Celebration of 500 years of Scottish printing announced

In 2008, it will be 500 years since the first book was printed in Scotland. There will be a nationwide programme of events to celebrate the anniversary, and preparations begin in earnest at the National Library of Scotland this Tuesday with the launch of a new website to promote the Scottish Executive-backed project.

At the launch, representatives from 40 different organisations across the country will meet to discuss ideas and plan events. The website, www.500yearsofprinting.org, has been created by NLS, the Scottish Printing Archival Trust and the Scottish Print Employers Federation, and will act as a tool for event organisers across Scotland to both co-ordinate and publicise their efforts.

The first printed book with a definite publication date in Scotland was John Lydgate's romance, 'The Complaint of the Black Knight', printed on 4 April 1508 on a printing press in Edinburgh's Cowgate by Walter Chepman and Androw Myllar [sic]. The only known copy is held in the NLS rare books collections, and it will form the centrepiece of a major exhibition at the National Library in the summer of 2008.

There will be a range of local events and initiatives across Scotland throughout the year. The purpose of the celebration is to allow the public to see everything from that first printed Chepman and Myllar book to a modern day printing press. Plans so far also include an Edinburgh Printing Trail and a further website which will detail the first printing presses in more than 100 locations across Scotland. There will be a multi-volume 'history of the book in Scotland', to be published by Edinburgh University Press, while a history of the Scottish Print Employers Federation is also in progress.

The project is endorsed by the Scottish Executive and is supported by other organisations, including local museums and libraries throughout Scotland, the National Museums of Scotland, the National Trust for Scotland, the National Archives of Scotland and several universities. A full list can be found on the website.

Brian Hillyard, Rare Books Collections Manager at NLS, said: 'We think that 500 years of printing is a very significant occasion for the nation to celebrate, and we hope that a great many people will take part, whether by arranging or helping with an event or exhibition or simply by attending. The website will evolve and grow over the next two years as plans take shape and new events are added, so it will merit repeat visits.'

Patrick Mark, Chairman of the Scottish Printing Archival Trust, said: 'Our aim is to facilitate the celebration of the anniversary, and we can't do that by ourselves. We want to motivate and encourage people around the country to recognise the opportunity that this anniversary represents and think about how they might mark it. This website will be a great way for the public to find out what's in store, and also for groups interested in taking part to see what other people are planning and when, and derive ideas and schedule their own events accordingly.'

28 May 2006

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