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Robert & Andrew Foulis, the Foulis Press, and Their Legacy
by George Fairfull Smith

Examples of Foulis Press Books 

The Glasgow University Library call numbers are given for all of the books at the end of each caption, and are followed by the Gaskell number for each of the Foulis Press publications.

Click in the thumbnails to see the images in more detail, and then click on the 'back' button to return to this page. 


1741 Chevalier Andrew Michael Ramsay A Plan of Education 


This was one of the first books published by Robert Foulis when he depended on other firms to print for him. He began his own printing in 1742, and the Foulis Press subsequently published further works by Ramsay including The philosophical principles of natural and revealed religion unfolded in a geometrical order, 2 volumes, 1748-9.

Sp Coll BD12-e.21; Gaskell 9

1743 Demetrius ‘of Phalerum’ De Elocutione


This was the first Greek book printed in Glasgow, and an advertisement in the Glasgow Journal indicates that it was published on 4 April 1743.

Text page.

In his history of the Foulis Press David Murray considered this book to be ‘an excellent piece of work’. As it was printed before Robert Foulis’s appointment as University printer, Murray believed it could have been ‘the essay-piece he submitted to the University as evidence of his skill’. A limited number, such as this example, were printed on large paper.

Sp Coll Mu50-f.32; Gaskell 31

1744 Horace Works printed by Robert Foulis


This is the famous ‘immaculate’ Horace which is a key-book for collectors of Glasgow printing. The proofs, it is said, were hung in the college, and a reward of 50 was offered to anyone who could find any errors. However, a few were overlooked, and six were found some time later.


Text page.

In his history of the Foulis Press James Maclehose wrote ‘the Horace is a beautiful volume, and the text nearly, but not quite perfect. Absolute accuracy, the editors of the Homer afterwards declared, was a vana spes.’

Sp Coll BD12-e.8; Gaskell 50

1746 A Catalogue of Books Unsold of the late Mr William Forbes’s Library, December 1746.

This is one of four short, and very rare, catalogues in the University’s collections which relate to book sales organised by the Foulis brothers. Three of them bear their name, and although this example does not, it is likely to have been for one of their auctions in the College.

Sp Coll f373

1749 William Hamilton of Bangour Poems on Several Occasions


William Hamilton (1704-54) was described as the ‘first Scotsman in the 18th century to write poetry in good English’. The book was published without the author’s knowledge, and the preface was written by Adam Smith.


Text page.

The poems were sent to the Foulis Press by Hamilton’s friends when he was living abroad because of his involvement in the 1745 Jacobite rebellion. A second edition was brought out in 1758.

Sp Coll Mu49-e.5; Gaskell 131


1750 John Milton, Paradise Lost


This volume was edited by John Callander of Craigforth, but did not proceed beyond Book 1. David Murray noted in his article for the Scottish Historical Review (January 1917), that ‘the remainder is in manuscript in the library of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland’.

Text page.

The Foulis Press printed and published several editions of Paradise Lost as well as Paradise Regained.

Sp Coll BD12-c.17; Gaskell 161


1750 Richard Baxter Gairm an de mhoir... (A call to the unconverted to turn and live), printed by Robert and Andrew Foulis.


This was the first work of the English Divines to be published in Gaelic. The translator was the Rev. Alexander Macfarlane of Kilninver, Argyllshire.


Text page.

This work appears to be the only example of the Foulis brothers printing in Gaelic.

Sp Coll BD12-h.58; Gaskell 138


1752 Catalogue of a valuable collection of books, July 1752.

In addition to the bookshop in Glasgow University, the Foulis brothers owned an auction room which was located in ‘the first land above the (Glasgow) Cross, first fore-stair, west side of the street’. The earliest mention of their auctions appears in the Glasgow Courant in November 1747. At a later date they were held in the Old Coffee House at the corner of the Trongate, on the west side of the Saltmarket.

Sp Coll f373


1754 Pindar, Works, printed by Robert and Andrew Foulis 1754-58

Title-page and blue paper wrapper.

Robert and Andrew Foulis printed books on a number of exotic materials such as vellum, linen, and silk or satin. They also published miniature versions of some works including Pindar’s Olympia, Pythia, Nemea and Isthmia in three volumes. Glasgow’s Mitchell Library owns a miniature edition of Olympia printed on silk.

The book shown first is from the set which belonged to William Hunter, and has the original blue paper covers which Foulis used for all of the books in Hunter’s order with the exception of the folio Homer.

Sp Coll B12-k.65-67 and Cy.3.63-65; Gaskell 274

1755 Francis Hutcheson, A system of moral philosophy


Francis Hutcheson was a renowned philosopher and Robert Foulis’s mentor. He was the author whose work was printed most by the Foulis Press, and they published 28 editions including Metaphysicae Synopsis, 1742; A Short Introduction to Moral Philosophy, 1747; and Thoughts on laughter, and observations on the fable of the bees, 1758.


This two-volume publication was dedicated to Edward, Lord Bishop of Elphin, and contains a six-page list of subscribers including the Earl of Glasgow, and the Earl of Selkirk who ordered twelve sets. It also has an account of Hutcheson’s ‘life, writings, and character of the author’ by the Reverend William Leechman D.D.

Sp Coll BD12-b.12,13; Gaskell 297

1755 Callimachus Hymns and Epigrams


This book was issued both as a quarto and as a folio. It was dedicated to the Hon. Charles Yorke (1722-70) who was Solicitor-General of England, and one of Robert Foulis’s greatest supporters.


Text page.

The folio edition was awarded a silver medal by the Select Society of Edinburgh. This book has been described as one of their masterpieces, and was much sought after by collectors.


 ‘Apollo’ engraving.

The book contains three engraved illustrations of statues all of which were copied in reverse from Antonio Francisco Gori’s Museum Florentinum. The others were of ‘Jupiter’ and ‘Diana’. None of the engravings bears an artist’s name, but A Catalogue of Pictures, Drawings, Prints, Statues and Busts in Plaister of Paris, done at the Academy in the University of Glasgow, which was printed for the Academy’s subscribers in 1758, includes a ‘Jupiter’ by James Mitchell; a ‘Diana’ by John Lawson; and an ‘Apollo’ by James Maxwell. All of their engravings of the statues were copied from Museum Florentinum.

Sp Coll BD12-b.17; Gaskell 283


Antonio Francisco Gori, Museum Florentinum, 1734


Gori’s work, a useful compendium of antique sculpture in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, was published in several volumes, and provided a major source of illustrations for the Foulis Academy’s students to copy. In June 1756 Robert Foulis sent a memorial to the College requesting to borrow the Library’s copy of Museum Florentinum. Within a week a meeting of the Faculty allowed him to buy the first and third volumes for the use of his scholars. It is known that Foulis formed a substantial art library, but there appear to be no records of its contents, or its fate after the Academy was closed. The volumes now in the University Library were not part of the school’s library.

‘Apollo’ engraving

The Academy’s pupils copied numerous illustrations from this and other books. In his Memorial of the Printers and Booksellers of Glasgow, 1774, Foulis noted that Robert Simson’s mathematical works ‘could not have been executed in the manner he chose without the art of engraving in wood; and there are others which could not have been executed without the art of engraving on copper. These last two arts are connected with the printing of linens and cottons’.

Sp Coll BM.1.6

1756 Homer, Iliad, printed by Robert and Andrew Foulis


This work, along with the Odyssey, which was published two years later, has been described as ‘a landmark in the history of printing in Greek’. The outstanding type was designed especially by Alexander Wilson. The large paper copy of this two-volume work was sold for 1 11s 6d., and the small version was 1 1s.


Text page.

It received the Edinburgh Select Society’s medal for the best printed Greek book, and in 1757 The Scots Magazine noted that the Foulis brothers had ‘gained all the prizes yet given by this society for book-printing’. Glasgow University sent copies to dignitaries such as William Pitt, the Duke of Hamilton, the Duke of Argyll, and Charles, King of the two Sicilies.

Sp Coll BD12-b.18; Gaskell 319


1758 Homer, Odyssey


The publication of Homer’s Iliad was followed by the Odyssey in 1758. Both were edited by Professors James Moor and George Muirhead at Glasgow University.


Text page.

David Murray wrote that ‘for beauty as well as for accuracy, these splendid volumes can hardly be surpassed’, and quoted another who declared that the large paper copy was ‘one of the finest monuments of Greek typography which our nation possesses’.

Sp Coll BD12-b.19; Gaskell 319

[1758] A Catalogue of Pictures, Drawings, Prints, Statues and Busts in Plaister of Paris, done at the Academy in the University of Glasgow.

This catalogue was produced by Robert Foulis, and is bound with A proposal for encouraging by subscription an Academy for painting and sculpture, now instituted at Glasgow. The Academy was privately funded, and Robert Foulis was always looking for new ways to raise money. The proposal was prepared by John Dalrymple (1726-1810), an advocate and author, who was one of Foulis’s greatest supporters and advisers. The catalogue yields valuable information on the works produced by the Academy’s pupils.

Sp Coll Mu23-y.19; Gaskell 352

1759 Thucydides, Bellum Peloponnesiacum


Robert Foulis had a binder’s shop, and David Murray noted that he ‘personally supervised the binding of many of the finer volumes’. This particular example is in ‘red turkey gilt’ which, apparently, was Foulis’s favourite binding.



Published in eight volumes, this work has been described as ‘by far the most correct of all the Greek Classics published at Glasgow’. Gaskell includes a transcript of an advertisement which appeared in the Glasgow Journal on 15 August 1760: ‘Some copies are printed with the Greek and Latin on opposite pages, and some with the translation separately. Subscribers are desired to mention, at the time of subscribing, which sort they chuse’. This set was part of a collection presented to William Hunter by Glasgow University, and each volume bears an inscribed dedication.

Sp Coll Cy.3.34-41; Gaskell 375

1759 Tyrtaeus, Spartan Lessons, printed by Robert and Andrew Foulis


The work of Tyrtaeus, the 7th century B.C. elegiac poet, was used to inspire the youth of the Republic of Lacedaemon with warlike sentiments. 

Text page: dedication.

In 1758 a war had broken out in North America which resulted in the capture of Quebec. This book contains a patriotic dedication to the Scottish soldiers who were over there.

 ‘Hercules Victor’engraving.

This portrait was copied in reverse from an original in a volume of Antonio Francisco Gori’s Museum Florentinum. It was made by one of the pupils of the Foulis Academy and, although it does not bear the engraver’s name, it could be by William Jameson whose engraving of the same subject is listed in the 1758 subscribers’ catalogue (Sp Coll Mu23-y.19; Gaskell 352).

Sp Coll Mu48-d.5; Gaskell 376


‘Hercules Victor’ engraving, plate I, from Antonio Francisco Gori, Museum Florentinum, volume 2, 1732.

The volumes of Gori’s work were a useful source of illustrations for the Academy’ pupils, and in addition to using their copies to illustrate some of the Foulis Press publications, many were also advertised for sale in Glasgow newspapers and the catalogue produced for subscribers. The city’s Mitchell Library owns impressions of some of the engravings copied from Museum Florentinum and other publications.

Sp Coll BM.1.5


1759 James Moor Essays read to a literary society


James Moor was Professor of Greek at Glasgow University, and also the Foulis’s brother-in-law. All three were members of the Literary Society which was based there, and was composed mainly of its professors. Moor was a valuable proof corrector and editor of a number of Foulis publications such as Archimedes, Arenarius, 1751. The Foulis Press also printed 17 editions of Moor’s own books including De Analogia Contractionum Linguae Graecae Regulae Generales, 1753, and On the End of Tragedy, 1763.

Sp Coll Mu21-d.28; Gaskell 372

1763 Plato Republic


This edition was the first to be published in English, and was translated by Harry Spens, DD. (1713-87). At the time he was minister of the parish of Wemyss in Fife.

Text page.

In 1750 Robert Foulis planned to print all of Plato’s works in Greek and Latin, but did not succeed. It is believed that his commitments to the art school which he opened in 1753 overtook what could have been one of his most ambitious printing and publishing projects.

Sp Coll Cy.1.1: Gaskell 423

1763 Giambattista Guarini Il Pastor Fido


The Foulis Press printed and published a number of works by Italian authors some of which were illustrated.

Illustration by Sebastien le Clerc

When Robert Foulis was travelling on the Continent buying works of art for his new school of art, he acquired a large collection of copperplates produced by a wide range of artists. Impressions were taken from a large number and offered for sale in the 1758 subscribers’ catalogue. He also used plates by le Clerc (1637-1714) to illustrate several other Foulis Press publications including Torquato Tasso’s Aminta, 1753, and La Gierusalemme Liberata, 1763, as well as Bonarelli della Rovere’s Filli di Sciro, 1772.

Sp Coll Mu49-g.21; Gaskell 418

1768 Thomas Gray Poems


This publication was first proposed by Dr Beattie, the Professor of Philosophy at Aberdeen University. He described it as ‘one of the most elegant pieces of printing that the Glasgow press or any other press has ever produced’.

Text page.

A contemporary advertisement for this book indicated that this was ‘the first work in the Roman character which they [Robert and Andrew Foulis] have published with so large a type; and they are obliged to Dr Wilson for preparing so expeditiously, and with so much attention, characters of so beautiful a form’.

Sp Coll BD16-a .18; Gaskell 475

1770 John Milton Paradise Lost


This book has been described as the Foulis’s ‘last typographical achievement in the grand manner’, and, although they continued printing for several more years, no subsequent publications were of such high quality.


List of subscribers.

The Foulis brothers sought subscribers for a number of their publications.

Text page.

The Englishman Captain Edward Topham remarked that the Foulis’s editions of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, 1756-58, along with this work, ‘might have made them immortal’.

Sp Coll Bh19-x.18; Gaskell 510

1770 The Gallery of Raphael, also known as Raphael’s Bible


This volume of prints contains engravings made by pupils at the Foulis Academy. It is based on the 16th-century frescoes decorating the Loggias in the Vatican in Rome which were planned by Raphael, and undertaken by several other artists. The title-page claims there are 52 prints but this volume and one in the Mitchell Library in Glasgow have 54.


‘The Lord talked with Moses, Exodus XXXIX’, engraving.

There were numerous sets of engravings made after the frescoes, and the Hunterian Art Gallery at Glasgow University owns one by Orazio Borgiani (1577-1620) dating from 1615; and one by Pietro Aquila (c. 1643-96) from 1674.

‘Joseph flieth from his mistress, Genesis XXXIX ‘, engraving

Only one of the engravings made for this work volume bears an artist’s name: ‘Jacob sees Rachel at the well of Haran’, by James Mitchell (fl. 1750-74). The entire work has been attributed to him and William Buchanan (1736-72), his fellow-pupil.

Sp Coll Mu2-x.18; Gaskell 507


1771 A Catalogue of Books of Various Ages


The brothers printed and published a number of catalogues, copies of which can be found in Glasgow University Library, and also in the city’s Mitchell Library. This particular example contains 76 pages of books, and 18 pages of manuscripts. The price lists for both are printed at the end.

Sp Coll Mu34-e.9; Gaskell 526

1777 Catalogue of books ...


This catalogue covers the stock which was left after Robert’s death in 1776.

Sp Coll Mu34-e.10; Gaskell 614



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examples of books illustrated by former pupils of the Foulis Academy
examples of prints reproduced in the 20th century after works engraved in the Foulis Academy