Resources for Christian ministry and worship at New College Library

Today New College welcomes ministers and worship leaders to a CPD day focusing on Biblical resources. Topics include current scholarship on the Gospel of John and Advent themes in the Hebrew Bible.

At New College Library, we welcome people working in the church to use our outstanding theological collections for research and continuing professional development. Continue reading

Historic New College Library partnership begins a new chapter

Founded in 1843 as the Library of the Free Church College, and now serving the School of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh, New College Library is one of the largest theology libraries in the UK with approximately a quarter of a million items.

There have been a number of legacy arrangements allowing borrowing access for ministers of the Church of Scotland and Free Church of Scotland. This reflects the partnership between the University of Edinburgh and the Church of Scotland, which has resulted in the Church’s historic collections being maintained at New College Library and supported by the University of Edinburgh. As of 1 March 2017, we have streamlined our access arrangements and now provide free borrowing access (ID and evidence of status required) to ministers, retired ministers and employees of the Church of Scotland and Free Church of Scotland. Registration enables access to all nine site libraries within the University of Edinburgh Library, including New College and the Main University Library.

Inside New College Library

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A Christmas Celebration


Fiftieth Anniversary Certificate - Walter Chalmers Smith. New College Library MSS SMI 4.5

Fiftieth Anniversary Certificate – Walter Chalmers Smith. New College Library MSS SMI 4.5

New College Collections Curator Kirsty Stewart & I were delighted to find this lovely ‘illuminated manuscript’ certificate, which celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the ordination of Rev. Walter Chalmers Smith, in the New College Library manuscript collections. Rev Walter Chalmers Smith was an alumni of New College and followed a distinguished career in the Free Church, becoming Moderator of the Free Church in 1893 and culminating in the role of minister at the Free High Kirk in Edinburgh. After further denominational reunification, the Free High Kirk building became what we now know as New College Library in 1936, so this document is a link to New College Library’s past. It’s also a fascinating glimpse into Christmas over a hundred years ago, when it was more common in Scotland for Christmas day to be a normal working day without holiday celebrations. This made it a suitable day for new minister Chalmers Smith to be ordained, as recorded on the certificate.

T. F. Henderson, ‘Smith, Walter Chalmers (1824–1908)’, rev. Lionel Alexander Ritchie, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [, accessed 8 Dec 2015]

Keeping it in the family

At New College Library we often receive enquiries from individuals interested in researching their family bibles, who have identified that we hold the same or similar edition at New College Library. Inside these family bibles births, marriages and deaths may have been recorded, making each one a unique resource for family history research. Continue reading

Researching the Free Church of Scotland at New College Library

NCLNew College’s origins lie in the Disruption of 1843, when over a third of the ministers in the Church of Scotland left to form the new Free Church of Scotland. Over 170 years later New College, and New College Library still have an active relationship with the Free Church of Scotland, whose Edinburgh Theological Seminary students come to use New College Library. As you would expect from our shared history, we have rich historical collections for the Free Church, but we also continue to collect some current material from them.

To research current issues in the Free Church, the Reports to the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland are now held in Stack II at Per F, side by side with the recent Principal Acts. The Principal Acts of the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland 1900-2014 are available free to download at Recent Free Church Assembly Reports are also available to download from

New College Library Free Church holdings are probably most comprehensive for the earlier period of Free Church history. The Acts of the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland 1843-1900 are available in Stack I at sLY 50 A, alongside the Assembly proceedings and debates at sLY 50 B. This material is available on open access – please note that the online library catalogue also lists additional copies with individual entries by date which are kept in Special Collections. Researchers looking for browsing access may prefer the General Collections copies available in Stack I.

New College Library also holds the historic periodicals of the Free Church, including The monthly record of the Free Church of Scotland at Per M and the Free Church Magazine at Per F in Stack II. For University of Edinburgh users, these titles, including The Home and Foreign Missionary Record for the Free Church of Scotland and The Free Church Monthly and Missionary Record are also available online via Gale Newsvault.

New College students, late 19thC

New College students, late 19thC

When researching Free Church ministers, the key work for the early period is the Annals of the Free Church of Scotland, 1843-1900, held in the New College Library Reference section at  Ref. BX9084 Fre.  The matriculation records of New College students 1843-1943 are also searchable online at data is a combination of two different lists drawn up by J. Robb and Hugh Watt and held at New College Library. Together they provide the master list of students who matriculated at New College Edinburgh for the first 100 years of its existence. These have been augmented with information drawn from Annals of the Free Church of Scotland, Annals of the United Free Church of Scotland 1900-1929 and the Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae Useful information about ministers may also be gleaned from the Dictionary of National Biography (available in print and online) and from searching the online archives of historic newspapers such as the Times and the Scotsman (tip : try limiting your search to obituaries).    

 Christine Love-Rodgers – Academic Support Librarian, Divinity

Tackling a Library time capsule : The Longforgan Free Church Ministers Library

Longforgan LibraryRegular visitors to New College Library have probably walked past the Longforgan Free Church Ministers Library many times. It sits in custom made glazed bookcases, which are sited on the landing of the entrance to the Library Hall and in the David Welsh Reading Room. The cataloguing of this collection is in progress as part of the Funk Projects, and we’ve recently been pleased to welcome Patrick Murray as our cataloguer, replacing Finlay West who has moved on to new projects.

The Longforgan Library is an attractive part of the New College Library environment, but it’s probably true to say that for many years it has been just that – the books themselves have rarely been consulted. This may have been so from the very beginning – we’ve noticed that books being catalogued recently are in mint condition, some with pages uncut, as though they have never been read.  This may fit with the Longforgan Library’s provenance as a gift to the Free Church at Longforgan, Dundee by Mr David Watson, owner of Bullionfield Paperworks at Invergowrie. Part of the Longforgan Library could have begun life as a showpiece collection for David Watson to illustrate his skills in printing and binding to clients.

Longforgan2All this is changing with the benefits of online cataloguing. The Longforgan Library contains many volumes of the Acts of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland from the seventeenth century onwards and the reports of the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland in the nineteenth century. For the first time these are being requested by readers, with telltale paper slips the evidence that the volumes are in use.

More than that, online cataloguing has revealed the richness of this collection of patristic and theological books, the earliest text printed in 1618. The works of Eusebius of Caesarea and Irenaeus of Lyon sit alongside those of Jean Calvin and John Foxe in  a microcosm of New College Library’s historic collections as a whole. And it’s held surprises for us – one of them being that we discovered additional books hidden in concealed compartments in the back of the bookcases.

Castori romanorum cosmographi : tabula quae dicitur Peutingeriana / recognovit Conrad Miller. Ravensburg : Otto Maier, 1888 New College Library LON. 416

Castori romanorum cosmographi : tabula quae dicitur Peutingeriana / recognovit Conrad Miller. Ravensburg : Otto Maier, 1888
New College Library LON. 416


This included this fantastic facsimile of the Tabula Peutingeriana or Peutinger’s Tabula. Based on an early fourth or fifth century original, the map covers the area roughly from southeast England to present day Sri Lanka and shows the Roman road network. When we unfolded the map it stretched the length of the office!



The Longforgan Free Church Ministers Library still has treasures to discover. There are cupboards yet to unlock which have books stacked back to back in them, plus there is a further sequence of Longforgan books in a more secure location which includes three early editions of the Babylonian Talmud. Watch this space.

Christine Love-Rodgers – Academic Support Librarian, Divinity


Treasures of New College Library : The Longforgan Free Church Ministers Library

Longforgan LibraryThe Longforgan Free Church Ministers Library is a collection of handsomely bound volumes, particularly rich in patristic and theological texts. The rare books in the collection include Knox’s Liturgy (1611), the Babylonian Talmud and Athanasii opera (1600). Each volume is embossed in gold with the distinctive stamp of the Longforgan Library.  It is kept in its own custom made glazed shelving, now housed at the entrance to New College Library and in the David Welsh Reading Room.

The Longforgan Library was originally gifted to the Free Church at Longforgan, Dundee by Mr David Watson, son of the Rev Dr Charles Watson,  who was the owner of Bullionfield Paperworks at Invergowrie. The original deed of gift records that the books were given along with the bookcases and £100 invested in stocks and shares for the library’s upkeep(1). The library that was formally handed over to the Deacons Court at Longforgan Free Church (who acted as trustees) had its own printed catalogue in a bound volume, still in use at New College Library today.  Longforgan2

The next chapter in its history came in 1962  when ownership of the Longforgan Free Church Minister’s Library was transferred to New College Library. The move had been set in motion by the Revd James Torrance (who had been minister at Longforgan) and Professor T.F. Torrance (who was then curator of New College Library) (2).

Last week  we welcomed descendants of David Watson at New College Library, who shared details of the Longforgan Library’s original donor, and who were able to see David Watson’s lasting legacy here. The Longforgan Library is due to be catalogued online as part of the Funk Cataloguing Projects 2012-14.

(1) Gould, Four Churches of Invergowrie.  Dundee : 1997, p. 79

(2) Howard, John. In :  Disruption to Diversity. Edinburgh : 1996, p. 193.

The wood-walls of Scotland : a Christmas Carol

The wood-walls of Scotland : a Christmas carol, from the Fife Sentinel, with additions. Edinburgh : W. P. Kennedy … etc., 1844. New College Library F.a.12/13

New College Christmas Carol Service is taking place today at 5pm in the Martin Hall, led by members of the New College community and with singing from the New College Choir. Here’s a Christmas carol from  New College Library’s collections.

This pamphlet, The wood-walls of Scotland, was originally published in the newspaper the Fife Sentinel.  It contains a carol that would have been sung to a popular hymn tune, inspired by the verse from Psalm 132 “Lo, we heard of it at Ephratah: we found it in the fields of the wood.” Published after the Disruption of 1843, the carol is celebrating the outdoor services held to accommodate congregations who had separated to form the new Free Church of Scotland.

“On hill-side and green valley

Our wooden temples placed

The faithful, round they rally

The Gospel-standard rais’d”