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.