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In Aedibus Academicis
The Glasgow University Press

A selection of books from the printers of the University of Glasgow. Devised for the 2008 celebration of 500 years of Scottish printing.

Introduction | 17th Century | 18th Century|19th Century | 20th Century

detail of ornament incorporating University crest:
from title-page of a book printed by Alexander Carmichael, 1730 (Mu21-c.37)

2008 celebrates 500 years of printing in Scotland. This web exhibition highlights the contribution that Glasgow University and its press has made to the history of Scottish print culture.

Johannes Gutenberg perfected the art of printing by moveable type in Germany in the middle of the 15th century. Slowly, this new technology for the mass manufacture of books spread throughout Europe.

The entrepreneurial merchant, William Caxton, introduced the printing press to England in 1476, having learnt the new art on the continent. Some thirty years later, Walter Chepman (1471?1528) and Androw Myllar (fl.15031508), were the first to set up a printing business in Scotland.

public instrument relating to Andrew McCormyll
 November, 1485 (MS Gen 1483/1)

Myllar was an Edinburgh bookseller who had previously been involved with printing in France. Setting up a press with all its costly equipment was a huge expense, and Chepman - a successful Edinburgh merchant - provided the money. On 4 April 1508, they completed the production of John Lydgate's poem The Complaint of the Black Knight. It is the earliest surviving dated book printed in Scotland and is now held in the National Library of Scotland, along with eight other "prints" from their press.

 detail showing name "Walter chepman scolarii" (MS Gen 1483/1)

Although we have no copies of any of Chepman and Myller's prints in the Special Collections at the University of Glasgow, we do have an interesting administrative document that perhaps records the first appearance of Walter Chepman's name. In a set of papers relating to the Boyd family of Trochrig in Ayrshire is a public instrument, dated November 1485. It is a property deed that refers to Andrew McCormyll who ran a grammar school; Chepman's name (amongst others) appears twice as "scholar", recording his presence at two sasines in Ayr relating to the transaction.

title-page of the first book printed in Glasgow

A printing press was not actually established in Glasgow until the beginning of the 17th century. Probably by invitation of the Town Council and University, George Anderson moved his press to Glasgow from Edinburgh. He was paid "ane hundrethe pundis" towards the cost of "transporting of his geir" by the City. The first book he produced in Glasgow appeared in 1638.

Never officially appointed as University printer, nonetheless some of Anderson's output was University related. Understandably, the University had a great demand for texts and it was a boon that books could now be produced locally.

A University imprint appeared for the first time on a graduation thesis printed by Andrew Anderson in 1659. He was succeeded by Robert Sanders who, by 1672, was describing himself as "Urbis et Universitatis Typographus" (Printer to the City and University). By the end of the 17th century, the University Printer was an official appointment, with accommodation being provided in the College. The University printers were responsible for producing students textbooks and academic works written by Professors; in time, much of the University's administrative business - such as theses, advertisements, calendars and testimonials - was also recorded in print by the University press.

The books published during the first hundred years of the University press were marred by poor workmanship. They have been generally derided for their inaccuracies and bad presswork.

colophon of book published
 by MacLehose  in 1896
(MacLehose 10)

This sorry state changed dramatically in the mid 18th century with the work of the Foulis brothers, Robert and Andrew. Together, they established a reputation for high quality works that were meticulously proof read. Mainly classical and literary, Foulis books gained an international standing for their beauty and design, bringing fame to Glasgow and its University.

The first half of the 19th Century saw University printers come and go in quick succession, resulting in largely nondescript work. Andrew Duncan proved to be an exception to this, producing some excellent classical work on behalf of the University and briefly proving to be prosperous enough to introduce new printing techniques to Glasgow. The last phase in the history of the press began in 1872 with the appointment of Robert MacLehose. Imbued with the ideals that had spurred on Foulis, pride was again taken in producing typographically elegant work.

The MacLehose firm remained as official printers to the University for over one hundred years until the company was liquidated in 1982. There has been no Glasgow University Press since.

There is a website dedicated to the 2008 celebrations of 500 years of Scottish printing: this lists all the events and exhibitions that are taking place across the country.

The following have been extremely useful in compiling this virtual exhibition:

James Coutts A history of the University of Glasgow from its foundation in 1451 to 1909 Glasgow: MacLehose, 1909 Sp Coll Mu21-a.2

James MacLehose The Glasgow University Press, 1638-1931: with some notes on Scottish printing in the last three hundred years Glasgow: Glasgow University Press, 1931  Sp Coll Maclehose 399 and Bibliog B115:7-G 1931-M
*This is still the authoritative work on the Glasgow University Press and has been the main source of information for this web display*

James MacLehose & Sons. Books published by James MacLehose from 1838 to 1881, and by James MacLehose and Sons to 1905: presented to the Library of the University of Glasgow. Glasgow: The University Press, 1905 Sp Coll MacLehose 665

George Fairfull Smith Robert & Andrew Foulis, the Foulis Press, and Their Legacy University of Glasgow Special Collections website

National Library of Scotland Scottish Book Trade Index

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (various articles)

Julie Gardham June 2008