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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.


  • Creation: 1549-1993

Language of Materials

English Latin

Conditions Governing Access

Contact the repository for details

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).

Physical Location

Gen. 1627-1645; E2005.22; E2005.23

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.

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