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The custodians of Scotland's written words

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Book Collection
Visitor Centre
Whenever a book, magazine or pamphlet is printed in Britain, the National Library of Scotland is legally allowed to claim a copy for free. Only five other institutions in the country have the same right. Their postman must hate his job, because the library gets sent upwards of 5,000 new items a week!
The collection includes original documents by such historical figures as Charles Darwin and William Shakespeare. There's also lots of other printed media, such as photographs and postcards. Altogether there are 14 million items, including 7 million books. If you laid them out end-to-end, they'd stretch all the way to London and back.
The National Library of Scotland was officially created in 1925. Given its size, this seems incredibly recent. However, it has been acquiring material for years under a different name. Since the 1680s, the organisation was known as the Library of the Faculty of Advocates. It may have only achieved national status in the last century, but it has essentially been doing the same job for much, much longer. This explains why the collection is bigger and more diverse than any other north of Cambridge.
Naturally, the library is the world's best resource for Scottish printed materials. Work from all of the country's most famous cultural icons is preserved here, from Robert Burns' poetry to J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan stories. There are important historical relics, like the last letter of Mary, Queen of Scots. You'll also find many documents in the Scots language, known as Scottish Gaelic.
Most of the collection is housed within a purpose-built structure on George IV Bridge. It was completed in 1956, but after just a couple of decades they were already beginning to run out of space. They had to put up another building in Edinburgh's south-side, which was finished in 1995. It's called Causewayside, and it's a modern, eye-catching structure. All of its stairs and lifts are placed at the edges, near the walls. This makes the interior an open and uninterrupted space, perfect for cramming books into.

The original building
Photo Berto Garcia

The new extension
Photo yellow book
The library doesn't offer loans, but access to its materials is free. Much of the collection has been digitised, making it easy to find what you want. A visitors centre at the George IV Bridge site explains all of the services on offer, and how you can take advantage of them.
For centuries, the National Library of Scotland has played its part in the country's rich cultural heritage. In 2004, Edinburgh became the world's first UNESCO City of Literature, a official title that recognises its love of the written word.
Visitor Information
The National Library of Scotland is open Monday to Saturday (Sundays for exhibitions, café and shop) from 9:30am to 8:30pm (5pm Maps Reading Room). Entry is FREE (sponsorship encouraged). George IV Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1EW. Tel: 0131 623 3700

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