Library Collections

The RBGE Library holds over 1 million items – books, journals, original artworks, maps and much more. As one of Scotland's National Collections, all of these items are available for use by anyone that needs to access them.


The Library holds over 70,000 books on open shelves which visitors are free to browse. You can find entries for the majority of these items in the Library Catalogue (Koha).

In addition the Library holds a collection of almost 4,000 rare and special books dating back to the 15th century many of which are now fully catalogued in the Library Catalogue. Access to this collection is by appointment only. 



The Library currently receives 600 journal titles by subscription, exchange or gift but it also holds a substantial collection of over 3,500 historic periodicals, covering botanical, horticultural and related subjects. Amongst the earliest journals held are volumes of Commentarii de Rebus in Scientia Naturali et Medicina Gestis from the Library of Professor John Hope. This journal, issued from 1752 to 1808, was the first to provide abstracts and summaries of contemporary medical research.

Title level records for journals are included in the Library Catalogue.

The quickest way to check if parts of a journal are in the collection is to use the Advanced Search option and set the search limit to Item Type: Journal.

Title page of 'Commentari de Rebus in Scientia Naturali' volume 6 (1747) with John Hope's signature


Reprints and Pamphlets

This collection mainly contains copies of journal articles issued as separate reprints. In addition there are various pamphlets, booklets and some ephemeral items including newspaper cuttings, exhibition catalogues, plant inventories, garden catalogues, research notes, single issues of magazines and official reports.

There is a card catalogue for the collection and if you think we may hold a copy of something you are looking for, please contact us (using the form below) to request a catalogue check.

Selection of items from the Reprint Collection


This collection is international in scope and includes significant collections of late 19th and early 20th century maps of India and north-west China. The majority of the maps are physical or topographical but the collection also contains some climatological, phytosociological and geological maps.

Diana Wilkinson, a Library volunteer, is currently listing the maps in preparation for them being added to the Library Catalogue.

Hortus Sicci

A hortus siccus is an arranged collection of preserved plant material. RBGE Library holds a collection of bound volumes of this type, the oldest of which dates from 1702.

The collection is searchable via the Library Catalogue (Advanced Search by Item type = Hortus Siccus). 

Access to this collection is by appointment only.

Nursery and Seed Catalogues

This collection contains examples of British and international nursery and seed catalogues that were sent to RBGE between 1870 and 1950. A few catalogues published before 1870 have also been added to the collection, mainly through donation.

Lynda Marquis, a former Library Assistant, compiled two finding lists for this collection:

Access to this collection is by appointment only.















The Library holds dissertations or theses produced by RBGE students enrolled on the following courses of study:

  • Diploma in Amenity and Ornamental Horticulture (D.H.E.), awarded by the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 1966-1994 
  • HND in Horticulture with Plantsmanship, awarded by the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and SRUC (previously SAC). Specialist Projects, 2006-
  • B.Sc. (Honours) in Horticulture with Plantsmanship, awarded by the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and the University of Glasgow, 2008-
  • M.Sc. in Biodiversity and Taxonomy of Plants, awarded by the University of Edinburgh and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 1993-

RBGE Students

The Library also holds a large number of PhD theses, including many written by current and former members of staff. These are all listed on the Library Catalogue and can be found using the Advanced Search and limiting your search by Item Type.


The Library holds a large Image Collection of original artworks, photographic materials, teaching diagrams and published illustrations. Access to this collection is by appointment only.

In order to ensure that the Illustrations Collection continues to develop and grow, RBGE is currently exploring the idea of establishing a Florilegium Society.

Published illustrations can be found in the Cuttings Collection which contains printed botanical illustrations from a range of journals and books published between 1790 and the present. The collection is arranged alphabetically by plant family according to the Bentham and Hooker Classification Scheme and offers a useful first stop for botanical artists and others interested in the history of plant illustration.


Crocus vernus cultivars

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