The people who helped shape Edinburgh Libraries: the tradesmen who built Central Library

“The contractors began operations on the 17 Nov [1887]…. excavating area of site and carting away stuff”.
So began the building of Central Library.

Tales of One City

When the doors of Edinburgh Central Library were formally opened on Monday 9 June 1890, it was the fulfilment of many years preparation.

Selected design for Edinburgh Public Library, elevation to George IV Bridge and plans for third and fourth floors, by George Washington Browne, 1887

In our collections, we have two volumes of handwritten ledgers kept by the then Clerk of Works, William Bruce, which record in detail the building works as they progressed.

Clerk of Works’ record books for Edinburgh Public Library

We know from the record books that preparation work had begun as early as 1879 when it was recorded that “Official tests of Pentland Cement” were being methodically undertaken. The pages are filled with neat notes with details such as the amount of cement used, how many days the cement had been set for, and the amount of shrinkage.

On the 18 November 1887, the…

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