Down in the depths of New College Library’s Stack III, one of the first rows of shelves that faces you when you enter contains the Acta Sanctorum. This huge Latin work in sixty-eight volumes examines the lives of saints, organised according to each saint’s feast day in the calendar year. Fifty-three of the volumes were published between 1643 and 1794 by the Bollandist Fathers in Antwerp. Hugh Watt, in his New College Library : A Centenary History (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1946), relates a story that Cardinal Hume had intended to purchase this set of the Acta Sanctorum for himself as a birthday present, but arrived at the bookseller’s only to find that Dr William Cunningham, second Principal of New College, had beaten him to it and purchased the volumes for New College Library.
University of Edinburgh users have trial access to the online Acta Sanctorum Database until 24 May 2012. The Acta Sanctorum Database contains the entire Acta Sanctorum, including all prefatory material, original texts, critical apparatus and indices. Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina reference numbers, essential references for scholars, are also included.