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Papers of Professor Gordon Donaldson

Identifier: Coll-78

Scope and Contents

The papers of Professor Gordon Donaldson within Gen. 1627-1645 consist of general and individual correspondence and correspondence with institutions and publishers. There is material and notes on churches, about crofters, emigration, genealogy, and the Northern Isles. There are lectures and notes; personal and family papers; photographs; and, press cuttings. There is manuscript material, typescript material, and proofs. These all cover the period 1935-1993.

The collection also contains circa 60 manuscripts and fragments at E2005.20. These are held in 23 separate folders in 2 boxes and represent examples of formal legal and historical Scottish documents. They had been Donaldson's private collection which he used to illustrate his Scottish documents and Palaeography courses held in the 1970s. Some are dated and from 1549 to 1740. Some are undated and may be from the 15th century. Unlisted. A few are photocopies.

Additionally, in E2005.23 there is a collection of colour and black and white slides (diapositives/transparancies) contained in two boxes. The slides show: houses and castles, and domestic architecture generally; views of Scotland, the Scottish coast, the western and northern isles, and Scottish family trees, charters, seals, other documents; Scottish towns including Dysart; Faeroe Islands; Scandinavia; England; France; the Mediterranean including Gibraltar, Sicily and Israel; Turkey; Greece; Dubrovnik, former Yugoslavia; and the USA and Canada.

At SC-Acc-2023-0148 there is printed material regarding the Gordon peerage, and facsimiles of historical documents from the School of History, Classics and Archaeology.


  1. Plastic envelope labelled "Residue Sir William Fraser facsimiles", with a printed note explainaing ""A small quantity of facsimiles of documents from Fraser's books. Not boxed. The obvious resting-place for these would be the Scottish History Department in the University, where there is a very substantial bulk of similar material" Gordon Donaldson, Sir William Fraser: the man and his work (Edinburgh, 1985), p.84". The facsimiles are numbered with "FFR" numbers.
  2. Plastic envelope labelled "Sir William Fraser Facsimiles" and "Missing S.W.F. to be scanned".
  3. Plastic envelope labelled "Plates from Falconer Madan, Mediaeval Palaeography (Oxford, 1097), with a printed note containing biographical and contextual information on Falconer Madan.
  4. Proofs (?) of a text called "Literae Scotiae", including facsimiles of Scottish historical letters.
  5. Folder with a pencil note "Dr Moloney", containing facsimiles of medieval and modern documents, from Scotland and England. Also includes a transcription of a letter of John Murray, Marquess of Tullibardine, son of the Duke of Atholl [Add. M.S.S 28,055 fol.144].

Also includes a booklet entitled Address to the Town Council of Edinburgh by Thomas Smith Esq., one of the present old Bailies, delivered in his place at the Council Table, on Friday, Sept. 27, 1799, At choosing the Leets for New Magistrates; containng Some Account of the City's Affairs - its debt, revenue, expenditure etc., and a folder of original legal documents pertaining to the sale of property by the Bowie family, dating from early 17th century (possibly 16th century) to 1910, with many documents dating from the 18th century.


  • Creation: 1549-1993


Language of Materials

English, Latin

Conditions Governing Access

Mostly open, although some parts of the collection might need to be screened for Data Protection issue before consultation. Please contact the repository in advance for details.

The original documents dating from 16th-20th century in SC-Acc-2023-0148 are not currently available for consultation in the reading room due to their extremely fragile state.

Biographical / Historical

Gordon Donaldson was born in Leith on 13 April 1913. He was educated at the Royal High School, and then he studied History at Edinburgh University where he obtained a First Class Honours degree. His postgraduate study was conducted at the Institute of Historical Research, University of London. After graduating PhD. in 1938, and having returned to Edinburgh with medical problems ruling out military service, Donaldson was appointed as an assistant in the Scottish Record Office where he became skilled as a reader of difficult early-medieval and late-medieval manuscripts. Throughout his life he maintained an interest in the material there, making an enormous contribution to the editing of historical records. In 1947 he became a Lecturer in Scottish History at Edinburgh University. In 1955 he was appointed Reader, and in 1963 he was awarded the Chair of Professor of Scottish History and Palaeography. In 1979, Donaldson was appointed Historiographer to the Queen in Scotland. One of his chief interests was the study of ecclesiastical history. His output of edited texts, books, articles and reviews was immense and includedThe making of the Scottish prayer book of 1637(1954),Scotland - James V to James VII(1965),Scotland - Church and nation through sixteen centuries(1960),Isles of home - Sixty years of Shetland(1984),Scottish church history(1985),The faith of the Scots(1990). Between 1972 and 1977 he was Editor of theScottish Historical Reviewand had also been Editor of theRegister of the Privy Seal of Scotland. In 1988, he was awarded the CBE. Gordon Donaldson died in Cameron Hospital, Windygates, Fife, on 16 March 1993.


21 boxes, 1 file volume, 1 folder (2 linear metres).

Other Finding Aids

An important finding aid is the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives. Additions to the typed slips in sheaf binders were made until 1987.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Acquired in 2005 and 2015 via transfer and donation. Accessions no. E2005.22; E2005.23; and SC-Acc-2023-0148.

SC-Acc-2023-0148 was transferred to Heritage Collections in 2015 via Margaret Forrest, HCA Academic Liaison.

Papers of Professor Gordon Donaldson (1913-1993)
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Edinburgh Library Heritage Collections Repository

Centre for Research Collections
University of Edinburgh Main Library
George Square
Edinburgh EH8 9LJ Scotland
+44(0)131 650 8379