Scottish and Celtic Studies Archives
The following are our chief archive and manuscripts resources for research into the languages and traditions of Scotland.
This list, however, is by no means comprehensive. For a fuller overview of our collections, consult the Archives Catalogue.
The papers of Alexander Carmichael (1832-1912) and W. J. (William John) Watson (1865-1948) form our most important collection relating to Gaelic and Celtic culture. A pioneering folklorist, Carmichael is best known for his work collecting traditions for John Francis Campbell's 'Popular Tales of the West Highlands' and for his own 'Carmina Gadelica', a collection of Gaelic sacred songs, hymns, and charms. Watson, his son-in-law, was Professor of Celtic at the University of Edinburgh from 1914 to 1938. The Carmichael-Watson Collection contains a wide range of Gaelic manuscript materials, including songs, hymns, prayers, rhymes, invocations, blessings, incantations, and auguries.
Musicologist and composer Francis Montgomery Collinson (1895-1985) was the first musical research fellow at the University of Edinburgh's School of Scottish Studies. His work collecting and transcribing songs in both Gaelic and Scots resulted in his landmark publication 'The Traditional and National Music of Scotland' (1966). The papers consist of songs in manuscript, correspondence, and notebooks, together with a small collection of printed broadside ballads.
Besides being a major poet, songwriter, and political activist, Hamish Henderson (1919-2002) is widely regarded as the father of Scotland's post-war folk revival. In 1951, Henderson was appointed lecturer and research fellow at the University of Edinburgh's newly founded School of Scottish Studies, in which capacity in which capacity he collected a wealth of songs and oral traditions. The archive includes manuscripts of Henderson's own and collected work, notebooks, journals, photographs, off-prints, and a voluminous collection of correspondence with musicians, collectors, scholars, writers, and cultural figures.
Marjory Kennedy-Fraser (1857-1930) was a collector and arranger of Gaelic songs and a celebrated singer in her own right. Her extensive fieldwork resulted in the three volumes 'Songs of the Hebrides' (1909-1921), one of the key works of the Celtic Revival. In 1930, she presented Edinburgh University Library with her collection of wax cylinder recordings, which have now been re-recorded on tape for the Sound Archive of the School of Scottish Studies. Her papers include a manuscript volume of Gaelic songs, manuscripts and proofs of her published works, correspondence, and memorabilia of her career as a touring singer.
Our most important manuscript collection was assembled by the great Scottish antiquarian David Laing (1793-1878), the son of an Edinburgh bookseller. It contains a vast range of materials of Scottish cultural and historical interest, including early manuscripts in both Gaelic and Scots, literary materials, governmental and legal documents, and an exceptionally important collection of charters. See here for a list of Gaelic highlights of the Laing Collection.
Donald MacKinnon (1839–1914) was the first holder of the Edinburgh’s Chair of Celtic, the first chair of its kind in Scotland. Best known for his translation and annotation of the 15th-century Glenmasan Manuscript, MacKinnon did much to define the academic study of Scottish Gaelic language, literature, culture and history. His substantial collection includes manuscript drafts, research papers, and lecture notes, together with an extensive archive of transcriptions of Gaelic songs.
The Scottish Anthropological and Folklore Society was originally founded in 1922 as the Edinburgh and Lothians branch of the Royal Anthropological Institute before becoming a self-standing body in 1932. I It organized meetings and lectures on all aspects of Scottish anthropology and ethnology, including folklore, dialect, and religion. The records consist essentially of minute books of meetings.
The School of Scottish Studies was established at the University of Edinburgh in 1951 to collect, archive, research, study, and publish materials relating to the cultural traditions of Scotland. The School's Archives, embracing 16,000 hours of sound and video recordings, a major photographic collection, and a rich variety of manuscript material, are a vital repository of Scottish culture and ethnography, and an internationally significant hub for teaching and research in folklore, material culture, and the traditional arts. The Archives also include the Linguistic Survey of Scotland and the Scottish Place-Name Survey.