The ‘Z’ Factor : New College Library’s rediscovered Special Collections

What are Special Collections? At New College Library we have Special Collections of books, archives  and manuscripts and a small collection of portraits and objects. Much of the book collections have been housed in Special Collections for decades, but we also have a growing collection of ‘new’ Special Collections.

This is the Z Collection, which is formed out of recent donations and out of New College Library books formerly in the General sequence  which were identified as Special Collections during a stock management exercise. We follow the critieria used by the Centre for Research Collections here at the University of Edinburgh, in particular that all books published before 1850 should be classed as Special Collections. The Z Collection, which numbers over 3,500 items, is currently being catalogued online as part of the Funk Cataloguing Projects.

One example from the Z Collection is the Biographia scotica, a biographical dictionary compiled by John Stark of Edinburgh.  It contains engraved portraits of notable Edinburgh figures such as George Drummond, a Lord Provost of Edinburgh, George Heriot, whose name is still carried by one of the well-known schools in Edinburgh, and John Napier of Merchiston, the inventor of logarithms. The book bears the inscription of one Alexander Fortune with the date 1820 at the head of the title page and a bookplate presenting the book to New College from the library of the late James Wilson, merchant, 3 South Bridge (Edinburgh).

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