A wide range of different workers have contributed to the printing industry over its 500 year history, and the skills needed have evolved over time. Change has been particularly fast since the middle of the twentieth century.

Originally printing techniques were imported into Scotland from France, where Androw Myllar trained, but in later centuries some Scottish printers were responsible for technical innovations, for example:

  • In the late eighteenth century William Ged invented the stereotyping process, although his attempts to exploit it commercially were a failure and left him embittered, the process has been widely used since.
  • Thomas Nelson, son of the founder of Thomas Nelson & Sons, invented a rotary press: it was demonstrated at the Great Exhibition of 1855.  As he did not patent his invention, he did not reap any financial benefit from an invention from which the newspaper presses in use for the next 100 years were descended. This press is now in the National Museum of Scotland
  • Alexander Neill Fraser of the printing company Neill & Co, based in Edinburgh was an early pioneer of mechanical typesetting, inventing a machine for typesetting and distributing used type which predated the Monotype and Linotype systems.  The machines were not only used in their own works, but were sold elsewhere well into the twentieth century.
  • World famous printer-publishers based in Scotland in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries include Bartholomews, Blackie, Collins and Nelsons.  A distinguished name from the eighteenth century is the Foulis Press of Glasgow, which produced beautifully typeset and carefully printed classical texts.