CollectionGB 0231 University of Aberdeen, Special Collections
Alt Ref NoMSK
TitleKing's College Archives
Date1398 - 1914
Extent142 boxes, 169 volumes, 25 outsized items: 81 linear metres
Creator NameKing's College
Administrative HistoryKing’s College and University of Aberdeen was founded in 1495 by papal bull at the instigation of William Elphinstone (1431-1514), Bishop of Aberdeen. The foundation was the third university in Scotland, and was founded on the principles of the University of Paris, a popular destination for Scottish students. The first courses offered were in Latin, Greek, and later Hebrew, and students were in the main destined for the Church. It was generally more Jacobite that Hanoverian, and, was during the Reformation, an upholder of the old religion, and as a consequence suffered during the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries.

There are many histories documenting King's College from its foundation to the fusion with Marischal College. Two of the most accessible histories are:
Leslie MacFarlane, William Elphinstone and the Kingdom of Scotland 1431 - 1514, Aberdeen, AUP, 1995 and David Stevenson, King's College, Aberdeen, 1560 - 1641, Aberdeen, AUP, 1995.

When using this catalogue the following notes are particularly relevant:

King's College was originally named St Mary's College but in recognition of King James IV's support to the College Elphinstone adopted the name 'King's College'.

King's College was united with Marischal College (the new college) in 1860 to become the University of Aberdeen.
Custodial HistoryThe charter chests were first described by Principal John Row in 1657, during which time he compiled an inventory of their contents. He describes the old or original charter chest as 'a cabinet with 51 shuttles'. Colin McLaren, University Archivist, expands on this description in his article of 'Visiting the Charter Chests' by describing the shuttles as long narrow drawers, in which the bulls, charters and other records were placed, tightly folded; [and that] they carry marks of compression to this day...' The charter chests are still in the custody of the University but no longer house any documents.

In January 1793, there was an exhaustive visitation of the Charter Chests which noted which documents were missing at the time, the exercise was repeated in 1795.

In 1887 the charter chests were moved to the Crown Tower where they were arranged by Peter John Anderson (University Librarian, 1894 - 1926), who revised the inventories.

In the 1970's items were removed from the charter chests to be consulted in the Library, however in June 1982 the content was transferred to Colin McLaren (University Archivist), at the library to allow completion of cataloguing, surveying and re-boxing.
SourceThese records were generated and created as part of the official business of the King's College of Aberdeen.
DescriptionThe collection contains detailed resources on the foundation of the college, the evolution of the college’s curriculum, teaching methods, staff and students, financial papers (which range from staff salaries to routine accounts), legal disputes, the administration of the college, its properties and buildings, its land ownership and the college’s relationships with other institutions, particularly Marischal College and Aberdeen City.

College administration - (Governance, Non-statutory committee administrations, Senior officer appointment, Statutory committee administration, Litigation management, Chartularies, contracts and agreements)

Property and buildings (Property acquisition, Property development, Property disposal, Property leasing, Property maintenance)

Finance (Financial accounting, Endowments and funds)

External relations (Aberdeen City, Marischal College relations, Royal relations, Fundraising campaign management)

Library (Library administration)

Staff (Staff appointments)

Students (Qualifications and prizes, Class lists and registers, Examinations, Bursaries and financial assistance)

Lectures and curriculum (Taught programme delivery)

Papers of Staff and Students
Appraisal44 MSK files of lecture notes and material relating to student societies has been extracted and transferred to the MS collections.

5 MSK files have been transferred to the MSU collection, which included a large amount of financial material from the Crown Tower.

The papers of James Fraser (book dealer and royal librarian), which had been part of the new charter chest material, shuttle 44, have been removed from the King's College Archive and catalogued as an independent collection MS 3952. There were a number of missing papers from this collection, which have now been re-located and made accessible.
ArrangementAll shuttles from the old and new charter chest have been maintained and not split across series. The Crown Tower material, which was considered too disparate in content to maintain in its current arrangement. Crown Tower boxes were split, bundles within each box/shuttle were not, in keeping with the overall strategy of maintaining existing shuttle arrangement. Many of the shuttles within the old and new charter chests overlap but for the purposes of this project the shuttles, as stated above, have been maintained as they were.

See item/file level records for alternative reference numbers. OCC - Old Charter Chest/MSK 256, NCC - New Charter Chest/MSK 257.

New Charter Chest shuttles number 36, 37, 39 and 43 have still not been located/identified, however, it is possible that the material formally in these shuttles has been incorporated into other shuttles or that they never contained material.

A large amount of information has been taken from the inventories and research undertaken by P.J. Anderson (University Librarian, 1894 - 1926), W.D. Simpson (University Librarian, 1926 - 1966) and Professor Innes of the University of Edinburgh (Author of the Fasti Aberdonenses, see below). The research carried out by Colin McLaren (University Archivist), in the 1980s, has been essential in creating this catalogue.
Access StatusOpen
Related MaterialMarischal College Archives (1593 - 1860) and University of Aberdeen (1860 - )
Publication NoteFasti Aberdonenses: Selections from the Records of the University and King's College of Aberdeen, 1494 - 1854, Aberdeen, Spalding Club, 1854 (Spalding Club 25)

Peter John Anderson, Collections towards a bibliography of the Universities of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, Edinburgh Bibliographic Society, 1907

Francis Carolus Eeles, King's College Chapel, Aberdeen University Studies 136, Edinburgh, 1956

Leslie J MacFarlane, William Elphinstone and the Kingdom of Scotland 1431 - 1514, Aberdeen, AUP, 1995

Colin A McLaren, Aberdeen Students, 1600 - 1860, Aberdeen, University of Aberdeen, 2005

David Stevenson, King's College Aberdeen, 1560 - 1641: from protestant reformation to convenanting revolution; Aberdeen, AUP, 1990
Related RecordMARISCHAL
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