog has more information about the libraries featured in this exhibition:

Robert D. Anderson, Michael Lynch, and Nicholas Phillipson, The University of Edinburgh: an illustrated history (Edinburgh University Press, 2008)

Karen Baston, Charles Areskine’s Library: Scottish lawyers and their books at the dawn of the Scottish Enlightenment (Brill, 2016)

James Boswell, Boswell’s Edinburgh Journals, 1767-1786, ed. Hugh Milne (John Donald, 2013)

Maxine Branagh-Miscampbell, Childhood Reading and Education: The Royal High School of Edinburgh, 1750-1850 (PhD thesis, 2021):

Iain Gordon Brown, Building for Books: The Architectural Evolution of the Advocates’ Library, 1689-1925 (Aberdeen University Press, 1989)

C. P. Finlayson and S. M. Simpson, ‘The History of the Library, 1710-1837’, in Edinburgh University Library, 1580-1980 (Edinburgh University Library, 1982)

Anne Grant, Memoir and Correspondence of Mrs Grant of Laggan, ed. J. P. Grant, 3 vols. (1844)

David Hewitt, ‘Scott, Sir Walter (1771-1832), poet and novelist’ in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (23 Sept. 2004):

Gerard McKeever, ‘Books for Borrowing: Walter Scott’ (8 Feb. 2021):

Murray Pittock, Enlightenment in a Smart City: Edinburgh’s civic development, 1660-1750 (Edinburgh University Press, 2019)

Jeffrey R. Smitten, ‘Robertson, William (1721-1793)’, in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (23 Sept. 2004; rev. 3 Jan. 2008):

Andrew Tod, ‘Grant [nee MacVicar], Anne (1755-1838), in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (23 Sept. 2004):