It was only in 1860 that Aberdeen University Library came into being. Until then, the two separate universities of King’s and Marischal Colleges had separate libraries. The University Library today therefore has a rich collection of early printed books and in many cases multiple copies of a work with different provenances.

King’s College was founded in 1495 and the library contained books belonging to the early founders and teachers such as William Elphinstone, Hector Boece, William Hay, Theophilus Stewart and John Vaus.

Marischal College was founded in 1593 and the library dates from 1614. Early donations came from Duncan Liddel, Thomas Reid, and the Common Library of New Aberdeen.

All of the donated libraries to the universities were dispersed throughout the collections, usually by age and subject matter. It was not until 1856 that a donation of a library was kept as a separate named collection (the Melvin Collection) but even after that, and in some occasions today, donations to the library will arranged by subject matter in the main chronological collections rather than be kept together as a whole. The Provenance Database will aid in the identification of books in the libraries of individuals and institutions.

Futher information about the books in Special Collections can be found on our Printed Collections web pages.