Skip to Content

Library of Innerpeffray

open gallery and library space

Innerpeffray Library
For the Benefit of All

  1. Free access to Friends of Innerpeffray Library (FOIL), who pay annual subscription (details from Library or Convenor).

Background

The Library and School at Innerpeffray were founded by David Drummond 3rd Lord Madertie in around 1680, the first free public lending library in Scotland. Madertie was a member of the Drummond Family, one of the most important landowning families of the area, friend and brother-in-law to James Graham, First Marquis of Montrose. The original library was "partly in the west end of the chapel of Innerpeffray and partly in that little new house lately built by me at the east end of the kirk yard." Making books available to ordinary people free of charge was unprecedented. Madertie wished the library and school to benefit the community "in time coming" and leaving them with a legacy of 5000 Scottish Merks charged his successors with the responsibility.

Collection

leather bound volumes behind cageThe Library collection is rich and varied one, with books from the 16th and 17th centuries to the present day. With subjects as varied as witchcraft, animals, farming and medicine, books about European history and a 17th century atlas, and the unique opportunity to actually hold and read the historic volumes, make this a bibliophile's paradise with something for everyone to discover.

Many of the early books from the Founders' original library of around 400 volumes reveal him to be a man of wide interests including history, law, politics, gardening, and the pursuits of a gentlemen such as honour and hunting, as well as, of course, religious contemplation and discussion. The oldest book is from 1503, and the early books include treasures such as:

Poisson, Pierre Belon , Paris 1555
Cosmographie, by Sebastian Munster 1575
Chronicles, Raphael Holinshed, London 1577
Henry VIII Great Bible, 1539
La Bible, Sedan 1633 Belonging to James Graham, First Marquis of Montrose

When Archbishop Robert Hay Drummond commissioned the present Library building in the 18th century he added a considerable new collection from the new books available at the time. A note of 'books proposed to be bought into the Library at Innerpeffray, as occasion offers' from May 1744 shows that care was taken to acquire the latest and the best in subjects such as 'Divinity, Classicks, History' and a footnote adds: 'a list of Mathematical books to be got from some Professor'. The Borrowers' Register is perhaps the Library's most valuable book, a handwritten record all the local people to who came to choose a book, and take it home to read. Today, families from all over the world find their ancestors in the Register, often in their own handwriting, and can hold the books they borrowed.

Building

white building with grey brick building and grassIn 1739 Robert Hay Drummond inherited the Innerpeffray estate and responsibility for the Library and School. He raised the funds and commissioned architect Charles Freebairn to design and build a new Library building immediately adjacent to the Chapel. This handsome Georgian edifice still houses the library today. By the nineteenth century the school buildings were 'dilapidated' and a new School and Schoolmasters house were completed in 1846. Pupils came from the surrounding farms and settlements and the school was still in operation until 1946.

Status

Scottish charity no. SCO 23545