The Dumfries Presbytery Library is a collection of sixteenth and seventeenth century books that was first documented in 1710, with the acceptance of a substantial donation of books from Dr John Hutton. It was used as a lending library, for the ministers of Dumfries, for which records survive in a ledger in Dumfries’s Ewart Library. Titles are marked : “Ex libris bibliothecae presbyterii Dumfriesiensis”
In 1884, the decision was made to transfer the collection to the General Assembly Library in Edinburgh, following a gale that damaged the roof of the presbytery house letting in rain that soaked the books. With this transfer, at least some of the books were marked by the ownership stamp of the Library of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland : the symbol of the burning bush surrounded by the words “Bibliotheca Ecclesiae Scoticanae”.
In 1958 the General Assembly Library was transferred to New College Library, and the books of the Dumfries Presbytery Library were dispersed by subject as part of the New College Library collection. In 1962, New College Library came under the governance of Edinburgh University Library, and in 1965 John Howard took over as New College Librarian. He took a particular interest in the Dumfries Presbytery Library and he reassembled c. 1500 volumes from the collection in their original pressmark order as a Special Collection.