Imprentit: 500 years of the Scottish printed word

Poster for 'Imprentit' exhibition

Our free exhibition celebrated 500 years of printing in Scotland, with treasures on show from our historic collections. Ran from Friday 27 June to Sunday 12 October 2008.


Printing's profound impact in Scotland across five centuries is the focus of the National Library of Scotland summer exhibition.

'Imprentit: 500 years of the Scottish printed word' shows how printing has affected every aspect of Scotland as a nation.

Books, magazines, pamphlets, and many more printed items from our rich collections reveal the role that print has played in people's lives.

Oldest dated printed book

One of the exhibition's highlights is the only known surviving copy of the oldest dated Scottish printed book. Scotland's first printers, Chepman and Myllar, produced this book in Edinburgh on 4 April 1508. This is a rare chance to see it on display.

Other highlights

Detail from Acts of Parliament, 1542
Acts of Parliament,
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Visitors can view lots of other Scottish printing 'firsts', such as:

  • The first printed acts of the Scottish Parliament (1542)
  • The first bible printed in Scotland
  • The first medical book
  • The first book written by a woman
  • The first edition of the first 'Encyclopaedia Britannica'
  • Scotland's first newspaper
  • The first secular book printed in Gaelic
  • The first Scottish history book.

Key themes

In 'Imprentit' we explore printing's impact through several key themes, including:

  • The origins of printing in Scotland
  • Politics
  • Science and technology
  • Education
  • Religion
  • Literature.

From logarithms to television

Picture of Logie Baird
Baird's 'Televisor'
leaflet, 1926.
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The science and technology theme, for example, acknowledges Scotland's role in developing the knowledge and inventions that have shaped modern life.

Among exhibits are the table of logarithms invented by John Napier (1614) and a leaflet promoting the 'Televisor' of John Logie Baird (1926).

From 'Waverley' to 'Rebel Inc'

The first books published in Scotland were the popular literary works of the day. Keeping with that idea, we have assembled works by Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns and Alexander McCall Smith.

Scott's novel 'Waverley' (1814) was the first ever historical novel. In contrast there is a 1994 edition of 'Rebel Inc' — the fanzine in which Irving Welsh's 'Trainspotting' began.

Prayer book and magazine
Prayer book and fanzine.
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Year of celebrations

Our summer exhibition is part of a year-long celebration of the 500th anniversary of printing in Scotland, with events happening throughout the country.

And in case you are wondering, 'Imprentit' is an old Scottish word for 'printed'.


Hand holding tiny book
Miniature book.
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See also:



Past exhibitions list


Exhibitions page


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