The magnificent medieval cathedral in Dunblane attracts many visitors but not that many notice a wonderful little 17th century building lying in its shadow. With its typical Scottish architecture, this is Scotland’s oldest purpose built library, opened in 1687 as the bequest of Bishop Leighton who left his wonderful book collection to the cathedral clergy. There are some 1400 early books of his, the oldest dating from 1504. A Trust was established in 1701 which manages the Library to this day. Whilst the Bishop died in 1684, the Trustees added to the collection until the mid 19th Century, leaving us also with an extraordinary collection of many important books from Scotland’s ‘Age of Enlightenment’. Volumes include Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nation,Dr Johnson’s famous English Dictionary, the Edinburgh edition of Robert Burns poems, first edition Lady of the Lake by Walter Scott, which started the Scottish tourist industry and many more.

The collection also contains a number of rare first edition maps, including the American Atlas, from 1776. This undoubtedly would have provided geographical intelligence during the American War of Independence. Two of the prints are shown below. Amongst the texts there are first editions of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense (1776) and The Rights of Man and several accounts from the 1700s, including a record of travels among the Native American tribes 1766-1768.

The Leighton Library building is in desperate need of some major structural refurbishment. We are trying to raise funds to preserve the building and provide a safe home for these wonderful treasures. If you would like to support us please come to our special exhibition or donate on line to this worthy cause.

During the month of May (3rd -30th ) there will be a special exhibition of these rare maps in the Dunblane Museum. For opening times please the Leighton Library website.

If you aren’t able to attend during May we always welcome visitors during our open summer season as well as private visits by arrangement.

For more information please visit