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Adam Smith

The library of Scotland's greatest economist.

The library of the great Scottish economist Adam Smith (1723-1790) is one of our landmark printed collections. There are about 850 works in 1,600 volumes, including some great treasures such as a fine copy of the first edition of Copernicus’ 'De revolutionibus' (1543).

We hold about half the original library. The main portion was given to the library of New College in the 19th century by David Douglas Bannerman (1842-1903), grandson of David Douglas, Smith’s heir. The collection was transferred to the Main Library in 1972. Smaller groupings and individual items have been acquired subsequently, such as 32 books in the Hodgson Collection. We acquire books from Smith’s library whenever possible.

The collection is unsurprisingly strong in politics, economics, law and history, but there are also many literary works, particularly French literature, and books on architecture by Vitruvius and Palladio. The condition of the volumes is generally good and there are numerous examples of fine bindings from the 18th century and earlier.

The books are mostly listed on the main online catalogue and can be consulted in the Centre for Research Collections. In 2010 the books were reconstituted as a distinct special collection; eventually all the books will have shelfmarks starting “Smith”. A published catalogue of Smith’s library is available: Hiroshi Mizuta, 'Adam Smith’s Library', 2000.


Shelflists available to download

Our printed collections are catalogued on DiscoverEd, the University's discovery platform. However, for research purposes we have provided shelflists of distinct collections that can be downloaded and browsed / searched.