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Laing Collection

The Laing Collection (Coll-1) includes a wide range of Scottish literary manuscripts dating from the 16th to the 19th century.

The manuscript collection assembled by the great antiquarian David Laing (1793-1878) is Edinburgh University Library's largest and most important archival collection. It is an invaluable resource for research into all aspects of Scottish history and culture. This page focuses solely on its literary treasures, but for a fuller introduction to this wide-ranging collection, see:

Scottish Literature in the Laing Collection

The Laing Collection contains literary manuscripts, correspondence, and personal papers by many of Scotland's most significant writers:

  • There are 16th-century manuscripts of works by Gavin Douglas and Alexander Montgomerie.
  • 17th-century documents include works by William Drummond and Elizabeth Melville, Scotland’s first published woman writer.
  • Enlightenment-period manuscripts include correspondence by Hugh Blair and James Boswell.
  • There are poems in the hand of Robert Burns, and of other Vernacular Revivalists including Allan Ramsay, Robert Fergusson, and Lady Anne Lindsay.
  • Further important 18th-century manuscripts include works by James Thomson and Henry Mackenzie.
  • Romantic Scotland is represented by Sir Walter Scott, Joanna Baillie, John Galt, Anne Grant, and James Hogg.
  • Writers of Laing’s own lifetime include working-class poets such as William Thom and Robert Tannahill.
  • Laing’s own incoming correspondence includes letters from major figures such as Thomas Carlyle, Henry Cockburn, and Sir Walter Scott.

Authors A-Z

As the Laing Collection is currently catalogued in varying degrees of detail, the following list cannot claim to be comprehensive. It should, however, provide a useful guide to the most significant literary papers in the collection. For the purposes of this list, 'literature' is defined in traditional terms as works of poetry, prose, drama, and life-writing.  Writers of non-imaginative prose (philosophy, history, science, theology, etc.) are thus excluded.


In addition to Edinburgh University Library’s own catalogues and handlists, the following works were consulted when compiling this list:

  • Index of English Literary Manuscripts 1450-1700, ed. Peter Beal, 4 vols (London: Mansell, 1980-93)
  • Location Register of English Literary Manuscripts and Letters: Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, ed. David C. Sutton, 2 vols (London: British Library, 1995)