Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh
9-11 Queen Street
Monday – Friday, 9.30am – 5pm
44 (0)131 225 7324
We provide a drop-in service to our Fellows and Members during our opening hours. For members of the public, we request you make an appointment in advance of your visit.
The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh is home to Scotland’s oldest medical library. We hold over 60,000 books, including a copy of the first edition of the first book printed on medicine - the De Medicina of Celsus, published in 1478 - and almost 1500 journals, some of which are particularly rare. We also hold over 400 externally deposited manuscript collections concerning eminent scientists.
As well as preserving these collections, we make them available to our members and to the public through our free exhibitions, digitisation projects and a range of events.
In the seventeenth century, Edinburgh physicians began to hold meetings in their own homes to discuss the regulation of medical practice and the ways in which standards in medicine could be improved. Sir Robert Sibbald, an eminent physician and noted historian, was a member of this group. He had the opportunity to petition King Charles II, who granted the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh its Royal Charter in 1681. Sir Robert is generally accepted to be the founder of the College.
The founding Fellows of the College were concerned not only with the advancement of medicine as a reputable science, but also with alleviating the miseries of the City’s poor and needy.
For more than 300 years, the College has remained independent of control by government. The College’s mission today lies close to the ideals of its founders: to promote the highest standards in internal medicine not only in Edinburgh where the College was founded and has developed, but wherever its Fellows and Members practise.
The College acts in an advisory capacity to government and other organisations on many aspects of health and welfare and medical education. It was instrumental in founding the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and, over the years, has influenced the development of medical schools in North America, Australasia, Asia and Africa.
The Library of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh was established in 1682 and was the first in Scotland specifically intended for the study of medicine. Sir Robert Sibbald, who had been the foremost figure in the creation of the College, donated ‘three shelfes full of books to the Colledge of Physitians.’ Since then the Library has provided over three hundred years of continuous service to members of the College, and has grown into a comprehensive collection ranging from the earliest and rarest of medical writings to modern books, periodicals and online resources.