Rare Deeside books return to the North-east

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An important collection of rare books has returned to the area, 40 years after it moved to Edinburgh from Blairs College library.

The library collection from St Mary’s College, Blairs (Blairs College) near Maryculter, which contains rare books and manuscripts, had been on loan to the National Library of Scotland since 1974 following the closure of the library.

Over recent weeks the Blairs Library, made up of more than 27,000 books and pamphlets dating back to the 15th century, several of which are unique copies, has been moved into specialist stores in the Sir Duncan Rice Library at the University of Aberdeen.

The collection, including 17 incunables and over a thousand 16th century books, was made available to scholars, students and interested members of the public last week.

Many of the books and manuscripts in the collection are closely associated with famous or distinguished individuals, some of whom played a key role in Scotland’s history. These include volumes belonging to Cardinal Beaton, the last Scottish Cardinal prior to the Reformation, and Archbishop Scheves of St Andrews; 17th century books associated with the exiled Stuart Court in France; and one example of very early English printing which belonged to the great Scottish historian Thomas Innes.

Blairs served as a junior seminary for boys and young men training for the Catholic priesthood from 1829 to 1986.

However, much of the material in its collections dates from the period following the Reformation, when many Scottish Catholics were exiled abroad. Its library includes the collections of seminaries where Scottish exiles were trained for the priesthood: the Scots Colleges in Douai (1576-1793) and Paris (1602-1793); the Pontifical Scots College in Rome (founded 1600), and the Scots Benedictine Abbey of St. James in Regensburg, Bavaria.

The move to Aberdeen re-unites the Blairs Library with another historically significant collection, the Scottish Catholic Archives, which moved to the University last year.

University of Aberdeen librarian Diane Bruxvoort said: “The Collection’s historic roots in the Aberdeen area make its acquisition by the University and return to the north-east of Scotland a matter of considerable significance.”

The collection will further opportunities for academic research at the university.