National Library of Scotland

About this Organisation

The National Library of Scotland collects and preserves the memory of the nation, with collections that span the centuries, from earliest times to the digital age.

It is the largest library in Scotland, with over 26 million items, and is one of the largest in Europe. It has extensive and varied collections of printed material (maps, music, newspapers, pamphlets, journals and books) as well as large manuscript, film and digital collections. Since 1710 the Library has had the right, under successive Copyright Acts, to acquire all items published in the United Kingdom free of charge, and it continues to use this legal deposit privilege to collect printed and digital publications for the nation, which form the National Published Archive.

The Library collects Scottish publications as comprehensively as possible, and as a result its collections document the history, lives and influence of Scots at home and abroad, while reflecting the ideas and cultures of the world. Its collections include material produced in, or about all parts of Scotland and its communities, and on every possible subject.

In addition to physical collections, the Library subscribes to many online databases, most of which can be accessed remotely free of charge (see It has also digitised selected material in its collections and these can be found on the Library’s website at ttps://

Organisation Type

National Library or Archive


George IV Bridge
Entry last updated: May 3rd, 2018

Resources Available

Title Description Type
NLS Modern Collections - Printed and Digital

The National Library of Scotland’s printed and digital modern collections number at least 14 million items, and account for around 93% of its published collections. They include all types of material, such as newspapers and journals, pamphlets and books, leaflets and programmes, annual reports and society transactions. They come in all formats, including websites and e-publications. Most ... read more

Primary, Secondary, Online/Digitised, Oral, Sound, Images/Photographs, Maps, Film, Newspaper, Catalogued, Meetings/Events, Artefacts
NLS Scottish Post Office Directories

Scottish Post Office directories are an excellent resource for researching Scotland's family, trade, and town history. Over 700 digitised directories covering most of Scotland and dating from 1773 to 1911 are available online for you to use. With their alphabetical list of a location's inhabitants and information on their profession and address, the directories enable you easily to find out ... read more

NLS ‘An Comunn Gàidhealach’ Publications

A collection of digitised items from the National Library’s collections, published by An Comunn Gàidhealach, the organisation which promotes Gaelic language and culture and organises the Royal National Mòd. Dating from 1891 up to the present day, the collection includes journals and newspapers, annual reports, educational materials, national Mòd programmes and published Mòd literature. ... read more

Secondary, Online/Digitised, Catalogued
NLS ‘Scottish History Society’ Publications

The Library has a complete set of Scottish History Society publications and these are digitised and available online. From 1887 to date, the Society has published both manuscript and printed primary materials, much of which can be hard to access otherwise, thus creating a valuable resource for anyone interested in Scottish history and the Scottish people. Covering all periods from the 12th to ... read more

NLS Modern Local History Collections

The modern collections include much material that is relevant to the study of Scottish local and family history – whether published locally or of relevance to specific areas. Many items will also be held in local collections, which is important both in ensuring that copies don’t disappear, but also because of their geographical significance. However in the National Library they can be ... read more

Primary, Secondary, Online/Digitised, Sound, Images/Photographs, Maps, Film, Newspaper, Catalogued
NLS Manuscripts Collection

The National Library of Scotland has a large and varied collection of manuscripts and archives, covering many aspects of the lives, activities and interests of Scots at home and abroad.

Dating from the 17th century to the present day, they include papers of major politicians, military leaders and other public figures of international significance, as well as large contemporary ... read more

NLS Moving Image Archive

From home movies to documentaries, from industry to entertainment - the National Library of Scotland Moving Image Archive has something for everyone's local history.

Explore around 100 years of Scotland's history captured by amateur and professional film-makers from all across the country. In the Moving Image Archive catalogue you will find details of thousands of films and videos held ... read more

Primary, Secondary, Online/Digitised, Oral, Sound, Images/Photographs, Film, Catalogued, Meetings/Events, Artefacts
Map Collections

The National Library of Scotland’s Maps Reading Room was founded in 1958. It is housed in the Library’s Causewayside building in Edinburgh. Visits are by appointment, and during coronavirus restrictions it is currently only open from 10-1 and 2-4.

With over 1.5 million map items it is the largest map library in Scotland, and one of the largest in the UK. It houses a wide array of ... read more

Primary, Secondary, Online/Digitised, Images/Photographs, Maps

Please note that links to websites and catalogues are provided by the Organisations listed and not maintained by Scottish Local History Forum.