In all, the Special Collections Centre cares for over 230,000 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 Collection Level Descriptions.

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.

Online Resources

Some of our collections are now available in digital format, for example The Drawn Sword: Engravings from the MacBean Collection. View our online collections here.