On 15 September 1507, James IV of Scotland granted Walter Chepman, an Edinburgh merchant, and his business partner Androw Myllar, a bookseller, the first royal licence for printing in Scotland. Although the licence was actually granted to enable the printing of the Aberdeen breviary, a book of Scottish church practices and the lives of local saints, complied by William Elphinstone, Bishop of Aberdeen, The Complaint of the Black Knight by John Lydgate, is the first known work from the press set up by Chepman and Myllar, printed on 4 April 1508 near what is now Edinburgh’s Cowgate. Images of works printed by Chepman and Myllar prints held at the National Library of Scotland are available on the Scotland’s first printed books website.

Image of plaque to commemorate the first printed book in Scotland On 4 April 2008, as part of the celebration of 500 years of the printing industry in Scotland, a commemorative plaque was unveiled near the site of Chepman and Myllar’s press, at the corner of Blackfriars Steet and the Cowgate, placed there by the City of Edinburgh Council.

In 2018, as part of the celebration of the Trust’s 30th anniversary, the Trust arranged an exhibition in the Glasgow Herald’s former printing works in the Lighthouse, Mitchell Lane.

Printing spread gradually through Scotland, with a press established in St Andrews in 1552, a short-lived one in Stirling in 1571 and in Aberdeen in 1622, with other major towns such as Glasgow following later in the seventeenth century: the spread of printing across Scotland is shown on the Spread of Scottish printing website.

SPRAT has published two Print Trail leaflets, one each for Edinburgh and Glasgow.  The earlier series of books on local printing industries in Scotland, published under the title A Reputation for Excellence are available through the online shop. Text-only versions are downloadable as PDF files through the links below.

Edinburgh                   Glasgow                   Dundee and Perth

 Aberdeen & Northern Counties