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About the Library

The Main Library holds twentieth and twenty-first century material covering all fields of astronomy. Supporting subjects are represented by select works on physics, mathematics, electronics and computing.

Most publications can be searched for via the Library's on-line catalogue.

The Archives of the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh consist of correspondence, and scientific and administrative papers and notebooks of the former Astronomical Institution of Edinburgh (founded in 1811), the Astronomers Royal for Scotland, and the 26th Earl of Crawford. The Archive collection also includes a large amount of photographic material, sketchbooks and diaries of Piazzi Smyth [2nd Astonomer Royal from 1846-1888] held at the Observatory on permanent loan from the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

The Crawford Library contains around 15,000 items made up of books, pamphlets and manuscripts dating from the thirteenth century to the end of the nineteenth century. The collection was formed by the 26th Earl of Crawford and included items from his family library, virtually the entire library of Charles Babbage which he purchased when it was about to be offered for sale at auction in 1871, and rare books bought from book auctions and antiquarian dealers in the UK and Europe. The Crawford Library contains many first editions of all major works in the history of astronomy and related fields. It is recognised as a rich resource for scholars, historians of science and bibliographers and is visited by researchers from all over the world.

The Royal Observatory Library possesses a superior collection of astronomical literature. Together with the Crawford Library it represents a continuous record of astronomy and its supporting subjects from the early 13th century to the present day. The Observatory has endeavoured to maintain complete coverage of astronomical literature at research level and comprehensive coverage at other levels.