Beekeeping collection at the National Library of Scotland

John Moir
John William Moir (1851-1940)

The Moir Rare Book Collection is one of the very finest collections of rare beekeeping books in the world. It consists of 250 volumes and includes items published as far back as 1525.

The collection has been placed on long-term deposit by the Scottish Beekeepers' Association.

Moir beekeeping in Africa

The foundation of the collection was due to the efforts of John William Moir, CMG, FRSGS, FZS (1851-1940).

Inspired by the example of Scots missionary David Livingstone, Moir and his brother emigrated from Scotland in 1877 to southeast Africa, where they were initially involved in the creation of alternative transport routes to help obviate the need for slave transport. It was later, after settling in the Shire Highlands of present-day Malawi, that John Moir began beekeeping, due to the fact that his crops required pollination.

Collecting bee literature

In 1890 Moir returned to Edinburgh, where beekeeping became his hobby. It was in 1912, when he became one of the original members and first vice-chairman of the council of the Scottish Beekeepers' Association, that he started seriously to collect bee literature.

In 1916 he presented his growing collection to the Scottish Beekeepers' Association so that fellow members could benefit from them during his lifetime. This was made with the understanding that he would remain honorary librarian and house the collection at his home.

In October 1939 Moir's library, which by then numbered 1,799 books and pamphlets and 489 volumes of periodicals, was transferred into the custody of the Edinburgh Public Libraries, where, except for the Rare Book Collection, the remainder continues to be housed.