Collection T-GED - Patrick Geddes papers

Identity area

Reference code

GB 249 T-GED


Patrick Geddes papers


  • 1531 - 1969 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

c. 45 metres of textual records, pamphlets and books + c. 4000 maps, plans, photographs, prints and drawings

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Sir Patrick Geddes was a biologist, sociologist and town planner with a strong interest in education, the arts, history and many other subjects. He believed strongly in the inter-relationships between all branches of knowledge.

Geddes grew up and was educated in Scotland, and studied biology in London. After a professional career as a biologist in London and France, he settled in the late 1880s in Edinburgh, where he became involved in the regeneration of the Old Town. He was particularly involved in the Ramsay Garden complex of private housing, student hall of residence and artists' studios, and in the Outlook Tower. In 1889, Geddes became Professor of Botany at Dundee University College, where he was required to be present for only three months of the year. This gave him the opportunity to pursue many other interests. In the ensuing decades, Geddes developed a highly individualistic theory of human societies and their spatial manifestation in the city and in the country, drawing upon theories in biology, geography, philosophy and politics. In 1904, Geddes published his first major report, City development: a study of parks, gardens and culture institutes, which enhanced his reputation among architects and planners. After 1900, Geddes's activities centred on London, where he co-founded the Sociological Society in 1903 and showed his Cities and Town Planning Exhibition in 1911. From 1914-1924, Geddes lived mainly in India, where he was involved in town planning. He accepted the Chair of Sociology and Civics at the University of Bombay in 1919. At this period, Geddes designed the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, garden suburbs for Jerusalem and Haifa, settlements elsewhere in Palestine, and the master plan for Tel Aviv. After his return to Europe in 1924, Geddes settled in Montpellier, France, where he founded the Scots College as an International University to propagate his ideas. He was knighted in 1932 and died at Montpellier.

Archival history

The Geddes papers were donated to the Royal Technical College (predecessor of the University of Strathclyde) in 1955 by Geddes' son, Arthur, and the Trustees of the Outlook Tower. In 1966, two years after the Royal Technical College became the University of Strathclyde, the collection was moved to the new premises of the School of Architecture. During this removal, a proportion of the collection was lost, but as the papers were not listed, the extent of the loss cannot be quantified. In 1968-1969, the Department of Urban Planning became responsible for the collection. In 1977, the collection was placed in the care of the newly established University Archives.

The first printed finding aid to the collection, 'The Register of the Papers of Sir Patrick Geddes’, was produced in 1970 by Alice Mackrell of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning. This register was little more than a summary list and the extensive collection of maps and photographs was excluded. In 1979, an extensive cataloguing project was launched by the University Archives. Progress was slow, due to lack of resources, but the catalogue was finally completed in 1998. The result was the six volume printed catalogue ‘The Papers of Sir Patrick Geddes’. Part of this catalogue has been reproduced here online. The rest of the catalogue will be reproduced here over the coming months.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Content and structure area

Scope and content

The collection covers most periods of Geddes’s life, and nearly all of the places in which he lived and worked. It comprises correspondence, notes, pamphlets and books, photographs, maps, plans, prints and drawings, including Geddes' famous 'thinking machines'.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

The collection is arranged by subject. Researchers should be aware of the inherent flaws in this arrangement. For Geddes himself, there were no barriers between disciplines, and, consequently, many papers deal with the relationship between disciplines.

Original bundles and the order of the collection have been maintained wherever possible, although the collection’s confusing history militated against a definitive arrangement. Sections 1-21 comprise handwritten and typed notes, supported by pamphlets and a few bound volumes. Many of the notes are untitled or are on scraps of paper, a large number being inscribed with Geddes’ thinking machines. These last can often be considered as drawings but have generally been left with the notes with which they were found. Likewise, drawings, prints and photographs in the original bundles have not been systematically extracted. Section 22 comprises maps, plans, photographs, prints and drawings, many of which were part of Geddes’ Cities and Town Planning Exhibition. Sections 23 and 24 comprise pamphlets and books respectively.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

No access restrictions.

Conditions governing reproduction

Language of material

  • Ancient Greek
  • Arabic
  • Danish
  • Dutch
  • English
  • French
  • German
  • Hebrew
  • Hindi
  • Irish
  • Italian
  • Latin
  • Scottish Gaelic
  • Spanish
  • Swedish

Script of material

    Language and script notes

    Physical characteristics and technical requirements

    Some of the documents, plans and photographs are very fragile.

    Finding aids

    This online catalogue does not yet include descriptions of each of the items in the collection. Additional item descriptions are added regularly. Meanwhile, a printed catalogue which lists the whole collection to item level is available in the reading room.

    Allied materials area

    Existence and location of originals

    Existence and location of copies

    Related units of description

    Correspondence and papers of Sir Patrick Geddes (ref: GB 233 MSS 10501-657, 19253-87, 19994-99) (National Library of Scotland)

    Correspondence from Patrick Geddes to James Mavor (Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto)

    Correspondence to Charles Sarolea from Patrick Geddes (ref: MS 119GB 237 Sar Coll) (Edinburgh University Library Special Collections)

    Notes area

    Alternative identifier(s)

    Access points

    Place access points

    Name access points

    Genre access points

    Description identifier

    Institution identifier




        Accession area