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The Rising Burgh: 1560 to 1770s

Culture and Leisure

Books and Newspapers

By Alastair J Mann

The Protestation of the General Assemblie... Following the Reformation the book trade was still slow to appear in Glasgow. However, it was only from the 1590s that a network of "permanent" bookshops had become established in Scotland, at which time Alexander Muir set up in Glasgow. By the middle of the 17th century Glasgow bookselling had expanded dramatically, building on the trade to Ireland and the Americas and the new merchant wealth. The testament of the Glasgow bookseller John Neil (1657) lists seven other Glasgow booksellers re-supplying one another. Some of the trade was illegal, and by the 1670s Glasgow's trade was importing Dutch English bibles in breach of the rights of the king's printer in Edinburgh.

The Protestation of the General Assemblie... Printing reached Edinburgh in 1508, but only came to Glasgow in 1638. That year Glasgow's first printer, George Anderson (fl. 1637-47), who famously printed The Protestation of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland which protested at the Prayer Book imposed by Charles I, had been invited by the burgesses of Glasgow who appointed him burgh printer and provided a salary. After Anderson's death, his son Andrew was attracted back to the burgh by new domestic and business premises. When he drifted back to Edinburgh he was replaced by Robert Sanders, elder (fl.1661-1694) and Robert Sanders, younger (fl.1695-1730), who provided continuity for the post of "Printer to the city and university".

Tait's Directory p62 The 18th century brought a period of expansion in bookselling, printing and the advent of newspapers. While publishing remained largely in Edinburgh, the Glasgow press of the brothers Robert and Andrew Foulis (fl. 1746-76) became famous throughout Europe for publishing quality editions of Latin and Greek classics. The number of presses grew and, although some were of modest quality, Robert Urie's press (fl.1740-57) was notable for fine printing. This quality was aided by the arrival of Scotland's first significant typefoundry, the Glasgow works of Alexander Wilson (fl.1742-75) set up in 1743/4. Bookselling also expanded: by the 1720s some fifteen booksellers were located in Glasgow and in 1751 John Smith & Son was founded, which was to become the world's oldest continuously trading bookseller. Meanwhile Glasgow's first newspaper, the tri-weekly Glasgow Courant, printed by Donald Govan, appeared in 1715, and in 1741 the Glasgow Journal was established and would continue for over a century.

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