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Category: Print, National Library of Scotland

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Explore almost 1,000 years of Scotland's history via the National Library of Scotland's interactive timeline. Trace events as they happened by reading the first-hand accounts of observers, from the death of St Margaret to the opening of the new Scottish Parliament. Digital facsimiles of some of the most important documents in our collections help to illustrate the story of the shaping of the Scottish nation.

This website is based on an exhibition of manuscripts and printed material held in the National Library of Scotland in the summer of 2000. It uses extracts from the book Reportage Scotland, edited by Louise Yeoman and published by Luath Press in association with NLS.

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Muriel Spark was identified as a promising and creative writer when her name was still Muriel Camberg and she was still at school. Some of her poems had already been published by the time she won her first poetry prize, at the age of 12.

Dame Muriel – poet, writer of fiction and literary criticism, and biographer – went on to win most of the literary awards going, was never out of print, and was at the top of her profession, internationally, for more than half a century.

Best-known as the author of 'The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie', Muriel decided in the 1940s to keep a record of her professional and personal activities, beginning a personal archive that is now one of the largest and most comprehensive held by the National Library of Scotland.

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Welcome to the website where you can find out what was happening in Edinburgh's Theatre Royal at the start of the 19th century.

The Theatre Royal was extremely important in the revival of Scottish culture during this period, and is often associated with popular stage adaptations of novels by Sir Walter Scott. We have digitised a selection of over 240 playbills, which were used to advertise performances and events, using originals in the collection of the National Library of Scotland.

Search or browse the playbills to see who performed in a particular play or which musical events were scheduled for the same night. We provide a list of further reading and links to living theatres in Scotland today.

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The only known copies of nine of the earliest books printed in Scotland are the most precious items held by the National Library of Scotland in its role as custodian of the nation’s printed heritage.

Known as ‘The Chepman & Myllar Prints’, they were produced in or about 1508 on Scotland’s first printing press, established in Edinburgh (in what is now the Cowgate) by Walter Chepman and Androw Myllar. Chepman, an Edinburgh merchant, provided the money. Myllar, an Edinburgh bookseller who had previously been involved with printing in France, brought with him experience in the book trade.

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We can trace Scottish printing back to 4 April 1508.

On that date the earliest surviving dated book in Scotland was printed in Edinburgh.

Here you can read full texts of items printed on 33 of the first 38 printing presses set up in Scotland between 1508 and 1900. These have been digitised from the National Library of Scotland's collections.

They include that first dated printed book – see The Complaint of the Black Knight, printed by Chepman and Myllar.

You can also trace the geographical spread of printing in Scotland, from the first printing towns to the 'printing revolution' in the 19th century.

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Mapmaking and printing from 1820 to 2002

The Bartholomew Archive is the remarkable record of the Edinburgh-based firm of map engravers, printers and publishers, John Bartholomew & Son Ltd. It is one of the most extensive cartographic archives available for research in a public institution.

Members of the Bartholomew family were engaged in map-making from the first known map engraving work of George Bartholomew in 1825. John Bartholomew junior started printing operations before 1870. For more than a century afterwards the Bartholomew firm specialised in high-quality map production.
Importance of the archive

The Bartholomew Archive enables us to:

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In the centuries before there were newspapers and 24-hour news channels, the general public had to rely on street literature to find out what was going on. The most popular form of this for nearly 300 years was 'broadsides' - the tabloids of their day. Sometimes pinned up on walls in houses and ale-houses, these single sheets carried public notices, news, speeches and songs that could be read (or sung) aloud.

The National Library of Scotland's online collection of nearly 1,800 broadsides lets you see for yourself what 'the word on the street' was in Scotland between 1650 and 1910. Crime, politics, romance, emigration, humour, tragedy, royalty and superstitions - all these and more are here.

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