Heriot-Watt launches historic Adam Smith library with 84 replica books from the economist’s collection



Panmure House Library launch
Dr Al Gurg (centre) launching the restored Panmure House Library with Professor Richard A. Williams (right) and Professor Dame Heather McGregor, the Provost and Vice Principal of Heriot-Watt University Dubai (far left).

The 18th century library of Adam Smith – known as the ‘father of modern economics’ – has been partially restored by Heriot-Watt University with replica copies of more than 80 books the Scots economist and philosopher was known to have owned.

Located inside Panmure House in Edinburgh – the former home of Adam Smith that is part of Edinburgh Business School at Heriot-Watt University – the restored library was officially launched at a ceremony last week.

Dr Raja Easa Al Gurg, Chairperson of the Dubai-based business conglomerate Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group and Honorary Pro-Chancellor of Heriot-Watt University in Dubai, generously donated funds for Panmure House to buy replica copies of 84 books with the same print year, publisher and edition from more than 3,000 titles that Adam Smith owned.

Adam Smith is known as the most influential economist of all time, so it is an immense honour for me to be involved in this project.

Dr Raja Easa Al Gurg, Honorary Pro-Chancellor of Heriot-Watt University Dubai

Panmure House Programme Executive Blair Barrows has spent more than three months researching and finding the books from all over the world, including the United States, Canada, Australia, Germany, Spain, France, Italy and Belgium.

“Smith’s original library contained a very wide range of subjects including drama and the arts, sciences or natural philosophy, classic philosophy, history and nature, amongst many others,” Mr Barrows explains.

“Even the husbandry of horses makes the wider catalogued collection Adam Smith once had in Panmure House. We have looked to reflect that across the titles we currently own, by not only selecting those titles directly influencing Smith in areas such as economics and philosophy, but also contextual works on the theatre, art, history, Scottish culture and literature and natural history.”

Dr Al Gurg is a business author, a supporter of Arab women entrepreneurs and a board member of organisations including Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Dubai Women’s Association. She was introduced to Panmure House during an event to celebrate the launch of her book, The Power of Authenticity: Three Principles of Leadership Success and Dr Al Gurg later asked to support the restoration and relaunch of Panmure House Library.

“Adam Smith is known as the most influential economist of all time, so it is immense honour for me to be involved in this project,” Dr Al Gurg said. “It is a joy to see the return of so many titles that we know were part of his impressive book collection.”

Edinburgh Business School and Heriot-Watt University rescued Panmure House from dereliction in 2008 and invested £5.6 million over 10 years restoring it.  As part of Edinburgh Business School, Panmure House now hosts a year-round programme of events, debates, research projects and education focused on urgent economic, political and philosophical questions in the 21st century.

Professor Richard A. Williams, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Heriot-Watt University said: “Adam Smith’s former home is an outstanding piece of Scottish heritage and restoring the library is a hugely important milestone in its restoration.

“We are immensely grateful to Dr Al Gurg for her generosity in helping us assemble this fantastic collection of books.”

Adam Smith lived at Panmure House for 12 years and completed his two masterworks there – The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776). He also transformed the house into a vibrant meeting place for the finest minds of an extraordinary generation of Enlightenment thinkers.

The Scottish Enlightenment was a period in the 18th and early 19th centuries characterised by an outpouring of intellectual and scientific accomplishments.

Panmure House Library will open to the public in April 2024, with a focus on engaging visitors and linking books to different events.

“Through these books we are able to tell the multitude of stories held within,” Mr Barrows said. “We can explore how they relate to Adam Smith and his work and further examine Adam Smith with new audiences, whilst furthering their understanding of Smith and the wider context of the Scottish Enlightenment.”

The books will be marked and annotated with index cards for further support as the books are used. Panmure House is also producing a catalogue to enhance the experience and further tell the stories of the books’ authors, and the relationship of each book to Adam Smith and his work. Panmure House hopes to further increase its Adam Smith collection over time to 200 books.

Edinburgh Business School is the graduate school of business at Heriot-Watt University. It is one of the world's largest providers of postgraduate business education, with 49,000 alumni across 158 countries.


Victoria Masterson