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Edinburgh College of Art Rare Books Collection

Large, beautiful and rare books.

Pig with bagpipes

In 2011 Edinburgh College of Art merged with the University of Edinburgh. Later that year the ECA rare books collection was transferred into the Centre for Research Collections where it is now fully catalogued. The collection includes some 1,500 items, among them some outstanding items on the history of architecture, art and design.

Many of the books came to ECA from the institutions which preceded it, the drawing academy of the Board of Trustees for Manufactures in Scotland, and the School of Applied Art: the collection thus reflects the teaching practices of art in both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This affected collecting policy: for example, the ECA Typography department had a number of examples of early printing and bindings; the Trustees’ Academy collected very expensive illustrated works on classical architecture and design, which would have been otherwise unavailable to any ordinary student. It also affected use: for example in preferring to acquire the unbound, portfolio edition, where one was available, and possibly sometimes dis-binding volumes to allow separate use of individual plates. However, overall the condition of the items - particularly the rarer volumes such as the sets of Piranesi’s works - is good.

Some of the books are unrecorded or unique. Of particular importance are the hand-painted shawl designs and the volumes of textile samples. The collection also includes photographs, examples of Japanese books and foreign maps. 37 items are British or English-language books printed before 1801. The earliest book in the collection is an edition of the sermons of St. Bernardine of Siena printed before 1489.

All the items are catalogued online, with shelfmarks starting RECA.

Digital Images Online

A selection of images of the ECA Rare Book collections can be viewed online: RECA Online Images