[The following passage from the Chambers Gazetteer of Scotland appears on page 477-78. — George P. Landow.]

Public Libraries

The first circulating library in the west of Scotland was established in Glasgow in the year 1753, when Mr. John Smith, senior, returning from England, began to lend out books on a small scale, at the rate of a halfpenny a volume. There are now many other circulating libraries on an extensive scale in Glasgow, the charges for reading being much lower than in Edinburgh. The taste for reading is much more diffused in Glasgow than in Edinburgh, notwithstanding the pretensions of the latter to a superior literary character. In Glasgow there are various public libraries, constituted by endowments or sustained by societies. The first instituted was

Stirling's Library

This establishment owes its existence to the late Mr. Walter Stirling, merchant, who, in 1791, bequeathed his valuable library, his mansion in Miller Street, his share in the Tontine Buildings, and one thousand pounds Sterling, for the purpose of establishing a public library in Glasgow, for the use of the citizens; placing the management in the hands of the provost, and some members of public bodies. It was the intention of the donor to afford the reading of works gratis, to all who chose to peruse them in the place where they were kept; but this being found of little benefit, or inexpedient, the managers altered the system, by taking subscriptions from readers. The life subscriptions are now L.10, 10s. each, and there is a body of nearly 500 subscribers. The books, of which there is a large collection, are mostly of a rare, curious, and valuable kind.

Glasgow Public Library

This institution was established in 1804, by a society of gentlemen, on the usual principles of mutual payment, members paying fifteen shillings of entrymoney, and ten shillings and sixpence yearly. All kinds of works are lent out. The library is kept in a room in Miller's Charity.

The Robertsonian Library

The Robertsonian Library is a large collection of books chiefly relative to theology, which was begun in 1814, by an association of members, with 200 shares at L.5 each, and commenced by the purchase of the extensive and valuable library of the late Rev. James Robertson, minister of the Associate Congregation in Kilmarnock. The library is now the exclusive property of the Secession body, for the use of its students.

Besides these there are a number of Book Societies, established by the working classes, by which there is an extensive dissemination of books and periodical publications.


Chambers, Robert. The Gazetteer of Scotland. Glasgow: Blackie and Son, 1838. Internet Archive online version digitized with funding from National Library of Scotland. Web. 30 September 2018.

Last modified 30 September 2018