Innerpeffray Library’s Historical Literary Treasures

With the distinction of being the first and oldest free lending library in Scotland, Innerpeffray Library is a popular attraction in the hamlet of Innerpeffray, located by the River Earn in the Perth and Kinross region. Established in 1680 by the third Lord Madertie, David Drummond, and containing a treasure trove of literary works, the library is considered to represent the origins of an era referred to as the Scottish Enlightenment. Initially housed in the loft of St Mary’s Chapel, the now extensive collection started with 400 books from the Drummond family’s private collection. These were made available to public with the goal of improving and educating the population, particularly young students, as was stated in the founder’s will written in 1680.

The library collection was moved to the building commissioned by Robert Hay Drummond in 1762 and remains there to this day. At the time he was Archbishop of York and the patron of the Library, and when Robert Hay Drummond passed away, his son Robert Auriol Hay donated his father’s private book collection to the Library. In the following years books were added to the collection by members of the Hay and Drummond families, as well as by local residents and purchases made by the Library’s trustees.

The more than 3,800 books catalogued in the library were printed between 1502 and 1920 and include some rare items. The collection covers a wide variety of topics, including politics, war, agriculture, literature, history and natural history, as well as spiritualism, chiromancy (palmistry), demonology and astrology. Among the more noteworthy books in Innerpeffray Library are those belonging to the Marquis of Montrose, including his personal Bible bearing his signature. The Library’s ledger contains detailed descriptions of books and their borrowers, starting in 1747 right through to 1968, providing interesting information regarding the interests of the people, and even details the fines levied on borrowers who were late in returning their books.

With public libraries becoming more readily available in the early 20th century, it was no longer viable to continue the library’s services, and after serving the community for almost three hundred years, Innerpeffray Library stopped functioning as a lending library in 1968. Nevertheless, the library has been well maintained and is open to members of the public who would like to gain some insight into the history of this charming destination in Scotland.