The Special Collections section is located in the Centre for Research Collections (CRC) on the 6th floor of the Main Library and manages a vast range of rare/unique material including manuscripts and archives, rare books, photographs, printed and handwritten music, theses and microforms.
In total Special Collections houses about 35 kilometres of historic material, much of which cannot be found anywhere else in the world. The University Archives contain the official record of the University of Edinburgh, from the 16th century to the present day.
There are also collections from merged or affiliated bodies such as the Roslin Institute and Edinburgh College of Art. Other collections of purchased and donated manuscripts and archives include Western medieval manuscripts; early Oriental manuscripts; personal papers of poets, scientists, doctors and missionaries; architectural plans and drawings; collections of Scottish documents and manuscripts in Gaelic.
The rare book collections comprise some 400,000 volumes, from a Chinese book printed in 1440 to modern private press work, and include notable individual collections such as the libraries of Adam Smith, Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Hugh MacDiarmid and William Drummond. Many of the collections span material in different formats, such as the collection of publishers Thomas Nelson (books and business archives) or the Corson Collection of Walter Scott (books, manuscripts, art works and objects).
The collections are actively developed and well used for teaching and research, and increasingly presented online through digitisation and text encoding. Items from Special Collections are available for consultation in the Centre for Research Collections reading room; they also feature frequently in the Library’s Exhibition Gallery.