The Edinburgh History of the Book in Scotland - Vol. 4

By David Finkelstein; Alistair McCleery | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

This moral is that the flower of art blooms only where the soil is
deep, that it takes a great deal of history to produce a little litera-
ture, that it needs a complex social machinery to set a writer in
motion. (Henry James, Hawthorne, 1879)

Publishing and the spread of books in Scotland between 1880 and 2000 has followed a trajectory linked to economic and political realities: from economic success derived from the industry’s integration into British overseas markets in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, to its decline, merger, restructuring and redevelopment within a globalised marketplace and a devolved regional political structure. Thus, while at the beginning of the twentieth century Scottish publishing and printing was dominated by venerable, independently-owned family organisations whose operations often ran the gamut of book interests from book production, binding, typography and cover design to editorial, marketing and distribution work, by the end of the century Scottish publishing and printing had been broken down into smaller units, swallowed up into larger organisations, or operated as a niche market activity often surviving (as in the case of Scottish-based literary journals) with the help of funding from central government sources.

As Volume 3 of the History of the Book in Scotland has pointed out, the history of Scotland’s encounters with print over the course of the nineteenth century interlinks closely with the subsequent enfolding of print within larger social, cultural and historical trends in the twentieth. Between 1800 and 1880 Scotland moved from being a rural nation built upon a population clustered round a small number of significant towns and scattered agrarian communities, to an urbanised state successful in industrialised terms, highly skilled, literate and outward looking.

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