RBGE's Library and Archives

RBGE's Library is Scotland's national reference collection for specialist botanical and horticultural resources, and is one of this country's largest research libraries. The Library welcomes visitors and information on our Opening Hours, Getting Here and Planning Your Visit can be found on this website; information on using the Library for RBGE staff and students on RBGE courses can be found on Green Pages

It 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.

Image of Library

The Library at the Botanics 

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.

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 - 6th January 2014) is available.

Archives: 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.

Primula, Lilian Snelling Collection

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

 Portulaca


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

Level

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.

Catalogues

The Library's holdings are catalogued in print and online formats. Approximately 70% of the books held have online catalogue records.

Library staff are working to convert print catalogue records to electronic catalogue records. Catalogue records for older stock items are regularly added to the online catalogue.

 John Hope image

The majority of items in the Special Collection and Reprint and Pamphlet Collection do not have electronic catalogue records.

As well as the catalogues, we hold print and electronic indexes to resources held in the Library, which enable quicker retrieval of specific material.

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