Dieterichs Collection


Dieterichs Collection


This collection comprises part of the huge library formed by Georg Septimus Dieterichs (1721-1805), Count Palatine and Senator of Regensburg, Germany, in the second half of the 18th century. The collection consists of around 52,000 items, of which around 33,000 are academic theses and dissertations of the 17th and the 18th centuries, mostly German, but with a number of Dutch dissertations. Early modern disserations (disputations) differed significantly from today's university dissertations. Most of these texts were not written for promotion or for obtaining an academic degree and a greater part of these disputations were in fact written by professors or masters who acted as presider (praeses). The task of the respondent student (respondens) was to defend the proposed theses. From the mid-17th century onwards it became standard practice in Germany universities to print copies of theses (or dissertations) before a formal disputation, usually in Latin in quarto format. They ranged in length from 20 to 100 pages.

There are also in the collection a large number of German 16th-century polemical tracts written by Luther, Melanchthon and other leaders of the German Reformation and their opponents, and a considerable amount of miscellaneous material, including works by German Baroque writers, printed speeches and announcements, many of a local nature.

After the death of Dieterichs, parts of the library was auctioned off over several years in Regensburg. However, the depressed state of the European economy after the Napoleonic Wars ensured that the collection was sold slowly and comparatively cheaply. Foreign buyers were able to purchase items through the selling agents Gleditsch of Leipzig. Sir William Hamilton, one of the curators of the Advocates Library, visited Leipzig in 1817 with a view to buying German books for the Library. Two years later Gleditsch contacted Hamilton to announce that the firm would be able to procure the Dieterichs theses for the Library, the final price being only £86. The collection was then shipped to Edinburgh in 1820.


Around 2,000 volumes from the non-thesis part of the collection have been individually catalogued and have the shelfmark 'D.C.'. The university theses (shelf-mark Th.) are not catalogued, but there is a typescript catalogue of them, arranged by century, available for consultation on request.


Ownership of the non-legal items was transferred to the National Library after its foundation in 1925.

Related collections

There are also around 250 volumes, containing 1,666 items, most of which are legal theses of the 17th and the 18th century, held in the Advocates Library.


'Bibliotheca sive Catalogus librorum quibus utitur Georgius Septimus Dieterichs', 7 vols, Regensburg, 1760-63 [printed catalogue of the collection].

'Versuch einer Beschreibung sehenswuerdiger Bibliotheken Teutschlands', Band III/2, FKG Hirsching, Erlangen, 1790 (reprinted Hildesheim, 1971), 721-724.

'A Catalogue of German Reformation Pamphlets (1516-1546)' MA Pegg, 'Libraries of Great Britain and Ireland', Bibliotheca Aureliana XLV, Baden-Baden, 1973.

'An uncommonly heavy collection. Tons of Tomes,' M Nix, Folio (Collections, research, events at the National Library of Scotland) 5 (Autumn 2002), 2-5.

'The Dieterichs collection in the National Library of Scotland and Advocates Library', C Meixner (translated by G Hogg), Journal of the Edinburgh Bibliographical Society, no. 1, 2006, 41-48.

Online resources

Information on the Advocates Library collection of Dieterichs books




Dissertations, academic

German language and literature

Reformation, The