What we collect

  • The Scottish Poetry Library collection is an international collection.
  • As well as caring for Scotland’s own poetry, we also work to provide an extensive poetry resource for Scotland’s readers.
  • All new Scottish poetry titles, from anthologies through pamphlet collections by individual authors, are purchased as comprehensively as possible, in English, Scots, and Gaelic.
  • Our Scottish collection focuses primarily on the second half of the 20th century onwards, but we also collect earlier 20th and pre-20th century Scottish items ensuring we hold representative collections covering major poets and movements.
  • We surround this Scottish core collection with contemporary and 20th century English-language poetry from Britain and from all over the world.
  • We have a strong focus on European poetry and translation. Purchases of foreign-language poetry aim at creating a broad representative collection, including the works of major contemporary poets of the 20th century and anthologies representative of the poetic output of a particular country, region or language. Wherever we can we acquire translations in parallel text and to also include, where available, poetry in minority languages.

Reference collection

In order to fulfill our function as a special library with permanent access to both the poetry and critical material, we retain a large reference collection, spanning background and critical books, anthologies from all periods of Scottish history, anthologies from around the world, and single and collected editions from Scottish, British and international poets. All the collections in the Library follow the same sequence, which starts with a thematic arrangement (loosely based on the Dewey Decimal system), then moves on to single-author books, which are simply arranged alphabetically by name.

Lending collection

You can borrow books from the SPL, in person and by post. The Lending collection comprises almost half of the book stock, and covers Scottish and international material, older books and ones hot off the press. Pursue your interest in ecological poetry, read the latest biography of Emily Dickinson, or try a bilingual anthology of contemporary poets from Slovenia.

Magazines & periodicals

The SPL takes in over 80 magazine titles. Like the book stock, they cover Scottish, rest of the UK, and international. They range from the major mainstream titles like Poetry (from the USA) and Poetry Review (UK) to the more local Poetry Cornwall and Poetry Scotland. There are also general interest periodicals like the Times Literary Supplement and The Scottish Review of Books, and special interest titles like Blithe Spirit (from the Haiku Society) and the Review of the War Poets Association.

The magazine collection is for reference only. We hold back-runs of the major 20th century Scottish titles, like Akros, Lines, Chapman, and some broader titles like Scottish International and The Saltire Review. Twenty of these have been indexed in our Scottish Poetry Index (SPI); the index can be searched on our catalogue, and the magazines are open access and easily browsable. We have a few interesting magazines from the Scottish Renaissance of the 1930s, such as The Modern Scot and Jabberwocky.


Because of the current expansion in publishing poetry in pamphlet form, our pamphlets collection is the fastest growing collection in the Library. We try to cover almost everything produced in Scotland, and always keep a reference copy, with sometimes one for lending as well. Because of their more ephemeral nature, the pamphlets are not shelved with the books but are kept in open access boxes, arranged in the same sequence as the books.


The cuttings collection has been built up over the years, and is a treasure trove of information about poets. In the form of articles from newspapers and magazines, you can follow a poet’s career from early brief reviews, notices of prizes, through major critical articles on the mature work, to the obituaries. There are also comments on events in the poetry world, and overviews of a year’s, or a decade’s, new poetry. All our cuttings are included in our online catalogue.


The ability to hear the voice of the poet as well as read their words on a page is vital. We collect as much poetry as possible in audio format. Purchasing now is focussed on CDs and we have large runs from publishers such as The Poetry Archive and Scotsoun. We also have large cassette and LP record collections that we plan to digitise for easier listening. We also hold many unique recordings from our own events from the last 25 years.

Braille & large print

We have an extensive collection of poetry in Braille. We also collect poetry in large print wherever possible, although very little is published. These items can be sent out by post free of charge.

Children’s collection

Children are not forgotten in the SPL, as there is a good collection of poetry for younger readers, with nursery rhymes and funny poems, babies’ books and scary verse all jostling on the shelves upstairs. Settle down on the bean bags and lose yourself and your little ones in the magic of poetry. Older children are well catered for with anthologies graded for different age groups, and hundreds of individual authors’ works in the Junior section, and a bridge section for young adults in with the main collections. This collection is also a useful resource for teachers and other learning professionals.

Special collections

As with all libraries, we keep some books and other items away in our special collection because of fragility or rarity. You can normally gain access to these items quite easily if a librarian is available, but for some of our special collections it is advisable to arrange access in advance to ensure items can be ready for you when you visit.

Particular specialisms include:

  • Edwin Morgan Archive This is an archive of published works by Edwin Morgan in book form, in magazines, newspapers, and ephemera. See more at
  • Ian Hamilton Finlay This collection consists of our own holdings substantially augmented by a generous donation to the Library by Edwin Morgan of his own extensive Ian Hamilton Finlay collection.
  • Concrete poetry We have a growing resource of concrete and visual poetry, and in collaboration with Edinburgh University, we have a PhD student working with us on this subject.
  • Small press & artists’ books Poetry is often published by small presses and in ephemeral formats. Our small press collections include, for example, an archive of the works of Moschatel Press, from the Scottish poet Thomas A Clark and his partner, the artist Laurie Clark.