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 was the focus of the National Library of Scotland summer 2008 exhibition.
'Imprentit: 500 years of the Scottish printed word' showed how printing affected every aspect of Scotland as a nation.
Books, magazines, pamphlets, and many more printed items from our rich collections revealed the role that print has played in people's lives.
Oldest dated printed book
One of the exhibition's highlights was 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 was a rare chance to see it on display.
Visitors viewed 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.
In 'Imprentit' we explored printing's impact through several key themes, including:
- The origins of printing in Scotland
- Science and technology
From logarithms to television
The science and technology theme, for example, acknowledged Scotland's role in developing the knowledge and inventions that have shaped modern life.
From 'Waverley' to 'Rebel Inc'
The first books published in Scotland were the popular literary works of the day. Keeping with that idea, we 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 was a 1994 edition of 'Rebel Inc' — the fanzine in which Irving Welsh's 'Trainspotting' began.
Year of celebrations
Our summer exhibition was 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'.