Robert Sibbald 1641-1722

From Book Owners Online

Sir Robert SIBBALD 1641-1722

Biographical Note

Son of David Sibbald (1589-1660) of Fife, keeper of the great seal of Scotland. Educated at Cupar and the Royal High School, Edinburgh. Remained in Edinburgh to study at the university, MA 1659. In 1660 he travelled to Leiden where he studied anatomy, surgery, botany and chemistry. From Leiden he travelled to Paris, Angers (MD 1662) and London, returning to Scotland in October 1662.


Financial difficulties forced Sibbald to sell a large portion of his library in 1707/8, and after his death what remained was sold by auction in Edinburgh on 5 February 1722. Printed catalogues exist for both sales. The 1707 catalogue divides over 1100 volumes under precise headings denoting their subject matter, such as 'Scriptores Chronologici', 'Antiquarii', 'De Historia Universali', 'Historia Judaica', 'Historia Græca Antiqua' and 'Historiæ Romanæ Scriptores Græci'. Among its volumes are books containing Arabic and Hebrew. The posthumous 1722 catalogue, on the other hand, uses much more general headings to broadly indicate the subject and format of its 5300+ items. The later sale catalogue describes its contents as 'Consisting of Divinity, Civil and Ecclesiastical History, Medicine, Natural History, Philosophy, Mathematicks, Belles Lettres, &c. with a curious collection of Historical and other Manuscripts. Being the Library of the late Learned and Ingenious Sir Robert Sibbald of Kipps, Doctor of Medicine'. Both catalogues comment on items that feature Sibbald's manuscript notes, a practice that is attested by some his extant books, e.g. his interleaved copy of Camden's Britannia (1695) in the National Library of Scotland (Adv.MS.15.1.5).


  • Alston, R. C. Inventory of sale catalogues ... 1676-1800, St Philip, 2010.
  • Catalogus bibliothecae Sibbaldianae secundum scientias et artes digestus..., [Edinburgh, 1707], ESTC T7929.
  • Bibliotheca Sibbaldiana: or, a catalogue of curious and valuable books, consisting of divinity, civil and ecclesiastical history, [Edinburgh, 1722], ESTC T6458. (Both printed catalogues are available via Google Books, bound together).
  • Withers, Charles W. J. "Sibbald, Sir Robert (1641–1722), physician and geographer." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.