Books and newspapers

Print­ing came to Scot­land at the begin­ning of the six­teenth cen­tu­ry with Chep­man and Myl­lar’s press in Edin­burgh, and there­after spread slow­ly through the coun­try. Over time the Scot­land became an impor­tant cen­tre for book print­ing, and at one time Scot­land’s book print­ers were so active in the export busi­ness, that Scot­land claimed the title of ‘print­er to the world’. Allied trades also devel­oped: there was a sub­stan­tial paper indus­try, inkmak­ers, type­founders and print­ing machine man­u­fac­tur­ers also flour­ished.

The first news­pa­per print­ed in Scot­land appeared in the mid­dle of the sev­en­teenth cen­tu­ry. The Edin­burgh Gazette was first issued in 1680 and oth­er titles began to appear in the ear­ly eigh­teenth cen­tu­ry, such as the Edin­burgh Courant in 1705. The news in ear­ly Scot­tish news­pa­pers was main­ly reprint­ed from Lon­don news­pa­pers, even though this news was days old by the time it reached Scot­land. Local news was hard­ly report­ed at all. News­pa­pers were small and rel­a­tive­ly expen­sive, so had a small cir­cu­la­tion. At this time paper was heav­i­ly taxed, as were adver­tise­ments which occu­pied about half the space.

As print­ing press­es began to appear in Scot­tish towns out­side Edin­burgh, Aberdeen and Glas­gow, so did local news­pa­pers and by the end of the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry, most Scot­tish towns of any size had their own local paper.

Nation­al­ly and inter­na­tion­al­ly sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tions to the book trade were made by Scot­tish book print­ers and pub­lish­ers such as Edward Raban of Aberdeen in the sev­en­teenth cen­tu­ry, the Foulis broth­ers in eigh­teenth cen­tu­ry Glas­gow, William Smellie and the first Ency­clopae­dia Bri­tan­ni­ca in the late eigh­teenth cen­tu­ry, and firms such as James Bal­lan­tyne, W & R Cham­bers, Thomas Nel­sons, Oliv­er & Boyd, R & R Clark, Black­ie, William Collins and many oth­er well known names.