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British Industrial History

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Blackie and Son

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of 17 Stanhope Street, Glasgow, Scotland.

1809 The firm known after 1890 as Blackie and Son Ltd, was founded on 20 November, by John Blackie, snr, (1782-1874) in partnership with two friends, Archibald Fullerton and William Somerville and was known as Blackie, Fullerton and Co. John Blackie, snr, who was born in Glasgow, was originally in business as a weaver. He was persuaded that money could be made by selling sizeable books in monthly or quarterly instalments, by subscription.

By 1811, the firm had already started to publish its own books.

1819, John Blackie, snr, expanded into printing. He took on a practising Glasgow printer, Edward Khull, as a partner and initially used Khull's printing works at East Clyde Street, and worked with him as Khull, Blackie and Co. The bookselling side of the business continued separately in Edinburgh as Fullerton, Somerville and Co.

1826 When Khull retired from the business, he took his original printing works with him.

1827 John Blackie, snr, entered into partnership with Hutchison and Brookman, printers and stereotypers, of Saltmarket, Glasgow. There were four partners: John Blackie, snr, George Brookman, William Lang and R. Hutchison.

1829 The Edinburgh and Glasgow companies purchased the firm of Andrew and J. M. Duncan, printers to the University of Glasgow, at Villafield, close to Glasgow Cathedral, and moved Hutchison and Brookman into the newly acquired premises. Later, the printing premises in Bishopbriggs, north of Glasgow retained the name The Villafield Press.

1831 Archibald Fullerton retired from the Edinburgh partnership, renamed Blackie, Fullerton and Co after the retirement of William Somerville in 1821, and John Blackie, jnr, became a partner with his father. The firm was renamed Blackie and Son.

1837 Robert Hutchison retired. The business was working from Bishopbriggs and known at that date as George Brookman and Co, and a new printing business was established under the name W. G. Blackie and Co. Walter Graham Blackie (1816-1906) was the second son of John Blackie, snr. Thereafter, all aspects of the business came under the ultimate control of members of the Blackie family.

1876/74 After the deaths of John Blackie, jnr, in 1873 and John Blackie, snr, in 1874, responsibility for the company's affairs passed to the two younger sons of John Blackie, snr; Robert and Walter Graham Blackie and eventually to three of their sons; John Alexander Blackie (1850-1918), the eldest son of W. G. Blackie; Walter Wilfred Blackie (1860-1953), the third son of W. G. Blackie; and James R. Blackie, the son of Robert Blackie.

1890 The two companies, Blackie and Son and W. G. Blackie and Co were eventually amalgamated after Blackie and Son became a public limited company in 1890, changing its name to Blackie and Sons Ltd.

During the nineteenth century, the company developed along two main lines: bookselling and publishing in the subscriptions business, and also with printing and book production. Printing and book production was initially carried out for many different publishers, but as the work increased, it was limited to the company's own publications. The earliest books sold by subscription were often religious, but during the middle years of the century, the company moved into the production of a series of extensive, illustrated reference works. Many of which appeared under the label of 'Imperial'

As the means of production and distribution became cheaper and more efficient, the company began to publish, alongside the subscription trade, single volumes, particularly educational texts and books for children, taking advantage of the introduction of compulsory education from 1870.

1909 Blackie and Son had offices in London and Dublin. 

Post-WW1. The company set up a Scientific and Technical Department, and began to publish advanced scientific and mathematical texts.

1922 Listed Exhibitor - British Industries Fair. Manufacturers of Illustrated Picture Books, Children's Toy Books, Boys' and Girls' Story Books, Educational Books, Dictionaries, Technical and Scientific Books, Writing Copy Books. (Stand No. K.122) [1]

1929, new printing works, retaining the original name 'The Villafield Press', were built in Bishopbriggs, Glasgow. During the early years of the twentieth century, overseas subsidiary companies were set up in India, Canada and Australasia. The subscription side of the business was run by a subsidiary company, The Gresham Publishing Co from 1898 (incorporated 1917), and this company continued trading until 1948.

During World War II, the company used part of their Bishopbriggs works space for the manufacture of 25 pound shells for the Ministry of Supply. They also undertook some toolmaking for another Glasgow company, William Beardmore and Co, and, for a short time, produced aircraft radiators.

1960 The publishing and administration section of the company moved to join the printing section in Bishopbriggs.

1971, new premises were occupied in Wester Cleddens Road, Bishopbriggs, eventually becoming the headquarters of the company. In the same year another subsidiary company was set up, Abelard Schuman Ltd.

1991 Blackie and Son Ltd, ceased publishing.

See Also


Sources of Information

  • [1] Archives Hub