The Age of Enlightenment

A glorious collection covering Scotland's law, history, genealogy geography literature and art. A treasure trove of manuscripts, ephemera, maps, atlases, newspapers, journals, magazines, pamphlets and prints. The Signet Library is particularly rich in rare Scottish genealogical works.


It is helpful to give us at least 48 hours in advance and for non-members we levy a day fee of £25.

Significant collections

  • The Library of William Roughead WS (1870-1952), Scotland’s great historian of crime.
  • The Fletcher Collection of early editions of the works of politician Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun (1655-1716).
  • The Napier Collection of early editions of the works of mathematician John Napier of Merchiston (1550-1617).
  • The Mary Queen of Scots Collection, containing almost every pre-1914 work on Mary.
  • The Gaelic collection, theological and literary works in Gaelic from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
  • Session Papers, a vast collection of papers from Scottish civil court cases 1713-1968, including a unique indexed set 1713-1820.
  • Proclamations and Broadsides, a collection of government and council proclamations from the seventeenth century onwards, and a collection of ballads, poems and songs of the same period.
  • The Edinburgh Collection, consisting of practically every work on the city published before 1950.
  • The Pamphlet Collection, consisting of about 3,000 unbound shorter works in theology, politics and relating to specific Edinburgh controversies.

WS Society's archives

Writers to the Signet have played a deep and vital role in the history of Scotland, and its own archive, with records dating from 1594 onwards, is of relevance to far more than the law. A fascinating insight into the public life and society over the centuries PSA full guide to the archive was published in Scottish Archives 21. In addition to Sederunt books stretching back to the reign of James VI, the archive includes records of apprenticeship, the Society’s Poors Fund of the 17th and 18th century, the Society’s Dependants’ Fund (one of the earliest modern pension schemes), and John Watson’s Institution, the Society’s former school for orphans.