Newhailes Collection


Newhailes Collection


The library of the Dalrymple family of Newhailes was formed largely by Sir David Dalrymple (around 1665-1721) and required the construction of a new wing at Newhailes House in which to house it. The Palladian mansion is located just outside Edinburgh, near the town of Musselburgh. Construction of the library wing was completed around the time of Sir David’s death but the library was continued by his son Sir James (1692-1751) and further added to by his grandson Sir David, Lord Hailes (1726-1792). The collection consists of around 7,000 volumes and a number of pamphlets, broadsheets, prints, atlases, maps and music; British and foreign works, of the 16th to the 18th century, with three incunabula and some 19th-century material; and a number of examples of fine typography. It is strongest in history and biography (around 1,800 volumes), classical and modern literature (2,500 volumes), law, politics and economics (1,000 volumes), and theology (750 volumes). However, it has not survived intact. A Sotheby's sale on 24 and 25 May 1937 sold 453 lots from the library, including 23 incunabula, 182 pre-1601 English-language items and many 18th-century foreign books.

Together with the manuscripts also acquired from Newhailes House, it is the most important contemporary collection to survive from the period of the Scottish Enlightenment and Lord Hailes acquired many contemporary works. Despite its Enlightenment reputation, the majority of the collection at the time of Lord Hailes's death that has come down to the National Library was printed before 1750. Notable items include Sanson's 'Geographie' of 1696, and the four-volume Blaeu 'Nouveau Theatre d'Italie' of 1704; a 1675 edition of vol. 1 of John Ogilby's 'Britannia', and the rare 'Ode on a distant prospect of Eton College' (1747), Thomas Gray's first publication; splendid architectural folios include the Venice, 1616 edition of Palladio, and Perrault's 'Les dix Livres d'architecture de Vitruve' (Paris, 1684). The collection is particularly strong in 17th-century French history books, containing first editions of important authors such as Sully and d'Aubigné.


The books have been catalogued individually and have the shelfmark 'Nha.'. The main part of the collection has been organised according to the alphabetically marked presses in the library wing at Newhailes (Nha.A., Nha.B. etc.), books from elsewhere in the house have been assigned the shelfmark 'Nha.Misc.'. The incunabula are part of the Library's Incunabula Collection.


The printed collection was initially deposited in the Library in 1976. The printed and manuscript collections were accepted by the Government from the Trustees of Sir Mark Dalrymple, Bt (1915-1971), in lieu of estate duty, and allocated to the Library in July 1978. Newhailes House was acquired by the National Trust for Scotland in 1997.

Related collections

Manuscripts from the house, comprising family correspondence, estate papers and charters, were placed on deposit in the Library in 1972. They too were allocated by the Secretary of State to the National Library of Scotland in 1978. Among the papers is the manuscript of Lord Hailes's 'Annals of Scotland', annotated by Samuel Johnson, and letters of his contemporaries including Hume, Robertson, Beattie and Burke. The manuscripts are held at MSS.25276-25758.

There is also a complete set in 20 bindings of Alexander Dalrymple's private and East India Company charts, published 1769-1786, which are held in the Library's map collections. These were sent by Alexander to the family home in 1786 and are accompanied by the books of his East Indies nautical memoirs.


'The Library of the Dalrymples of Newhailes', RL Betteridge, The Journal of the Edinburgh Bibliographical Society, 8 (2013), 33-71.

Online resources

National Trust for Scotland website for Newhailes




Incunables (in NLS collections)



Scottish history and literature


English history and literature