Scotland’s First Lending Library Publishes First Book

By on

Originally appeared in a Press Release April 2010,

The Library
The Library of Innerpeffray is Scotland’s first free public lending Library, founded by David 3rd Lord Madertie in 1680. Today, Innerpeffray is off the beaten track, but at the time it was very accessible on a direct route between from the market towns of Crieff and Auchterarder, serving all the farms and estates of Strathearn and Strathallan in central Scotland. 
The library has a host of historical connections: Roman, Medieval and Enlightenment Scotland, family connection with the 1st Marquis of Montrose, James Graham, international connections with items in our collection from every corner of the world and local social history captured in a 250 year long Borrower’s Record.

In May 2010, Bob MacRobbie from Pennsylvania visited the library and discovered his great x 4 grandfather in the Borrower’s ledger: described as James McRobbie, Taylor in Innerpeffray and was able to hold the books he borrowed from Innerpeffray in 1757.

Although the Library ceased lending books in 1968, it houses an amazing collection of over 5000 books and visitors can browse the shelves and turn the pages of volumes as diverse as the Works of James I and Wildman’s Guide to bee-keeping.

This is the type of Library that the likes of Robert Burns and Adam Smith would have had access to and embodies the beginnings of the Scottish Enlightenment. The collection has a wide range of European books, for example a beautiful set of natural history books in French, with hand coloured illustrations.

We pride ourselves on the accessibility of our books, and visitors are welcome to examine and handle books for themselves.

The Book
The First Light is a new book with unusual credentials. Its publisher is a library. It is one of only two or three hot metal letterpress books to be published in the United Kingdom in 2009. It is hand finished and leather bound in an edition limited to 500. Selling at £150, each copy is individually numbered and signed by the author George Chamier.

With a Foreword by Arthur Herman, author of How the Scots Invented the Modern World and 2009 Pulitzer Prize Finalist, The First Light is a historical portrait of the Library at Innerpeffray, remarkable as the oldest free public lending library in Scotland and representing the very origins of the Scottish Enlightenment. The Library was founded along with a school in 1680 by David Drummond, 3rd Lord Madertie and brother-in-law of the great Marquis of Montrose. 

The Library of Innerpeffray is near Crieff and Gleneagles in Perthshire. The present library building was completed in 1762 under the patronage of Robert Hay Drummond, Archbishop of York. The old school buildings were rebuilt in 1847. They are all now cared for by the Innerpeffray Mortification, which has looked after the affairs of the Library for more than 300 years. The Library of Innerpeffray finally ceased lending in 1968, but continues as a unique reference collection.

Among the 5,000 or so books are a number of priceless volumes, including a first edition of the Collected Works of James VI from 1616, a superb edition from 1785/7 of Buffon's Histoire Naturelle with hand coloured illustrations and Edward Topsell's Historie of Foure-Footed Beastes from 1607, also illustrated.

Raising funds
The new book is the initiative of Robert Wallace, Chairman of Governors of the Mortification. He commissioned John McConnell RDI for the design who determined that the book should be beautifully produced in every respect. He in turn enlisted David Gibbs for editorial guidance and John Grice of the Evergreen Press to print and produce the book.

Robert Wallace comments, “Publishing The First Light as a limited edition is intended simply to raise funds for the upkeep and development of the Library. It will also be the first official record of the Library and its history. Already over 100 copies of the book have been sold to a number of institutions and private individuals. The highly readable account appropriately contained in an authentic expression of the bookmakers’ art has been very well received.”

The Author
George Chamier’s other books include When it Happened: a Very Short History of Britain in Dates, published by Constable & Robinson in 2006 and updated in a new edition as When it Happened in Britain to be published in October 2009. The companion book When it Happened in Scotland is also to be published by Constable & Robinson in September 2009. George Chamier’s roots are in Easter Ross but he now lives in London and works as a freelance writer and editor, and teacher of History and Politics. He was formerly Head of History at Bradfield College, Berkshire.

The First Light presents the affairs of the Library, opened in 1680 as the first free public lending Library in Scotland.  Authoritative and yet still very accessible, the book is divided into two parts. The first sets the story of the development of the Library against the historical context of Scotland itself, from the 16th to the 20th centuries. 

The second describes the Library today, the rare and valuable books it contains and the very remarkable Borrowers’ Ledger with its record of every loan from 1747 to 1968. Various Appendices give details of keepers of the books (librarians), the Drummond family tree and the governors of the Mortification. Each of the eight chapters is marked by an illustration chosen from some of the most notable books of the Library.

The text is set in Monotype Caslon by Stan Lane of Gloucester Typesetting Services, the last remaining Monotype setter in the country.  It is printed by John Grice on Italian dual-edged mould-made paper at the Evergreen Press in Gloucestershire, also one of the last in the country to print exclusively by letterpress. Some of the colour plates as well as the Appendix on the Drummond family tree are tipped in by hand. The book is beautifully bound in leather byThe Fine Book Bindery in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire.

Explore the library's website at

Visit in person: Library of Innerpeffray, by Crieff PH7 3RF, Perthshire, Scotland

Opening hours: Wed - Sat 10am - 12.45pm and 2pm - 4.45pm and Sundays 2pm - 4pm; Closed Monday, Tuesday and 1 November - 28 February.

The Library is run an independent trust, The Innerpeffray Mortication, A Scottish Charity SC013843.
Copies of the book are available to view at The Library of Innerpeffray, by Crieff, PH7 3RF, or contact: Lara Haggerty at