Scottish Book Trade Index
To mark Book Week Scotland 2013 it seems appropriate to write a little about the book trade in Scotland. The book trade has a long history in Scotland - even before the first books printed in Scotland were published by Walter Chepman and Androw Myllar in 1508, books printed elsewhere circulated in Scotland, brought back by merchants and collectors from elsewhere in Europe. James IV granted an charter to Chepman and Myllar, giving them exclusive rights to print books in Scotland.
It wasn't until 1552 that the first printing press was established outside of Edinburgh - by John Scot in St Andrews, followed by Robert Lekprevik in Stirling in 1571, Edward Raban in Aberdeen in 1622, before spreading to Glasgow, Leith, Campbeltown, Tarbert and Maybole before the end of the 17th century.
But the real boom in the Scottish book trade came with the invention of the printing machine in the 19th century. The new machines meant that books became much cheaper to produce, greatly stimulating demand, and spreading printing throughout Scotland: in the first 300 years, printing had spread to 38 towns, almost all in the south and east of Scotland. 100 years later, there 197, from Lerwick and Kirkwall in the north to Dalbeattie in the south.
The industry employed thousands of people, in printworks, as papermakers, bookbinders and booksellers. Some Scottish companies - such as Nelsons, Blackwoods, Collins - became major international publishers, with Edinburgh in particular being a particular centre of the book trade. (My own family had many connections with Nelsons at their famous Parkside Works: my great aunt was apparently the only person in Nelsons who could read John Buchan's handwriting, a fact that we discovered over a family meal - the subject of John Buchan came up, and my great aunt announced, out of the blue, "Ocht, that John Buchan, lovely man, but awfy handwriting").
Some years ago, the late John Morris, formerly Assistant Keeper of Antiquarian Books at the National Library of Scotland, prepared a list of printers, publishers, booksellers, bookbinders, printmakers, stationers and papermakers, from the early days of the book trade up to 1850. The NLS continued to develop what became the Scottish Book Trade Index. Although it will always of necessity be a work in progress (indeed, I have made a number of contributions in my years as an antiquarian bookdealer and collector), it has grown to be a very useful but little-known resource, not just for the avid bibliophile, but also for genealogists: it lists many thousands of individuals, in many cases also giving family history and genealogical information.
The Scottish Book Trade Index can be found here (opens in new window).
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