The Advocates Library

The Advocates Library is the library of the Faculty of Advocates. It is widely regarded as the finest working law library in the British Isles. It contains a comprehensive range of materials built up over more than three hundred years. This, and a modern library management system utilising the latest technology, ensure that the Advocates Library is able to meet the increasingly complex needs of Advocates, while at the same time making the Library's stock available to the public through the National Library of Scotland - see Using the Library for details.

The Library was formally inaugurated in 1689 although the Faculty already had a collection of books before then. From the start, the collection was not restricted to legal works. In 1709, the status of the Library was confirmed when Queen Anne's Copyright Act gave the Keeper of the Library the right to claim a copy of every book published in the British Isles. The Advocates Library came to be recognised as the natural depository for literary materials of national importance, and by the 1850s, the Library had become in effect Scotland's national library.

It is incomparably the best of all the Libraries we have in Scotland... (Thomas Carlyle, April 1874)

In 1925, the National Library of Scotland was established when the Faculty gifted to the nation its whole non-law collections comprising 750,000 books, pamphlets, manuscripts, maps and sheet music. The Advocates Library has retained the privilege of holding printed law materials on behalf of the nation, and works closely with the National Library of Scotland to make them available to the public.  Non-print materials received on legal deposit are made available at the National Library of Scotland.

The Advocates Library holds an historical collection of early modern European legal books – dating from the first printed works - of world-class importance. The Library’s collection of manuscripts dates back even further and includes early illuminated legal works.  The Library also holds various named special collections.

In addition to the main collection, which is held in the Advocates Library in Parliament House, Edinburgh, the Faculty maintains a working Library at the High Court in Glasgow.

The staff of the Advocates Library are also responsible for the important library at Sir Walter Scott’s home, Abbotsford, near Melrose, which belongs to the Faculty of Advocates Abbotsford Collection Trust.