George Washington Wilson Collection
|The Papers of Thomas Reid
Thomas Reid (1710-96) is internationally known as the chief representative of the Scottish School of Common Sense. Appointed to a Regentship at King's College Aberdeen, his duties required him to teach a wide range of subjects, but his principle interest lay in philosophy... more
Aberdeen Harbour Board Collection
|The MacBean Jacobite Collection
The MacBean Stuart & Jacobite Collection is a resource of international importance. Some 3,500 books and 1,000 pamphlets cover every aspect of the Jacobite rebellions, the causes and effects, and the personalities, royal, national and local... more
|Frigg UK: 30 years on
The Frigg UK collection at the University of Aberdeen contains over 1,500 individual items, including engineering drawings, technical manuals, operational records, staff magazines, photographs, and film and video footage... more
'Lives in the Oil Industry' Oral History Project
This resource tells the stories of the soldiers and sons of Aberdeen, the Northeast, and farther afield who were involved in both world wars and did not survive to tell their own. It provides details of each soldier's name, rank, regiment, honours, date of birth, date of death, and burial along with a brief biography... more
|The Burnet Psalter
Composed in the first half of the fifteenth century, The Burnet Psalter contains the categories of material common to psalters of the time: a calendar, devotions for personal use, the Psalter itself, and liturgies for personal use... more
|Photographs of Dr W. Clark Souter's Antarctic Trip 1903-1904
Dr William Clark Souter (1880-1959) was opthalmic surgeon to the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and lecturer in opthalmology in Aberdeen University from c.1920 to 1946. He received the polar medal for his services as ship's surgeon on the Terra Nova relief expedition to the Antarctic... more
The St Albans Psalter Project
|University of Aberdeen Oral History Archive
Begun in 1985 as part of the Aberdeen University Quincentenary Project, the interviews were originally intended to aid historians working on monographs commemorating the University's Quincentenary a decade later... more
|Research Resources in Medical History
Special Collections received funding from the Wellcome Trust’s ‘Research Resources in Medical History’ scheme to catalogue our extensive early medical records, which date from the 15th to 19th centuries. Cataloguing of more than 100 collections was completed by early 2009... more
|The Music of James Scott Skinner
James Scott Skinner (1843 – 1927) was a key figure in Scottish traditional music. He took the art of Scottish fiddle music to a new height through his playing and his compositions... more
|The Voice of Radicalism
The Voice of Radicalism traces the changes in democratic rights in Northeast Scotland from 1800 to 1930. Materials include political articles from 19th and 20th century newspapers, prints, squibs, ephemera and song sheets... more
|The Sir Walter Scott Collection assembled by Bernard C. Lloyd
The collection is generally understood to be one of the most comprehensive collections of Sir Walter Scott printed books ever assembled... more
|The Brown-Lindsay and Christ's College Pamphlet Collection
The collection encompasses 300 years of the history of the dissenting Presbyterian Churches but also includes rarities reflecting wider religious issues... more
|Charting the Nation
The Charting the Nation is a collaborative digital imaging and cataloguing project with the aim of widening access to the maps of Scotland... more
In all, the Special Collections Centre cares for over 200,000 printed volumes, dating from the 1460s to the present day. There are some 50 discrete printed collections, which fall into two main administrative groups: chronological and named.
Follow this link for details of all our Printed Collections.
Our major Chronological Collections are:
Inc: incunabula (i.e. books printed pre-1501)
π (pi): 1501 to 1600 (mainland European), to 1640 (English), or to 1780 (Scottish)
SB: all other pre-1841 material, and, additionally, scientific and medical material to 1860
SBL: books printed locally in Aberdeen to 1800
Lib R: other rarities from the mid-nineteenth century to the present, including topographical material to 1860.
There are, additionally, over 40 separate named collections. These cover a wide variety of academic subjects, and include major holdings on Jacobitism, railways and Sir Walter Scott.
Until the fusion of King's and Marischal Colleges in 1860 to form the University of Aberdeen, both hitherto independent institutions had their own students, their own teaching staff and, importantly, their own libraries. King's College was founded in 1495, and its library came into being shortly thereafter. Marischal College, founded in 1593, had to wait until 1614, when library accommodation was found for the first of a number of substantial seventeenth-century benefactions.
The University of Aberdeen’s older printed collections reflect the richness of these legacies from the two antecedent colleges, and several are now considered to be of international significance. Our older collections, enhanced by the donations, bequests and purchases of printed and archival material made especially since the mid-nineteenth century, enable the University to provide a set of resources of outstanding importance to scholarship and research.
Some of our collections are now available in digital format, for example The Drawn Sword: Engravings from the MacBean Collection. View our online collections.
Special Collections is home to more than 5,000 collections of manuscripts and archives, dating from antiquity to the 21st century, and containing material in some 25 different languages.The University of Aberdeen is a 15th-century foundation, with King's College established in 1495, Marischal College in 1593, and the University formed in 1860 from their fusion. Collectively, their archives constitute a rich source for the history of higher education in Scotland and Europe, and illuminate the relationship between the University and the City and, indeed, the region.
It is one of only five institutions of higher education in the English-speaking world to have experienced fully the period from the Renaissance through the Enlightenment. This antiquity is reflected in the Archives which include: a fine collection of medieval and early modern manuscripts; outstanding 17th – 19th century collections relating to science, medicine, Scottish Enlightenment philosophy, and Jacobitism; as well as an important collection of oriental manuscripts, papyri and ostraca.
Moreover, until the 1970s, the University was the main repository for archival collections for the northern half of Scotland. As a result, it has acquired an unrivalled collection of written material relating to the history and culture of the North-East of Scotland. These diverse collections include the records of families, estates, churches, institutions and businesses, as well as the literary, academic and antiquarian papers of individuals. Additions continue to be made to collections where they complement the Archives collection policy.
Finding Aids and Catalogues
Collection and item-level descriptions may be viewed at the on-line catalogue. Please note though that not all catalogues are currently available on-line and some catalogues are only available for consultation in the Reading Room. Information on new accessions is sent annually to the National Register of Archives. Our full list of annual accessions is also available here.
Printed catalogues of our medieval manuscripts and collections of papyri and ostraca are also available. See:
Many of the early records of King's and Marischal Colleges, along with lists of alumni and graduates, have been published. For information on the early archives see:
College officers and alumni are listed in:
After 1860 lists of graduating students only are published in:
Rolls of the graduates of the University of Aberdeen:
Some of our collections are now available in digital format, e.g. The George Washington Wilson & Co. and Harbour Board Photographic Collections. To view our online collections, please see here.
Please see below annual lists of our archive accessions for the last few years. This information is also passed in the form of annual returns to the National Register of Archives.
Please note that some accessions will also have a MS reference which indicates that they will have been catalogued or will be additional papers to an existing collection. In order to locate them please use the MS reference and search the archives catalogue. Some accessions though will still be currently un-catalogued and to request access to these please contact the Reading Room.