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Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh


The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh

Nicolson Street


Phone number:

0131 527 1649

Social Media:

Twitter:  @surgeonshall  

Instagram: @surgeonshall

Opening hours:

The museum is open to the public seven days a week from 10am – 5pm. Admission prices can be found on our website along with directions and further information.

Archive and Library are by appointment only.


Founded in 1505, the Incorporation of Surgeons and Barbers (from 1778 The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh) is one of the oldest medical incorporation's in continuous existence in the world, and our unique collections fully represent this heritage.


Surgeons' Hall Museums (SHM) are owned by The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (RCSEd) and consist of the Wohl Pathology Museum, the History of Surgery Museum and The Dental Collection. Originally developed as a teaching museum for students of medicine, SHM's fascinating collections have been open to the public since 1832, making SHM among Scotland's oldest museums. The museum is also home to one of the largest and most historic collections of surgical pathology in the world.

Our museum collections cover surgical and medical history dating from the 17thcentury through to current practice. The collection contains surgical and dental instruments, anatomical and pathological teaching models and medical artwork, one of the largest pathology collections in the world, a fine art collection and College memorabilia. To name but a few highlights this includes collections from James Young Simpson (1811-1870), Robert Liston (1794-1847), James Syme (1799-1870), David Middleton Greig (1864-1936) and the first practising female surgeon in Scotland Gertrude Herzfeld (1890-1981).

Library and Archive

The library has accumulated over 40,000 books and periodicals dating from the 15th century to the present day. Among those are a copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle dated 1493, two Books of Hours dated 1450 and 1490 and a first edition of William Harvey’s Exercitatio anatomica de motu cordis (1628). Other classical works include books by Vesalius, Scultetus, Taliacotius, Fabricius, Paré, Peter Lowe’s Discourse of the whole art of chyrurgery and Richard Lower’s Tractatus de Corde (1669) and a particularly impressive and large collection of anatomical works.

Over the last five centuries the College has accumulated and preserved one of the oldest and most comprehensive collections of medical documentation in the UK. Manuscripts and records date from the 1460s, with extensive material relating to College membership and to the history of medicine and surgery in Scotland. It comprises minute books (complete run from 1581 to present day); administrative records; the ‘chirurgians’ early business papers; extensive examination records; architectural plans; correspondence; diplomas and certificates; class cards; and extensive visual material, including photographs, slides, ephemera and anatomical illustrations. The Archive also houses many private collections and papers from such Fellows as Joseph Bell, Charles Bell, James Young Simpson, Joseph Lister, Henry and Harvey Littlejohn, and Elsie Inglis and the Scottish Women’s Hospitals.

Staff have been working on a continuous programme of digitisation and the public can now search, browse and download digitised archive materials:

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