Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh Library and Archives

The Library of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) is Scotland's national reference collection for specialist botanical and horticultural resources, and is one of this country's largest research libraries.

**Please note that the Library will be closed throughout July for remedial building works. Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience that this may cause.**

The RBGE Archives holds manuscripts, images and photographs relating to the history of the Garden from its beginnings in 1670 to the recent past. Archive correspondence and diaries relating to plant collecting in India and China in the 19th and 20th centuries, for example papers relating to George Forrest and Joseph Rock.

The Library and Archives welcome visitors and information on our Opening Hours, Getting Here and Planning Your Visit can be found on this website; information on using the Library and Archives for RBGE staff and students on RBGE courses can be found on Green Pages

The Library collection has been built up to support the specific subject fields researched and taught at RBGE - Garden staff and students are its main users, along with visiting researchers.

The Head of Library Services is Lorna Mitchell.

Image of Library

The Library at the Botanics 

In March 2015 the Library was featured on the Scottish Book Trust blog, providing a glimpse Behind the Scenes at the Library and the team that works there.

Subject coverage

The Library holds resources in the following main subject areas:

  • Systematic botany
  • Floras

Our stock in these subjects is international and multilingual, and covers flowering plants, cryptogams and fungi.

Other subject areas covered in some depth include:

  • Plant biodiversity and conservation
  • Plant ecology
  • Plant genetics 
  • Economic botany and ethnobotany
  • Medicinal plants
  • Amenity horticulture 
  • Garden history, design and landscaping 
  • Botanical illustration 
  • Plant collecting and exploration 
  • Botanical history and biography
  • Plant pathology

Please note that Library staff cannot undertake detailed research enquiries. All enquiries are answered either by referring to resources held in the collection, or by consulting members of RBGE staff with specialist knowledge in particular areas.


The RBGE Library catalogue includes information on approximately 80% of the books and journals in the Library collection. Through a joint project with the Centre for Research Collections at the University of Edinburgh, detailed records for published works in the RBGE Rare Book Collection are being added to the Library catalogue; as of September 2016 catalogue records were available for approximately half of the collection.

There is a separate catalogue of the RBGE Archives which includes offical records, correspondence, collecting books, etc.

 John Hope image

In addition to the online catalogues, we hold print and electronic indexes to resources held in the Library, which enable quicker retrieval of specific material.

Stock details

RBGE Library holds:

Monographs: approximately 70,000 books. Approximately 3,000 of these books form the Library's Special Collection of rare books. The earliest printed book held dates from the 15th century.

Library Books on the Shelf

Library books on the Shelf 

Periodicals: 150,000 bound journals covering 4,200 separate titles. Around 1,200 current periodicals in stock.

Reprints and pamphlets: 30,000 offprints of journal articles and selected pamphlets, from 18th century to present day.

Nursery Catalogues: For UK Seed and Nursery Catalogues held at RBGE, click here, & for our international seed and nursery catalogues click here.

Hortus Siccus: The Library holds a collection of Hortus Sicci, i.e. bound collections of specimens. A list of the collection produced by Agnes Wolff (updated 15th August 2017) is available.

Illustrations: 40,000 colour and black & white printed illustrations.


Photographic images: 60, 000 colour slides, mainly of plant species, filed in botanical order.


The Library resources are primarily for use at postgraduate and professional levels. A limited selection of resources is suitable for undergraduate students. Material suitable for use by secondary school students is minimal.

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The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a charity (registration number SC007983)