Lauriston Castle Collection


Lauriston Castle Collection


The collection is based on the library built up by William Robert Reid (1854-1919), a wealthy Edinburgh businessman who had acquired Lauriston Castle, on the western outskirts of the city, in 1902. It consists of around 11,000 items in over 3,700 volumes, most of which were acquired after Reid moved into the Castle in 1903. Reid had taken over from his father the company Morison & Co. of Edinburgh, cabinet makers and upholsterers. The company specialised in the design and execution of interior work, as part of the architectural renovation of country houses, and furnishing luxury railway carriages, with workshops at Tynecastle, Edinburgh, and branches in Glasgow and Manchester. After taking early retirement Reid practised briefly as an architect, but he devoted most of his time to furnishing the Castle and building up its library. The emphasis of the books and pamphlets in the collection is on the history, literature and topography of Scotland, from the 17th to the 19th century. There is also a lot of material on Scottish religious and political controversies in the 17th century and on the country's economic and social development during the late 17th and the 18th century. There are strong holdings relating to the Scottish-born financier John Law (1671-1729) whose family lived at Lauriston and a notable group of architectural books produced by Scots, including works by Robert and William Adam and James Gibbs, and a number of French works, including a first edition of Laclos' 'Les liaisons dangereuses' (Amsterdam, 1782). There is also a substantial number of Scottish broadsides and broadside ballads in the collection.

Reid had been assisted in his book collecting by a family friend, John A Fairley, author of several articles on the bibliography of chapbooks. In the course of his researches Fairley had formed a collection of chapbooks, containing around 500 volumes comprising over 5,500 items, which are now also part of the collection. The chapbooks are organised according to the town where they were printed. The majority of them are Scottish but there are also English and Irish volumes in the collection.


The books have been catalogued individually and have the shelfmark 'L.C.'.


The collection was bequeathed to the Library in 1926 by Mr and Mrs Reid, following the latter's death that year. This bequest also included the Reid Fund, consisting of £70,000, the income from the estate of Mr and Mrs Reid, which has subsequently enabled the Library to acquire printed and manuscript items to add to the national collections. The Reids also left Lauriston Castle, and its grounds and contents in trust to the nation, and the Castle is now a museum run by the City of Edinburgh Council.

Related collections

Bequeathed along with the library of printed books was a collection of manuscript material, chiefly of Scottish interest, the largest part being devoted to correspondence and papers relating to the history of the family of Mackenzie of Delvine. The manuscripts are held at MSS.149-215, 216-277, 1101-1530. They are described in volume 1 of the Library's Catalogue of manuscripts.

L.C. Folios 180 and 181 contain 48 important early sheet maps, which are held in the map collections.


'Catalogue of the Lauriston Castle Chapbooks', Boston, 1964.

'Bibliography of the chap-books attributed to Dougal Graham', JA Fairley, Records of the Glasgow Bibliographical Society, 1 (1914), 125-215.

'Bibliography of Robert Fergusson', JA Fairley, Records of the Glasgow Bibliographical Society, 3 (1915), 115-55.

'Peter Buchan, Printer and ballad collector, with a bibliography', JA Fairley, Transactions of the Buchan Field Club, 7 (1904), 123-158.

'Ancient Scottish tales - an unpublished collection made by Peter Buchan', JA Fairley, Transactions of the Buchan Field Club, 9 (1909), 128-94.

'Chap-books and Aberdeen chap-books', JA Fairley, Aberdeen Book-Lover, 2 (1916), 29-34.

'Lauriston Castle: the estate and its owners', JA Fairley, Edinburgh, 1925.

'Song chap-books with Irish imprints in the Lauriston Castle collection, National Library of Scotland', EB Lyle, Irish Folk Music Studies, 2 (1975), 15-30.

Online resources

Digital images of Scottish chapbooks from the collection

Broadsides from the Lauriston Castle collection are included in the Word on the Street eResource

Lauriston Castle website






Maps, atlases and mapmaking


Scottish history and literature