Newbattle Collection


Newbattle Collection


The collection was originally formed by the Kerr family, earls and marquesses of Lothian, from the 16th century onwards, and was held in the family property of Newbattle Abbey, a mansion house built on the remains of a 12th-century Cistercian monastery on the outskirts of Dalkeith, Midlothian. In 1932, 168 of the most important early books and manuscripts in the collection at Newbattle Abbey, as well as from another Lothian family property, Blickling Hall, Norfolk, England, were sold at auction in New York. The printed collection which came to the Library in 1951 comprises over 5,000 printed volumes and is rich in foreign books dating from the 15th (12 incunabula) to the 18th century, reflecting the interests of the Lothian family and their grand tours of the Continent. French and Italian literature and history are well represented in the collection, which includes illustrated books of antiquities, architecture, natural history, geography and topography, as well as maps and atlases. Despite the 1932 sale, the Newbattle collection remains one of the best surviving collections of early Continental printing in Scotland. Among the highlights of the collection are: several volumes bound by James Scott of Edinburgh in the late 18th century for the then Marquess of Lothian (see Bindings Collection), an edition of Peter Apian's (Petrus Apianus), 'Astronomicum Caesareum' (Ingolstadt, 1540) with coloured volvelles, Olaus Magnus's 'Historia delle genti settentrionali' (Venice, 1565), 17th-century atlases by Blaeu, and a copy of Mme la marquise de Rochejaquelein's 'Mémoires' (Bordeaux, 1814) specially-bound and originally presented to Louis XVIII of France, allegedly taken from Napoleon's carriage after the battle of Waterloo.


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


Philip Henry Kerr, 11th Marquess of Lothian (1882-1940), gifted Newbattle Abbey to the Scottish universities for use as an adult education college, and in 1937 Newbattle Abbey College was founded as a residential college. In his will the 11th Marquess had also specified that the books and manuscripts in Newbattle Abbey were to go to the National Library. The Abbey was closed during the Second World War and used by the army for a variety of purposes and only re-opened as a college in 1950. Only then was the Library able, in 1950-51, to make a selection of 5,000 books and maps and 112 manuscripts from the collection, the books and maps forming the Newbattle collection. Further sales from the books in Newbattle Abbey took place in the 1950s and also in 2018. In the 1960s the Library's ownership of the books was contested by the 12th Marquess and an agreement was reached whereby the books would be loaned back to him for the rest his life. Following the death of the 12th Marquess in 2004, the collection was returned to the Library between 2008 and 2014.

Related collections

The manuscripts are held at MSS.5730-5814. They are described and indexed in Vol. 4 of the Library's Catalogue of manuscripts. NLS MSS.5818-5827 are catalogues of the family libraries at Newbattle and in London, 1666-1876. NLS MS.5828 contains letters and papers concerning the family libraries dating from 1643 to 1899.

Roller maps from the collection are held in the Library's map collections.


'Illuminated manuscripts incunabula and Americana from the famous libraries of the Most Hon. the Marquess of Lothian, C.H. Sold ... January 27 and 28, 1932', New York, 1932.

'The Tickhill Psalter', DD Egbert, New York, 1940, 8-10, 128-130.






French history, language and literature

Incunables (in NLS collections)

Maps, atlases and mapmaking

Scott, James (bookbindings)