Astorga Collection


Astorga Collection


This collection of 3,617 volumes was formerly part of the library of a Spanish aristocratic family, the Marquéses de Astorga. The marquisate is one of the oldest in Spain, the title having been created in the 15th century, with the family seat being in the town of Astorga in northern Spain, in the province of Leon. A portion of it was also purchased by the Faculty in January 1826, acting on the recommendation of John Gibson Lockhart (see Abbotsford Collection), an advocate who was also a scholar of Spanish literature. According to the appendix of the 'Report of the Committee on the Funds of the Advocates Library' (Edinburgh, 1828), the collection had been moved to France some years earlier by a member of the family and had been bought by the London bookseller Thomas Thorpe. Facing bankruptcy, Thorpe needed to sell the collection quickly and approached the Advocates in December 1825, offering a collection of 7,000 volumes for £3,000. As a result the Advocates gained, against competition from the Bodleian Library, who had earlier refused to pay £4,000 for it, one of the leading collections of early Spanish books in Britain at that time. The Advocates were later less than satisfied with their purchase, when, after sorting and checking the collection, they discovered that it was only half as large as Thorpe had claimed.

The Astorga books were part of a glut of Spanish books on the London market in the mid-1820s as a result of political turmoil in Spain. This abundance enabled collectors to buy early Spanish books for cheap prices. Although it is not the complete Astorga library, the collection as it stands has a remarkable variety of subject matter, and extends from the 15th century (11 incunabula) to the early 19th century. It is strong not only in the traditional subjects of law, theology and history, but also in mathematics, geography and travel, and the practical arts and sciences. There is, however, an absence of Spanish 'Golden Age' literature, with few works by Calderon and Cervantes. The collection admirably displays the high and low points of Spanish printing and book production, from the distinctive and handsome books of the 15th and beginning of the 16th century, through the doldrums of the 17th and the early 18th century, to the revival of standards from 1750 onwards, represented by Ibarra's folio edition of Sallust (Madrid, 1772), one of the finest volumes produced in any country during the 18th century. The collection also includes volumes vetted by the Spanish Inquisition, such as Roman y Zamora's 'Republicas del mundo' of 1575, where passages relating to the religious practices of the peoples of Central and South America have been redacted or cut out.


The books have been catalogued individually and have the shelfmark 'G.'. The incunabula are part of the Library's Incunabula Collection.


The collection was purchased by the Faculty of Advocates in 1826. Ownership was transferred to the National Library after its foundation in 1925.


'Spanish books in England: 1800-1850' N Glendinning, Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society, vol. 3, No. 1 (1959), pp. 70- 92.

'The Astorga Collection of Spanish books now in the National Library of Scotland', JH Loudon, III Congreso Internacional de Bibliofilia, Barcelona, 1971, 89-93.

'La Biblioteca del Marqués de Astorga', JA Martín Fuertes, Astorga, 1996.

'Nobleza y lectura en tiempos de Felipe II: la biblioteca de Don Alonso Osorio, Marqués de Astorga', PM Cátedra, Valladolid, 2002.

Online resources

Overview of the Library's Astorga Collection





Incunables (in NLS collections)


Spanish language and literature