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William Drummond

Our first literary collection.

One of the most important gifts ever presented to the Library, the collection was given by a former student, William Drummond of Hawthornden (1585-1649), the laird, poet and man of letters. Over 600 books were donated, mostly in 1626 but some in later batches up to 1636. A number of items with the Drummond provenance have been acquired since.

Drummond was friend of poets Michael Drayton and of Sir William Alexander, Earl of Stirling, an acquaintance of Ben Jonson and a supporter of King Charles I. He graduated from the Tounis College (now the University of Edinburgh) in 1605 before proceeding to further study at Bourges and Paris in 1607 amd 1608. He published various works of verse as well as some political pamphlets.

Drummond began collecting books soon after he graduated, and amassed a superb private library. It has provided the University Library with some of its greatest treasures, especially in the fields of literature, history, geography, philosophy and theology, science, medicine and law. They include two Shakespeare quartos, and works by Jonson, Spenser, Drayton and Sir Philip Sidney. There is also a complete copy of John Derrick's 'Image of Irelande' (1581), and two early pamphlets encouraging the colonisation of Nova Scotia.

There are now about 700 volumes (including a few manuscripts) in Latin, Italian, French and Spanish, as well as English. A printed catalogue was issued in 1627 after Drummond's first large donation: 'Auctarium Bibliothecae Edinburgenae, sive catalogus librorum quos Guilielmus Drummondus ab Hawthornden Bibliothecae D.D.Q. anno. 1627'. It was reprinted in 1815. The most thorough investigation of Drummond and his books will be found in Robert Macdonald’s 'The Library of Drummond of Hawthornden' (Edinburgh, 1971), which lists and discusses all Drummond's known books, some 1,400 titles, not just those given to Edinburgh University. See also John Scally, '‘A labyrinth of delight’: The World of William Drummond of Hawthornden 1585-1649' (Edinburgh, 2005).

The books are all listed in the pre-1985 typescript catalogue and there are online records for most of them. All have shelfmarks starting “De.”

Digital Images

Some items in the collection relating to William Drummond have been photographed. These images can be viewed by searching our online image repository.