[Mackay, Sheriff A. J. (1895) 'A Short Note on the Local Presses of Scotland', Papers of the Edinburgh Bibliographical Society 1895-98, vol. III, Edinburgh: Printed for the Society. This was reprinted from an Appendix to Fife and Kinross in the 'County Histories of Scotland', Wm Blackwood & Sons. A separate article by Sheriff Mackay in the same volume is entitled 'List of books relating to Fife and Kinross'. ]

Edinburgh Bibliographical Society.







HE beginning of the local press in Scotland cannot be called ancient history. With the exception of Edinburgh, where Chepman and Miller issued their first broadsheets in 1508; and St. Andrews, where Archbishop Hamilton brought John Scott, who printed the Archbishop's Catechism at St. Andrews in 1552, which was followed by the well-known publications of Lekprevik in favour of the Reformation, no town in Scotland is known to have printed any book in the sixteenth century. Edward Raban began to print in Aberdeen in 1622. George Anderson appers to have been the first printer in Glasgow, and his first book appears to have been The Protestation of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, . . . printed in 1638, during the famous Glasgow Assembly. Evan Tyler, a printer of Edinburgh, started a press at Leith in 1651, at which some of the pamphlets and other publications of the Commonwealth were printed, and in the same year Christopher Higgins was brought by Cromwell to Leith, where he reprinted A Diurnal of some Passages and Affairs for the use of the English soldiers. On 26th October 1653, the Mercurius Politicus, usually called the first Scottish newspaper, was issued, and continued to be printed in Leith till November 1654, when the press was transferred to Edinburgh. As is well known, through the remainder of the century little printing was done in Scotland outside of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen. The monopoly of Andrew Anderson and p.34 / his widow repressed local printing. So far as I know, though I do not pretend to speak with the assurance of accuracy, the progress of the Local or County Press in Scotland is marked by the following dates:—

Kirkbride,1 in the Presbytery of    Hawick and Montrose, . . .1784
   Penpont, Dumfries, . . .1712    Kelso, . . .1799
Dumfries, . . .1715    Dunfermline, . . . . .1800
Berwick, . . .1759    Ayr, . . . .1801
Dundee, . . .1763    Greenock, . . .1802
Perth, . . . 1770    Cupar Fife, . . .1809
Inverness, . . .1774    Arbroath, . . . .1805
Kilmarnock, . . .1778    Peterhead and Hamilton, . .1820

   1 See as to this curious commencement of the local press of Scotland, Watson's Art of Printing (1713), p. 29. 'In 1711 Mr. Peter Rae, a Presbyterian Minister, set up a small house at Kirkbride, near Dumfries, where he continues printing. He is an ingenious man, having made a Press for his own use, and is making advances towards the Founding of Letters.' He printed Topica Sacra in 1712, and The Oath of Abjuration no Ground for Separation in 1713 at Kirkbride. He removed his printing house to the Kirkgate, Dumfries, where his own History of the Rebellion of 1715 was printed and published by his brother, Robert Rae, in 1718.

      This list, which is a little outside my present purpose, need not be carried further. Nor can I follow out the many reflections to which it might give rise. The introduction of the first printing press is not merely the commencement of a new skilled trade, but of a new source and kind of intelligence. What the discovery of printing was in its earliest days, though in a diminishing degree as time passes, the first press is in the local centre.
      The Press of Cupar, in Fife, which is the subject of this note, was due to the energy and care of Robert Tullis.
      James Morison son of Robert Morison the well-known Perth printer and bookseller, who published an edition of The Muses Threnodie, by H. Adamson, at Perth in 1774, was appointed printer for the University of St. Andrews in April 1795, and printed several books at Perth for the University of St. Andrews in 1796 and 1797. But his Press, though careful and accurate, was, for some reason I have not discovered, not a pecuniary success. Perhaps The Encyclopædia Perthensis, printed in Perth 1802, was too large and ambitious an undertaking.
      Francis Rae printed a few books at St. Andrews in 1800 and 1801, but was not printer to the University. One of these, printed in 1800, bears to have been printed for R. Tullis, Bookseller, Cupar-Fife. Rae also did not prosper as a printer, and when he ceased to print, Tullis came into the field. His first work was a patriotic undertaking, a reprint of 'The History of the Ancient and Modern Sheriffdoms of Fife and Kinross, by Sir Robert Sibbald, with Notes by Laurence Adams, D.D.,' published in 1803.

p.35 /

      In 1807 he published an edition of Sallust for Dr. John Hunter, the Professor of Humanity, which was followed by editions of Caesar in 1809, Virgil in 1810, and Horace in 1812, for the same eminent scholar.
      In 1813 he received the appointment of Printer for the University of St. Andrews, doubtless owing to his connection with, and the satisfaction his printing had given to Dr. Hunter.
      The title of Printer to the University, first, I think, occurs in Notes of Greek Grammar, 1813, and a second edition of Dr. Hunter's Horace published in that year.
      In 1822 he started, on 14th March, the Cupar Herald, whose name was changed in 1823 to the Fife Herald, a paper which, under a series of other editors, has maintained an honourable place in the provincial Scottish Press.
      Robert Tullis was succeeded in 1838 by his son, Mr. G. S. Tullis, who continued to print the Herald, as well as a few books yearly, down to 1859. It was resumed by Mr. A. Westwood in 1862, and made its first success by the publication of Tammas Bodkin, or the Humours of a Scottish Tailor, by W. D. Latto, in 1864.

presscom logo
Website contents
Further pages on the History of Printing, Typography & the Private Press