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What We Offer

We offer current, modern surgical library services, with the latest texts, journals and electronic resources, to our Members, Fellows and surgeons in training.
We also support historical enquiries, requests for images and article supply.
Researchers, medical historians and the public are also invited to contact us, either in person, by telephone, letter or email.

See also the history of the library.

We aim to:

  • support Members' and Fellows' surgical and dental educational and information needs, current and historical – and offer these services to the Fellowship world-wide. To make the resources available globally, the Library and Special Collections website contains access points to library services eg literature searches, book and journal requests;
  • maintain and conserve the collections;
  • provide information to RCSEd members, staff and researchers including members of the public, related to the College’s history, Fellows, Members, the Playfair building, furniture, portraits and silver;
  • to assist in the understanding of medicine and surgery in line with the RCSEd Mission statement.

Services Overview

Adopt a Book >>

The College Library and Archive contains papers and its Minute books, from 1504. It has titles by Vesalius, Bell, Monro, Ambroise Paré, William Harvey, and other famous names. The "Adopt a Book" project will fund some book restoration.

Document Supply Service >>

We can send you articles held here at the College or ordered from libraries around the world. These can be delivered to you in only a few hours.

Literature Searches >>

The College Library provides a free literature search service to all Fellows and Members. Comprehensive searches can be carried out on any particular subject by a qualified librarian. We also offer a Current Awareness service, including bespoke literature searches performed at regular intervals to keep you informed on the latest developments in your specialty and sent out to you by e-mail or post.

Historical Services >>

The library has over 35,000 books and periodicals dating from 1460 to the present day and an archive resource dating back to 1503 in continuum. Material can be assembled for lectures and speeches and historical/biographical queries resolved. Please see our collections. The College also houses a large number of private collections and papers from such Fellows as Joseph Bell, James Young Simpson and Joseph Lister, to name a few.

Image Reproduction >>

The Library has a vast array of surgical and historical images, some of which can be found on this website. If you wish to reproduce any of our images we can provide you with high quality scans or hard copies. Please note that the images shown on this website are copyright to the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh and may not be reproduced without prior written permission.

Oldest Books

Eustachius' Tabulae anatomicae (1722) Eustachius' Tabulae anatomicae (1722)

1460 and 1490 Books of Hours – lavishly illuminated manuscripts on vellum; a 1493 Nuremburg Chronicle; many fascinating and rare antiquarian medical and surgical titles – First editions include Harvey’s De motu cordis (1628), Gray's anatomy and many others.

The archives contain original RCSEd business papers from 1504 on, many collections of papers from e.g. James Young Simpson and Joseph Lister. We also hold sets of drawings of the Playfair building, from 1829 and later.

Special Collections

Archives >>

Institutional and other records dating from the 1460s; minute books; administrative records; architectural plans; letters; lecture notes; early case notes; diplomas, other certificates and honours; class cards; photographs and personal papers; slides and film

Furniture >>

The College is fortunate in having many handsome nineteenth century items of furniture, most of which adorn the Playfair "Surgeons' Hall" 1832 building.

Silver >>

The College owns a large array of silver, ranging from College insignia to cigar boxes, candlesticks, cups and even a richly decorated biscuit box. These have mostly been gifted or bequeathed.

Portraits & Busts >>

The College possesses an impressive collection of portraits, paintings and busts dating from around 1660 with the portrait of James Borthwick of Stow, the first person in the history of the College to be nominated specifically as a teacher of anatomy.

Surgeons' Hall Museums >>

World famous, the Surgeons’ Hall Museums attract visitors and researchers from all over the world.

Search collections with ADLIB >>

Search under keywords, authors, etc. in our online catalogue that covers the archive, library and museum holdings. Please email library@rcsed.ac.uk with any queries.