The Signet Library

History of the Signet Library

The Signet Library is home to the Society of Writers to Her Majesty’s Signet - WS Society for short. 

The Society goes back to the 15th century as the officers authorised to produce royal manuscripts with the King of Scotland’s seal, ‘the Signet’.

The ‘Writers’ were part of the College of Justice established by James V in 1532 which recognised judges and lawyers as separate from the state and is the bedrock of Scotland’s legal system.  ‘Writers to the Signet’ have played a prominent part in the development of Edinburgh and Scotland, not just in law but in other areas.  For example, Sir Walter Scott was apprenticed as a WS.  The Society today remains a highly respected and prestigious body of lawyers. 

The Signet Library building, designed by Robert Reid with interiors by William Stark, was completed for the WS Society in 1822 in time for the famous visit to Edinburgh of King George IV.  William Playfair and William Burn were also involved in alterations to the building. 

The building is a classical masterpiece and is a category A listed building.  The classical architecture inspired the concept of Gran Caffè and Italian influence. 

We hope you enjoy your visit.       

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The Signet Library
Parliament Square
Edinburgh EH1 1RF

+44 0131 225 0651

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The Signet Library is owned and operated by The Society of Writers to Her Majesty’s Signet (The WS Society), a corporation recognised under the law of Scotland.