Records of Blackie & Son Ltd, publishers, Bishopbriggs, Glasgow, Scotland

Scope and Content

Includes business records and papers relating to Blackie & Son Ltd, its five subsidiary companies and to the earlier companies with which it was linked historically.

  • Partnership papers, 1810-1880;
  • Minutes, 1887-1965;
  • Articles of association, 1889-1975;
  • Annual general meeting and special resolutions papers, 1902-1933;
  • Agreements, 1869-1939;
  • Leases, 1878-1936;
  • Title deeds, 1829-1938;
  • Legal papers, 1852-1978;
  • Register of seals, 1912-1973;
  • Pension and insurance schemes, 1954-1991;
  • Cessation of trade and sale of company assets, 1992;
  • Financial records, 1826-1963;
  • Share records, 1889-1988;
  • Stock and trading records, 1813-1985;
  • Production records, 1857-1991;
  • Author agreements with publishers', 1893-1972;
  • Staff records, 1846-1976;
  • Correspondence, 1820-1953;
  • Blackie family papers, 27 Oct 1782-1950;
  • Photographs, 1864-20th century;
  • Blackie & Son Ltd history, 1807-1990;
  • Company histories, 1874-1959;
  • Plans of property, 1857-1933;
  • Articles, pamphlets and ephemera, 1807-1956;
  • International Textbook Co Limited, 1902-1975;
  • Antonine Publishing Company Limited, 1974-1986;
  • Architectual plans and drawings, 1838-20th century.

Administrative / Biographical History

The firm known, after  1890 , as  Blackie & Son Ltd was founded on  20 Nov 1809  by John Blackie, snr, (1782-1874 ) in partnership with two friends, Archibald Fullerton and William Somerville and was known as  Blackie, Fullerton & Co. Born in Glasgow, John Blackie, snr, was originally in business as a weaver but was persuaded that money could be made in the 'Numbers Trade'. This was a form of selling sizeable books in monthly or quarterly instalments, by subscription.

By  1811 , the firm was already beginning to publish its own books and in  1819 , John Blackie, snr, expanded the scope of the business into printing. He took on a practising Glasgow printer, Edward Khull, as a partner and, initially, using Khull's printing works at 8 East Clyde Street, worked with him as Khull, Blackie & Co. The bookselling side of the business continued separately in Edinburgh as Fullerton, Somerville & Co. When Khull retired from the business in  1826 , he took his original printing works with him. In  1827 , John Blackie, snr, entered into partnership with Hutchison & Brookman, printers and stereotypers, of Saltmarket, Glasgow. There were four partners: John Blackie, snr, George Brookman, William Lang and R Hutchison.

In  1829 , the Edinburgh and Glasgow companies purchased the firm of Andrew & J M Duncan, printers to the University of Glasgow, at Villafield, between Stanhope Street and Parson Street, close to Glasgow Cathedral, and moved Hutchison & Brookman into the newly acquired premises. Later, the printing premises in Bishopbriggs, north of Glasgow retained the name The Villafield Press. In  1831 , Archibald Fullerton retired from the Edinburgh partnership, renamed  Blackie, Fullerton & Co  after the retirement of William Somerville in  1821 , and John Blackie, jnr, became a partner with his father. The firm was renamed  Blackie & Son. In  1837 , Robert Hutchison retired from the printing business, now working from Bishopbriggs and known at that date as George Brookman & Co, and a new printing business was established under the name W G Blackie & Co. Walter Graham Blackie (1816-1906 ) was the second son of John Blackie, snr. Thereafter, all aspects of the business came under the ultimate control of members of the Blackie family. The two companies,  Blackie & Son and W G Blackie & Co were eventually amalgamated after  Blackie & Son became a public limited company in  1890 , changing its name to  Blackie & Sons Ltd.

After the deaths of John Blackie, jnr, in  1873  and John Blackie, snr, in  1874 , responsibility for the company's affairs passed to the two younger sons of John Blackie, snr; Robert and Walter Graham Blackie and eventually to three of their sons; John Alexander Blackie (1850-1918 ), the eldest son of W G Blackie, Walter Wilfred Blackie (1860-1953 ), the third son of W G Blackie and James R Blackie, the son of Robert Blackie.

During the nineteenth century, the company developed along two main lines concerned, on the one hand, with bookselling and publishing in the subscriptions business and, on the other, with printing and book production. Initially, printing and book production was carried out for many different publishers, but as the publishing work increased, it was limited to the company's own publications. The earliest books sold by subscription were often religious, but during the middle years of the century, the company moved into the production of a series of extensive, illustrated reference works. Many of which appeared under the label of "Imperial", for example, The Imperial Gazetteer (1855 ), The Imperial Atlas of Modern Geography (1859 ) and The Imperial Bible Dictionary (1866 ).

As the means of production and distribution became cheaper and more efficient, the company began to publish, alongside the subscription trade, single volumes, particularly educational texts and books for children, taking advantage of the introduction of compulsory education from  1870 . After this date, titles carried included; the Century Infant Readers (1888-1906 ), Warner and Marten's Groundwork of British History (1911 ), a number of basic English and Latin grammars, mathematical primers and, from 1881 , a whole series of children's stories designed initially as school prizes and published under the title of 'Reward Books'.

By  Blackie & Son Ltd 1909  had offices at 5 Fitzhardinge Street, London, W1 and in Dublin, Ireland. After  1918 , the company set up a Scientific and Technical Department, and began to publish advanced scientific and mathematical texts. In  1929 , new printing works, retaining the original name 'The Villafield Press', were built on a 13 acre site in Kirkintilloch Road, Bishopbriggs, Glasgow. During the early years of the twentieth century, overseas subsidiary companies were set up: Blackie & Son (India) Ltd, in  1927 ; Blackie & Son (Canada) Ltd; and Blackie & Son (Australasia) Ltd, in  1926 . The subscription side of the business was run by a subsidiary company, The Gresham Publishing Co from  1898  (incorporated  1917 ), and this company continued trading until  1948 .

During the second world war,  Blackie & Son Ltd used 1/3 of their Bishopbriggs works space for the manufacture of 25 pound shells for the Ministry of Supply. They also undertook some toolmaking for another Glasgow company,  William Beardmore & Co Ltd, and, for a short time, produced aircraft radiators.

In  1960  the publishing and administration section of the company moved to join the printing section in Kirkintilloch Road, Bishopbriggs. In  1971 , new premises were occupied in Wester Cleddens Road, Bishopbriggs, eventually becoming the headquarters of the company. In the same year another subsidiary company was set up, Abelard Schuman Ltd.  Blackie & Son Ltd, ceased publishing in  1991 . Academic and professional titles were acquired by Blackie Academic & Professional (an imprint of Chapman & Hall). School titles were acquired by Nelson (Thomas) & Sons Ltd. Children's Titles were acquired by Blackie's Children's Books.


This material is arranged into series, which consist of numbers of items related by format and/or function. Within series, the items are generally arranged chronologically.

Access Information

Most records in this collection are open, however a number are restricted under Data Protection legislation as they contain personal & sensitive information. Please contact the  Duty Archivist  for advice on how to apply for access to these files.

Acquisition Information

Deposit : R Michael Miller, Company Secretary, Blackie & Son Ltd : Nov 1974

Deposit : 1988 (Additional Deposit)

Deposit : Glasgow School of Art : GB 248 ACCN0038* (Additional Deposit)

Loan : via BAC(S) : 1993 : GB 248 ACCN0194* (Additional Deposit)

Loan : via BAC(S) : 1993 : GB 248 ACCN0195* (Additional Deposit)

Gift : 1997 : GB 248 ACCN1595 (Additional Deposit)

Deposit (purchase) : Michael Miller : Dec 2011 : GB 248 ACCN3633 (Additional Deposit).

Other Finding Aids

Digital file level list available in searchroom

Manual file level list available at the National Registers of Archives in Edinburgh (NRA(S)1751 and 2501) and London (NRA21851)

Alternative Form Available

No known copies

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

None which affect the use of this material

Conditions Governing Use

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the University Archivist

Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use & condition of documents

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with standard GB 248 procedures

Custodial History

A 'large tin box' containing 20 items (1835-1912) was deposited with the Glasgow University Archives by arrangement with R Michael Miller, Company Secretary to Blackie & Son Ltd, in Nov 1974. Several further deposits have been received.


None expected

Related Material

GB 248 UGD 061/10/1 Records of Gresham Publishing Co Ltd

GB 248 UGD 061/10/2 Records of Blackie & Son (India) Ltd

GB 248 UGD 061/10/3 Records of Blackie & Son (Canada) Ltd

GB 248 UGD 061/10/4 Records of Blackie & Son (Australasia) Ltd

GB 248 UGD 061/10/5 Records of Abelard Schuman Ltd

GB 234 SC 36/51/141 Inventory and will of Walter Graham Blackie (National Archives of Scotland)

GB 234 SC 65/36/55 Inventory and will of Walter Wilfred Blackie (National Archives of Scotland)

Location of Originals

This material is original


No known publications using this material

Additional Information

Additions by Jenny Cooknell, Assistant Archivist, 11 Oct 1999

Updated by Lesley Richmond, Acting Director, 3 Mar 2000

Updated by David Powell, Hub Project Archivist, 2 Apr 2002

Updated by Gemma Tougher, Assistant Archivist (Cataloguing), 28 Jun 2012.

EAD retroconversion by Peter Morphew, Archive Cataloguer, December 2017.

Geographical Names