Literary History, pp.299-307.

[Old Glasgow Contents]

As to the state of Old Glasgow in respect of literature there is not much to record. I have already given a few instances of grants by the magistrates for the encouragement of authors, and a few other notices of our local literature may be interesting.

There was no press in Glasgow till near the middle of the seventeenth century. Printing was first introduced there by George Anderson, who came to the city by special invitation of the magistrates in 1638. The earliest recorded notice on the subject is contained in the following minute of the town council: “4 January 1640 Ordaines the thesaurare to pay to George Andersone printer ane hundrethe pundis [£5] in satisfactioun to him of the superplus he disbursit in transporting of his geir to this brughe by [besides] the ten dollouris he gave of him befor to that effect, and als in satisfactioun to him of his haill bygane fiallis fra Whitsonday in anno 1638 to Martinmas last.” And in the following year, 1641, there is an entry inthe treasurer’s accounts: “Item to George Andersone, printer, his yeiris pensioune lxvj lib. xiijs. iiijd.” This pension the corporation afterwards agreed to continue “to his relict and his bairnes swa long as they continow in prenting in the toune.” Anderson was succeeded by his son Andrew, who continued printing in Glasgow till 1661, when he went to Edinburgh. His successor was Robert Sanders, who styled himself “Printer to the city,” and who was for many years the only printer in the west of Scotland. I have already noticed the Almanacks printed by him in 1667 and subsequent years. The first copy of the Scriptures printed in Glasgow was a New Testament printed by Sanders in 1666. In 1671, when engaged in printing another edition of the New Testament, he was opposed by his predecessor Andrew Anderson, who had obtained the appointment of his Majesty’s sole printer for Scotland, and who bribed the workmen to desert Sanders. This oppressive action was brought before the privy council, which decided that Sanders should be allowed to finish his book, and that every printer in Scotland had an equal right with his Majesty’s to print the New Testament and Psalm Book, in the letter commonly called English Roman. In 1680 the heir of Anderson complained to the privy council that Sanders had vended Bibles printed in and imported from Holland, and that he had reprinted several works in divinity, contrary to privilege. This charge having been established against Sanders, by his own confession, he was ordained to deliver to Anderson the books so printed, but no other penalty was inflicted. He ultimately acquired by purchase a share of the royal patent, and having brought workmen and materials from Holland he printed several works in a creditable style.1 Sanders became wealthy, and bequeathed some valuable property to the Merchants’ House. He died about 1696, leaving his establishment to his son Robert. The latter, among other works, printed in 1720 an edition of the Pilgrim’s Progress with coarse but spirited woodcuts.

Printing was now and for some years afterwards at the lowest state in Glasgow. No one appears to have been employed by the printers for the sole purpose of correcting the press, and the low wages given to pressmen, with the badness of the machines, tended to retard improvement. A paper was presented to the Faculty in 1713, entitled “Proposals for erecting a Booksellers shop, and a printing press within the University of Glasgow,” in which it is stated that people were “obliged to go to Edinburgh in order to gett one sheet right printed.” Two years afterwards “Donald Govane younger, merchant in Glasgow and printer,” was appointed printer to the university for seven years. By the contract the university became bound “to ffurnish for the use of the said Donald two chambers within the Colledge to wit numbers twenty four and thirtie, with a sellar for coalls, and a garret in the steeple for drying his papers or roumes.”2

In 1718 the art of type-making was introduced in Glasgow by James Duncan. The types were of his own manufacture, rudely cut and badly proportioned. He is well known as the typographer of McUre’s History. In this book, which is very badly printed, he is styled “Printer to the City.” His shop was in the Saltmarket, near Gibson’s Wynd. In 1740 we find Robert Urie and Company printing in the Gallowgate, and during the following year they executed several works for Robert Foulis. They also printed the Glasgow Journal, which had been begun by Andrew Stalker in 1741.

Another printer deserves special notice – Dugald Graham, poet and bellman as well as printer. In the rebellion of 1745 Dugald had followed the contending armies in the capacity of pedlar or suttler, and he has left us a graphic, though rather coarse, rhyming chronicle of that stirring time. This work ran through many editions, and Sir Walter Scott at one time thought of printing a correct copy from the original edition in order to present it as his contribution to the Maitland Club, because, to use Sir Walter’s words, “it really contained some traits and circumstances of manners worth preserving.”3 Dugald afterwards took to printing, and from his press there issued the celebrated Glasgow chap-books, so dear to the book collector of our day, and of many of which he was the author. While thus employed the office of bellman became vacant, and Dugald applied for and obtained it.

In connection with printing may be noticed a minute in the burgh records in the beginning of the seventeenth century, which is interesting not only from its reference to the publication, under government authority, of the body of laws known as the Regiam Majestatem, but as showing the low state of the city finances at that time. The expense of printing these ancient statutes had been ordered to be provided by an assessment on all the Scottish burghs. The share to be paid by Glasgow was fixed at one hundred pounds Scots – only £8, 6s. 8d.; but so poor was the corporation that they were unable to provide the amount, and being threatened with “horning” they had to borrow the money “fra William Burn merchand burgess.”4

But the press of Glasgow obtained a European reputation by the skill and enterprise of Robert Foulis and his brother Andrew – the former born in 1707 and the latter five years afterwards. After visiting England and the continent, and having acquired a considerable knowledge of books, they settled in Glasgow, where, in 1741, Robert began business as a bookseller. The first production of his press appeared in the following year, and in 1743 he was appointed printer to the university. The works which issued from this celebrated press – particularly the folio editions of the Iliad and Odyssey and of Milton’s Poems, and other splendid works – have never been surpassed in beauty of typography or correctness of printing. The folio Iliad, as a Greek book, is considered one of the finest classics ever produced at any press.

Robert Foulis was an early member of the Literary Society established in Glasgow, and Andrew joined it soon afterwards. At the meetings of this society Adam Smith read his valuable essays; and Dr. Hutchison, Dr. Reid. Dr. Black, and Dr. Moir read papers and took part in the proceedings. Both Robert Foulis and Andrew delivered discourses on the fine arts and on various other subjects.

But the Foulises did not confine themselves to printing. To them Glasgow is indebted for the establishment of its first School of Art6. About 1753 they established an academy for painting, engraving, modelling, and drawing, and some of the most interesting views which we possess of the city, as it was in the middle of the eighteenth century, were drawn and engraved in this academy. The university allowed them the use of what became afterwards part of the Library in the buildings in the High Street, as an exhibition room for their pictures, and of several other rooms for their students; and three Glasgow merchants, with a view to the promotion of art, became partners in the undertaking. These were Mr. Campbell of Clathic, Mr. Glassford of Dugaldston, and Mr. Archibald Ingram. In a letter written by Robert Foulis in 1763 to Mr. Yorke, he says: “The Academy is now coming into a state of tolerable maturity. We have modelling, engraving, original history painting, and portrait painting – all in a reputable degree of perfection. In the morning our more advanced students sketch historical subjects from Plutarch’s Lives and other ancient books. The day is employed in painting and engraving, and by the younger scholars in drawing. In the evening they draw three days a week after a model, and other three after casts of plaister from the antique.”


The annexed illustration, which is copied from one of the engravings executed in the academy, represents a portion of the library of the college occupied by the studio of the Foulises. Like the view of the fore court, it is interesting as showing the costume of the time, and the prominent figure in cocked hat and flowing gown represents, in all probability, one of the proud tobacco lords already referred to, who, in scarlet cloaks, paced their privileged walk in the Trongate.

Besides these and other engravings, the pupils of the academy executed many paintings, including copies of celebrated works of art. Among these last was one which Robert Foulis, in a letter written in 1753, describes as a copy of “the most celebrated picture in Scotland, namely, Daniel in the den of lions – the size of life, which the Duke of Hamilton generously offered us the liberty of copying.” In the same letter Robert Foulis says: “The copy was finished a few days ago, and placed up in the Duke’s gallery on his birthday, and I have been assured by many that were present that it gave universal satisfaction to a great number of nobility and gentry who were present.”5 I refer specially to this work because in the view previously given of the inner court of the college,6 it will be recognized in the picture suspended on the steeple over the bust of Zachary Boyd.

I may mention, in passing, that as the university provided accommodation i their own buildings for the special use of Robert Foulis, so to its credit it accorded afterwards a similar favour to James Watt, when he was prevented by the incorporation of Hammermen from carrying on his important experiments in any other premises within the city.

But latterly matters did not prosper with the Foulises. The academy was broken up in 1770, and after the death of Andrew the stock of pictures and engravings was sold at a very inadequate price. On the death of Robert in 1776, their affairs were found to be in a state of insolvency, and they were finally wound up in 1781 by Robert Chapman, printer, and James Duncan, bookseller in Glasgow.7 Andrew left a son of the same name, by whom the printing business was for some time continued. Among other works from his press was the beautiful quarto edition of the Gentle Shepherd, published in 1788 by David Allan, with illustrations designed and engraved by himself “in the manner called aqua tinta, a late invention.”

Of the history of printing in Glasgow after this, and the very high position which it has achieved in our own day, I need not speak.

In the old catalogue, which has been preserved, of the books belonging to the Cathedral, one is stated to be in the hands of the binder, whose name is given – Richard Arr. This was probably the first bookbinder in Glasgow. His prefix of dominus shows him to have been a churchman.

The first Directory published in Glasgow was compiled and printed by John Tait in 1783. Its title is, “John Taits Directory for the city of Glasgow, villages of Anderston, Calton and Gorbals; also for the towns of Paisley, Greenock, Port Glasgow and Kilmarnock.” The list for the last-named town is omitted, “the publisher not having received the Kilmarnock list in proper time.” Jones’ Directory appeared in 1787. It was printed “for the Editor by John Mennons.” The editor apologizes for the list of names not being so full as he wished, having found, he says, “a great backwardness in receiving an explicit answer from a number of persons in trade, for reasons best known to themselves.”

Till a comparatively recent period there was no newspaper printed in Glasgow. Even after the middle of the seventeenth century the means of obtaining intelligence were very scanty, and the magistrates appear to have seldom or never seen a London paper. The first step taken to remedy this dearth of intelligence is recorded in a minute of the town council of 5th September, 1657, which “appoynts Johne Flyming to wryt to his man wha lyes at London to send hom for the tounes use weiklie ane diurnall.” Previous to this the magistrates were supplied with weekly intelligence by one of their counsel or law agents in Edinburgh – Mr. John Nicoll.

Some twenty years afterwards one “Collonell Walter Whytfoord” obtained an exclusive right from the magistrates “to sett up, to sell, top, and vent coffee within the burgh for the space of nyneteen yeares.”8 One of his objects was to provide newspapers as well as coffee, as had been the custom in such houses in England. By an order of the Privy Council soon afterwards, however, masters of all such coffee-houses were forbidden to allow any newspaper to be read in their houses “but such as were approved by the Officers of State.”9 What success the colonel had does not appear.

The first newspaper published in Glasgow appeared on the 14th of November, 1715, and, curiously enough, it was a penny paper. It bore for its title, “The Glasgow Courant containing the occurrences both at Home and Abroad: Glasgow, Printed for R. T, and are to be sold at the Printing House in the Colledge and at the Post Office.” It soon changed its name, however, as the fourth number appeared under the title, “The West Country Intelligence.” The prospectus was as follows: “This paper is to be printed three times every week for the use of the Country round. Any gentleman or Minister, or any other who wants them, may have them at the Universities Printing House or at the Post Office. It is hoped this paper will give satisfaction to the Readers and that they will encourage it by sending Subscriptions for one year, half year, or quarterly, to the above directed places, when they shall be served at a most easie rate. Advertisements are to be taken in at either the printing house in the College or Post office. The gentlemen in the towns of Aberdeen St. Andrews Inverness, Brechen, Dundee, St. Johnstoune, Stirling, Dumbarton, Inverary, Dumfries, Lanerk, Hamilton, Irvin, Air, Kilmarnock, and Stranraer, are desired to send by post any News they have, and especially Sea-port towns to advise what ships come in or sail off from these parts.” The “easy rate” at which the paper was to be sold was afterwards announced thus: “N.B. This paper is not sold in retail under three halfpence, but for encouragement to subscribers for one penny.” Such was the first Glasgow newspaper. It is not known how long it was continued, but a set consisting of sixty-seven numbers is preserved in the college library. It was printed on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, in a small quarto form, each copy containing twelve pages. It was made up chiefly of extracts from foreign journals and the London newspapers, with private letters and occasionally poetry, but there was very little local news.10 But the Intelligence did not long survive, and for twenty-five years no newspaper was printed in Glasgow.

In [20th] July, 1741, as already mentioned, the Glasgow Journal was started, under the editorship of Andrew Stalker. It was well printed, but it exhibited little of the courage of journalism. During the rebellion of 1745 accounts of many of the most important events were suppressed, and at last the editor got so terrified that he retired from the management, announcing as his reason that “considering the situation of affairs, I cannot with safety publish so as to please the generality of my readers.” His place was taken by a Mr. Urie, who continued to print in Glasgow till his death in 1771.

Some of the notices of marriages in this Glasgow Journal are amusing. For example: “March 24th 1746. On monday last James Dennistoun Junr of Colgraine Esq. was married to Miss Jenny Baird a beautiful young lady.” “May 4th 1747 On monday last Dr. Robert Hamilton Professor of Anatomy and Botany in the University of Glasgow was married to Miss Mally Baird a beautiful young lady with a handsome fortune.” “August 3d 1747 On monday last Mr. James Johnstone, merchant in this place was married to Miss Peggy Newall an agreeable young lady with £4000.” But the Journal was not peculiar in this style of notices. It but followed the common practice of the time – the Gentleman’s Magazine and other publications of that period being full of them. For example:- “1735 April. Mr. Wyatt a noted Quaker of Ware to Miss Procter, who the day before stood Godmother to him at his baptism.” “June. George Grantham Esq. to Mrs. Marshall, widow. He is her 5th husband and she his 5th wife.” “January 20 Mr. Pitt of Bethnall Green to Mrs. Cox widow, worth £5000. She is about 80 and Mr. Pitt is her 5th husband. He is about 70 and she his third wife. Their acquaintance commenced since new-year’s-day.”11

In 1747 the Glasgow Courant appeared, but it had only a short existence. The Chronicle was commenced in 1766; the Mercury in 1775, and the Advertiser in 1783. The Journal, Mercury, and Advertiser were for a long time the only local papers. The Advertiser was discontinued in 1801.

1  Dr. Lees’ Memorial, App. pp. 46, 131.
2  Glasgow Papers, Maitland Club, pp. 5, 120.
3  Letter by Sir Walter Scott to the late Dr. Strang. Glasgow and its Clubs, p. 91.
4  Minute of Council, 25th Feb. 1609.
5  Literary Hist. of Glasgow (Maitland Club), p. 85.
6  Ante, p. 135.
7  Notices Illustrative of the literary History of Glasgow (Maitland Club), p. 46.
8  11th October, 1673.
9  Crookshanks’ Hist. of Ch. of Scotland, vol. ii. p. 127.
10  Notices and Documents illustrative of the Literary History of Glasgow (Maitland Club), p. 6.
11  Gentleman’s Magazine, 1735.