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.