500 years of printing in Scotland

Friday 4 April marks the 500th anniversary of printing in Scotland and, to celebrate the occasion, visitors to the National Library of Scotland will have a rare chance to see the oldest printed Scottish book as it goes on display for the day from 10am to 5pm at NLS on George IV Bridge, Edinburgh.

On 4 April 1508, the first copy of The Complaint of the Black Knight, by John Lydgate, ran off the presses of the printing firm of Chepman and Myllar. It is the earliest dated printed book in Scotland. 2008 sees a series of events taking place across the nation to mark the anniversary, and this week sees a particularly busy period of activity. The celebrations are being led in partnership by NLS, the Scottish Printing and Archival Trust and the Scottish Print Employers' Federation.

NLS Director of Collections development Cate Newton said: 'NLS is delighted to be taking part in the celebrations for this important event. As Scotland's National Library, the first printed Scottish book is perhaps the single most significant item in our collections and I hope as many people as possible will come along to have a look at it.'

On April 4 NLS will also be unveiling a new website which charts the spread of printing throughout Scotland from 1508 onwards. The website includes digital versions of the first items printed in each printing press from 1508 to 1800, from Inverness to Dumfries and from Campbelltown to Berwick-Upon-Tweed.

The display at the National Library of Scotland is a taster for a major summer exhibition on the history of printing in Scotland, which opens at the Library in June. NLS will also be publishing a book to coincide with the exhibition, entitled Scottish Printed Books: 1508-2008.

Also on Friday 4, a plaque will be unveiled by Councillor Donald Wilson on the site of the former Chepman and Myllar printworks in the Cowgate at 11am, whilst there will also be the chance for people to get their own souvenir of the day as the Heidelberg Roadshow - a truck bearing a working Heidelberg press - arrives in the grounds of the National Galleries of Scotland from 10am.

Other events taking place during the week include:

  • Exhibitions containing some of the earliest fragments from the Chepman and Myllar press go on show in Dundee (Dei Donum - celebrating 500 years of printing in Scotland and learning in Dundee) and Glasgow (Henry the Minstrel's poem on William Wallace printed by Walter Chepman and Androw Myllar circa 1508) on Monday 31 March and Tuesday 1 April respectively.
  • On Tuesday 1 April, Publishing Scotland are inviting people to a Book Swap in Edinburgh, where readers can bring a favourite book, write a recommendation card and swap their book for another. Scottish publishers are donating hundreds of books to get the event started and there are prize draws and giveaways as well as the chance to speak to some of the top Scottish authors who are coming along, including Ian Rankin.
  • On Thursday 3 April, the Heidelberg Roadshow will be in Glasgow at the Metropolitan College of Art, whilst one of the oldest working printworks in the country, Smail's at Innerleithen, will be hosting living history workshops. Thursday will see a preview of both the oldest book and for a strikingly exciting modern take on a historical theme as a website is launched which looks at the spread of printing through Scotland. On the site, users will be able to see versions of the earliest printed works made in locales throughout Scotland.
  • On Friday April 4, a special dinner will be held in the Playfair Library Hall in the Old College of the University of Edinburgh. Dundee Contemporary Arts will produce a series of screen prints based on Chepman and Myllar on the day, whilst a free exhibition opens in Kilmarnock on Saturday 5. In addition, an ongoing series of events and exhibitions will continue across Scotland for the week from Aberdeen to Abbotsford and from Innerleithen to Inverness.


National Library of Scotland
George IV Bridge

Tel: 0131 623 3700


Back to top   |   Press Releases main page   |   main News page

31 March 2008

Speak me