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Print Culture in Nineteenth Century Dundee

By Peter Lawrie, ©2002

This article is based on a study into the availability of books and other forms of print culture in Dundee during the Nineteenth Century.

At the beginning of the century, taxes on advertising were intended to restrict newspaper revenues in order to control political dissent. Stamp duty was levied on every copy printed, and bulk paper was also taxed. (Mackenzie, 1994). Stamp duty amounted to 3d of the 6d cost of the Dundee Advertiser in 1807. Journals with no ‘News’ such as Colville’s Dundee Magazine of 1799 did not pay stamp duty. As a result newspapers were small scale and catered for a narrow social range. The various duties were not finally abolished until 1853-1861 with an intention of improving the working classes rather than repressing them. (Donaldson,1986). It was common for groups in a workplace to subscribe for a single copy, and the stamp duty had the advantage that a newspaper could be repeatedly posted on with seven days, aiding rural circulation. Thus the readership was probably considerably higher than the sales of several hundred weekly. (Millar, 1901))

The Dundee Advertiser began in 1801. (Millar,1901) It claimed to be a Whig, reforming newspaper, in contrast to the Tory Aberdeen Journal and Glasgow Herald. (Millar,1901). In early issues of the Advertiser there was very little local news and only from 1809 was there an editorial leader. (Millar,1901). Apart from advertising, aimed at the more affluent, the newspaper comprised a synopsis of Parliamentary and War news taken from Cobbett’s Register and the London journals. However the editor selected his material carefully to give it a Radical slant. (Millar,1901).   Dundee was not alone, Greenock, Ayr, Dumfries, Kelso and Inverness all started newspapers between 1801 and 1808. (Mackenzie, 1994).   Colville published the Dundee Mercury from 1805 to 1812 and Chalmers, as well as the Aberdeen Journal, printed a Dundee Mail in 1799. (Miller,1901)

According to his 1793 Dundee Directory, T.Colville was the only printer in the town. (Colville,1792). He operated from 1775 until his death in 1819 and did more than anyone to introduce the printed word to the populace of Dundee. (Scottish Printing,1994,p2).  Colville apparently intended the directory to be an annual, but the next edition did not appear until 1809. (Millar,1901). There were four booksellers in 1793: James More, George Milne, Robert Nicoll and James Stark.  By 1809, in addition to Colville, there was Francis Ray and the Sanders brothers who printed and published the Advertiser from 1805. Initially, Colville printed it and then Francis Ray from late 1801 to 1805 (Millar, 1901).   By 1809 there were seven booksellers, including J.Chalmers, RT.Miller, JH.Baxter, T.Donaldson, E.Leslie, G.Milne, and A.Reid. (Colville,1809).  There must have been a market in the town and hinterland to justify as many booksellers.  There were frequent advertisements in the Dundee Advertiser, by booksellers for new works just in, as well as advertisements for auctions of book collections on May 1st and Sept 23rd.

According to a pencilled date on the cover of R.Nicoll’s undated circulating library catalogue, (Lamb Collection,6(7)) it was in operation as early as 1782, making it considerably the earliest listed in the town. However, The R.Nicoll listed in 1793 (but not in 1809) cannot be the R.Nicoll that established his bookselling business and circulating library in Castle Street in 1833 at the age of 22! (Norie,1878,p52) The earliest circulating library listed was therefore the Dundee Public Library, established in 1796, (Lamb Collection,8(16) & 316(6)). Two more booksellers libraries were established in the 1830s and four in the 1840s (Lamb Collection). However, according to the Dundee Advertiser of December 25th,1807, R.T.Miller was operating a circulating library with 500 volumes, mainly of novels, in the High Street and in the next issue, Jan 1st, 1808, James Chalmers had a French circulating library! There may have been others. The Catalogue of the Dundee Public Library in 1796 (Lamb Collection,8(16)) had a 5/- joining fee and 3/- subscription per half-year. This allowed members to borrow one or two volumes at a time from a library of 1863 books, including classics, plays, history and novels. The Minute Book (Lamb Collection, (316(6)), indicates that opening-hours were noon-2pm and 7-9pm with a salaried librarian. In 1807, their income was £65, (suggesting around 200 members) of which £40 was spent on new books. The library appeared to be permanently in debt that worsened when they spent £350 on new, larger premises in 1817. The charge of 11/- per annum was equivalent to a week’s wages for a house-carpenter suggesting that few working people could afford to join. The bookseller’s library catalogues surviving in the Lamb collection from the 1820s and 1830s show similar levels of charges. However, the West Port Chapel Library catalogue of 1824, charged only 3/- pa for membership of a library of 244 volumes, ‘excluding any that were immoral’ and comprising of religious and philosophical works. (Lamb Collection,6(11)).

I found no examples of broadsheets in the Lamb collection, but they must have been in circulation. Most were printed on cheap paper and would be recycled as wrapping paper. (Gatrell,1994, p157). Around Britain, they circulated widely until the advent of penny newspapers in the 1860s. (Gatrell,1994 p160). 

Before cinema and broadcasting, printed media provided diversion and entertainment as well as technical knowledge and intellectual stimulation. Printed media also powerfully influenced attitudes, cultural values and social cohesion. Exclusion from print culture, due to price or functional illiteracy limited the ability of working people to improve their economic status or widen intellectual horizons. This study of print culture and literacy in the city is based on the booksellers and printers in the Dundee Directories between 1783 and 1858, amplified by related material in the Lamb Collection of 19th century printed ephemera. A discussion of newsprint is based on microfilm copies of newspapers in the Local History section of Dundee Library supported by reference to published research.  Many 19th century books have survived but the same cannot be said for newspapers and printed ephemera. The evidence of a book is overtly contained in its binding, paper and print quality, title page and content, but despite the odd library plate or booksellers’ mark, books rarely tell their individual histories - how and by whom they have been owned and traded. It is often easy to determine who produced printed material, but far more difficult to ascertain who read it and how they obtained it. The Collection has value in assessing the market for print media and its circulation and also in providing clues to changes in readership during the century.

Booksellers are listed briefly in the Trade Directories, but the Collection adds detail. Long established and presumably, profitable businesses included JH Baxter: 1809-1850; Alex Reid: 1818-1846; James Adams: 1818-1853; William Sime: 1824-1856; Frederick Shaw: 1827-1875 and William Middleton: 1837-1858 [1]. The Chalmers family operated in Castle Street from 1788 until 1877 when the business became David Winters. [2]  James Chalmers introduced lithographic printing to Dundee and published many works during his career. [3] At a retirement dinner, antiquarian bookseller George Petrie [4] was praised, in 1896, for ‘keeping alive an interest in higher literature among the citizens’. Early Dundee publishers, such as George Lyon in 1717 produced religious works [5] but 19th century local publications were mainly secular or technical. [6] George Milne, bookseller and binder in Dundee from the 1780s until 1839 left over £10,000 to charity, so clearly the trade was profitable. [7] Frederick Shaw, an apprentice of Chalmers, opened premises in 1831 ‘of a type previously unknown in Dundee and modelled on the latest London fashion that became the favourite resort of the literary men of the burgh and county’. [8] Shaw retired in 1875, to be succeeded by his apprentice, William Kidd whose new Whitehall Palace printing works were described as, ‘3 minutes walk from his University College warehouse… where may be seen gathered most of the literary and professional men of Dundee’ [9]. These shops seem to have been intellectual societies as well as long-lived businesses. Others appear more marginal, such as J Nicholson, bookseller and teacher in the 1818 Directory or A Stephens in 1824 [10].

In 1783 there were four booksellers [11] for a population of 15000, [12] but by 1858 there were 42 ‘booksellers, stationers and bookbinders’ [13] for 87000. The increase in booksellers [14] exceeded population growth producing an apparent doubling in provision between 1809 and 1858 [15]. There is no information about turnover, how much they depended on book sales or the nature and number of the titles sold. What proportion of the population bought or borrowed books? How many customers were urban? Locally published books are relatively few and often of local rather than general interest and usually non-fiction. Edinburgh but especially London publishers dominated the market, particularly for standard three-decker fiction [16], shown by advertisements for books in the Advertiser by mail order and at ‘local booksellers’. [17]  Auction catalogues demonstrate that individuals built up substantial libraries and increased bookselling may be partly due to a small number of well-to-do bibliophiles [18]. Nine of 40 booksellers were bookbinders in 1856. Books for the elite market were often supplied in boards so that the purchaser could specify a binding to suit their taste and pocket [19]. Growth in the book trade appears linked to growing middle-class affluence and leisure. 

In some Directories a business might be described as ‘bookseller’, in others as ‘bookseller and stationer’ or just as ‘stationer’ [20]. While the Directory probably includes every business in the trade, the Collection is not comprehensive, but it has value in identifying whether businesses concentrated on antiquarian and second-hand books, on good quality new books or on cheap editions, magazines and newspapers. Modern analogies are antiquarian dealers such as Mair Wilkes in Newport; booksellers such as Waterstones; newsagents stocking popular paperbacks; and market traders in Dens Road. Unlike towns such as St Andrews, Newport, Perth or Dunkeld, modern Dundee does not have an antiquarian bookseller, though it did in the past. Teacher Donald Macintosh (not in the Directory) ran an antiquarian book-dealership from his home [21]; his 1839 catalogue boasted 4000 ‘valuable and scarce works including Greek and Latin classics and many curious and rare 16th century works’ [22]. Robert Langlands [23] traded from ‘the old book depot’ in Princes Street. Was he an antiquarian or used-book dealer? Frederick Shaw advertised his Catalogue of New and Old books between 1836 and 1858. [24]  D Mathers, of 15 Hawkhill started in business in 1836 [25] as a stationer and dealer in old books in the 1837 and 1842 directories. He also operated a circulating library with more than 1000 works. The presence of a book dealer in Hawkhill suggests that not all of its population were illiterate and poverty-stricken. Mathers may, of course, have dealt in ‘nearly-new’ books. In 1872 Hector MacGregor of 16 Overgate had a catalogue of new and second hand books. In 1880 MacGregor also traded from 86 High Street offering ‘rare and valuable books for sale’. His widow, Mrs Elizabeth MacGregor continued the business with an emphasis on more modern works and, in 1886, her newly opened ‘select lending library’ had a subscription of 21/- per annum [26] which may indicate a limitation in the range available in the free Public Library. George Petrie advertised his antiquarian and general dealership in 1876 and 1880. [27] Thus, the Collection demonstrates specialisation in niche markets, from the rare and expensive to the cheap and affordable.

The 1850 catalogue of James Myles advertised reduced prices for higher volume sales. [28] This could have been a response to competition, but it may have been altruism in the light of Myles’s desire to improve the labouring classes, both morally and intellectually. [29] He sold popular 1/- works at 8d, and schoolbooks ‘at the cheapest possible rate’. Myles also supplied respectable and improving weeklies and other periodicals but excluded ‘those London periodicals that dealt in seduction or murder and ministered to the lowest passions of men’. [30] The only other reference to reduced prices is in Miss Middleton’s 1883 catalogue. [31] 

The Collection shows that purchase was not the only source of books. Even many middle-class readers might find 31/6 for a three-decker novel expensive. [32] The Dundee Public Library began in 1796. [33] For 5/- entry and 6/- annually, [34] members could borrow one or two works at a time including classics, plays, history and novels.  In 1807 it had an income of £65, suggesting about 200 members, of which £40 was spent on new books. The subscription represented between 3 and 6 days labour, [35] excluding working-class readers. By 1833 it had 6000 works. [36] Some booksellers had circulating libraries, similar to John Hamilton’s who charged, in 1826, 18/- annually to the country subscriber entitled to two works by post, or 16/- for urban subscribers permitted one work from a catalogue of 1389. The distinction demonstrated that the market included the surrounding counties as well as the town.  ‘1782’ pencilled on R. Nicoll’s undated library catalogue, [37] made it the earliest recorded. [38]  Another R. Nicoll [39] established his bookselling business and circulating library in Castle Street in 1833.  In 1807, R.T. Miller advertised a library with 500 mainly fiction works [40] and J. Chalmers had a French circulating library! [41] J. Baxter offered a circulating library with modest charges [42]. The Collection has evidence of two more booksellers’ libraries in the 1830s and four in the 1840s charging similar subscriptions. There may have been others. Chalmers also sold sheet music [43] and W. Methven had over 4000 pieces of song and instrumental music in a guinea subscription library catalogue. [44] The Collection shows enough at least moderately affluent in Dundee to support these libraries but their charges excluded the poor.

The Collection includes catalogues of church libraries, Sabbath schools and others aimed at readers less able to pay commercial rates. The West Port Chapel Library, in 1824, charged 3/- pa for membership of a library containing 244 religious and philosophical works, [45] ‘excluding any that were immoral’. The Associate Congregation in Barrack Street in 1838, [46] St Peters in 1840 [47] and St Clements in 1840 [48] had entirely moral and religious works in their libraries. Charges were 6d per quarter or free if sponsored by minister or elder. The small number of works suggests a small readership. Calvinistic intent was to provide a bible-based moral education as the way to peace and social stability, [49] but attempts to modernise the education system up to 1872 foundered on the rock of sectarian rivalry. A remarkable change in church attitudes by 1887 can be seen in the free Broughty Ferry Sabbath School library that included works by Scott, Blackwood’s magazine, travel and children’s adventures and few of the 354 works were religious. [50]  The lowest commercial rate in the Collection may be James Myles’s circulating library of 2000 volumes in 1850, in which ‘all of our popular novelists and more solid productions’ could be had for 2/6 per quarter or 1d per volume per week. 5[1] The low weekly rate seems to demonstrate further Myles’s altruism. The churches, in providing for the poor, restricted what they could read, with the purpose of social control. Libraries, such as Myles’s, though still censored, offered wider access to literature. There may also have been informal exchange of used books among the literate but too poor to buy or subscribe.

The Collection has information about reading rooms where newspapers and periodicals were available and these probably provided social networking as well as cost-saving. In 1837 the Trades Hall, Political Union and Public Library all offered reading rooms. The Exchange Coffee Room had 400 members in 1833 subscribing 25/-. The subscription to the Dundee Reading Room and Literary Institute was 10/6; [52] its reading room boasted 70 periodicals and newspapers weekly in 1851 [53]. The 200 members of the University Club, 1874-1891, subscribed a guinea to its reading room and library of history, philosophy, science and travel. [54] Such bodies facilitated middle-class networking. In the 1853 report on the defunct Watt Institution of Dundee, founded 1824, it was stated that its library comprised mainly technical works, but from 1831 it also had an Artisan’s Reading Room in which 200 members were provided with newspapers. [55] Annual membership in 1844-49 averaged 485 [56]. It closed in 1849 with heavy debts. Peter Carmichael regretted the backwardness of ‘working mechanics’ in not joining in sufficient numbers [57]. A new body was proposed, with modest charges, to be known as the ‘Dundee Watt Institution’ and united with the Literary Institute and Dundee Public Library. [58] A less formal organisation, possibly typical of others, was the ‘Dundee Literary and Scientific Institute’. A prescient account for ‘the future antiquarian who may write the history of Dundee about the year 2000’ claimed an 1846 membership of 8 to 10 lads who discussed literature and wrote articles ‘in the workshop of the Cramb family, who were all shoemakers of a political and intellectual cast of mind.’ [59]  James Myles hosted some ‘literary characters of the town’ whose efforts appeared in A Feast of Literary Crumbs in 1848. [60]  Few workers could afford to subscribe to a reading-room but J&W Brown provided one for their mill-workers in 1833. [61] One can only speculate on how successful it had been, whether fees were charged and whether other mill-owners also provided them. The municipal Library included a free reading-room after 1869. How many employers recognised the need for a more informed workforce, as competitors overtook Britain’s early technological lead?

The volume and economics of the Dundee book trade is a matter of speculation. However, Myles’s catalogue suggested a 40% margin on books in 1850. Assuming that a bookseller earned £100 annual profit and had fixed costs for rent, fittings and assistance of £300, also assuming income entirely from book sales with an arbitrary mix by volume of 50% works @ 6d, 30% @ 1/-, 12% @ 2/- and 8% @ 2/6 and upwards, [62] the chart shows that he needed sales of 20200 [63]. Sales of 30950 would be required with a margin of 15% on the cheaper books [64]. Sellers of expensive works to the upper end of the market achieved profitability on lower volumes. The Directories indicate that income also derived from newspapers, stationery, lending, printing and bookbinding or from tobacco and confectionery. Booksellers, such as Nicoll [65] or Hamilton [66] operated libraries with members paying 10/6 to 18/- annually. Allowing for stock and fixtures, with 400 active members they might earn as much as £100. Most businesses would derive their income from a mixture of sources. A shilling in 1850 is roughly £3 and a half-crown, £7.50 today. Book prices have exceeded the general rate of inflation so £5 and £15 may be more accurate, [67] but average earnings have risen more so popular editions of books are now six times more affordable for today’s worker. [68]  Only a few lending catalogues survive in the Collection but it is unlikely that all 42 booksellers in 1858 had 400-member libraries. A guess at total membership of 4000 in 1861 represents 2% of Angus (204000) or 4.4% of Dundee (90000). Sales of 20000 each on the basis of the above calculation equate to 800,000 annually, but 200,000, or one per capita might be more believable, but not provable. This assumes that the whole county purchased their books in Dundee, but other towns had their booksellers, although the Collection has no information on them. A few bibliophiles may have bought hundreds of books annually, but tens would be more common. Workers with £1 a year to spend on books would have been wiser paying library subscriptions instead.  In 1865, John Sturrock’s diary had no subscriptions but included 18/6 on 5 sets of books and a practical series [69] as well as 12/8 on newspapers and magazines. [70] Other books appear in Sturrock’s diary without explanation of their source.

Around mid-century public attitudes to working-class literacy began to change. The 1850 Public Libraries Act aimed at the encouragement of reading among the working-class to soak up idleness and crime, as ‘libraries were the cheapest police that could be established’ [71]. The legislation sanctioned municipal libraries stocked by benevolent donation. Later legislation conceded rate-funding. [72] A report by the ‘Working-Men’s Association’ in 1861 highlighted extensive provision of free libraries in Germany and America. [73] The Free Lending library opened in July 1869 with 20,000 works, including 3000 donations. [74]  Readers’ tickets issued in 1869 totalled 9273 but active readers in 1870 numbered 4433 averaging 3 books monthly or 160,000 borrowings. Novels comprised a quarter of the stock but half of the borrowings. [75] 

Novelists such as Scott and Galt wrote for a middle-class readership. [76] Up to 1914, writers such as John Buchan continued a genre of adventure books with middle-class, largely ‘British’ heroes. The growth in leisure reading among the middle-classes in the 19th century helped create shared Britishness as book production became a standardised and large-scale industry [77]. John Galt complained of writing for the circulating libraries ‘like an upholsterer for a piece of furniture’. [78] Literacy appeared widespread among the poor, [79] with around 90% able to read in 1833. [80] However, the actively literate poor, able to read for pleasure or instruction, calculated by Thompson at just 10%, increased markedly only after 1850. [81] Chapbooks show an early demand for cheap, secular, non-improving literature. [82] Myles’s Chapters has been acclaimed as among the first novels intended for working-class readers. Many post-1850 works of didactic fiction were serialised in magazines with proletarian readership such as the Peoples Journal. [83] While respectable workmen such as John Sturrock read poetry and morally uplifting books and magazines in their leisure time, [84] serialised fiction probably contributed more to the growth of working-class order and decency [85].

Dundee supported a printing trade, producing much of the material in the Collection and growing dramatically after 1850. According to his 1783 Dundee Register, Thomas Colville was the only printer in town. [86] He operated from 1775 until 1819. [87]  Colville intended the Register to be an annual, but its successor did not appear until 1809. [88] The Directories listed six printers by 1837, eight in 1846 and ten by 1858. A huge increase in Scottish provincial publishing occurred in the 19th century especially of literature cheap enough to be affordable by working people [89]. Dundee printers published a variety of books of local interest, as well as advertising, catalogues and commercial stationery. I found no examples of broadsheets in the Collection, though many must have been printed. They were printed cheaply and often recycled as wrapping paper. [90] They circulated widely until the advent of penny newspapers. [91]

The town supported a number of weekly newspapers. Chalmers printed an unsuccessful Dundee Mail in 1799. [92] The Dundee Advertiser was founded in 1801. [93]  Colville published the Dundee Mercury from 1805 to 1812 and launched the Dundee Courier in 1816. [94] The Dundee Chronicle (1832) [95] printed every Saturday. By 1841 these had been joined by the Northern Warder [96]. The Government feared the seditious potential of mass circulation newspapers. Taxes on advertising restricted revenues and limited their ability to grow. Stamp duty on every copy and taxation of bulk paper amounted to more than half of the 6d price of the Advertiser in 1807 [97]. Journals without news content such as Colville’s Dundee Magazine of 1799 avoided duty. Thus newspapers remained small-scale and catered for a narrow social range. Many of these newspapers have not survived or are in fragile condition. However, the Library has a long run of the Advertiser from 1807 on microfilm. Examination of pre-1850 editions shows that it demanded a high standard of literacy, which has value in testifying to the education standard of its target market. Early issues printed little local news and only from 1809 had an editorial leader [98]. As well as advertising (well worth study), it summarised War and Parliamentary news from Cobbett’s Register and the London journals. Careful selection gave it a radical slant. [99] Workplace groups subscribed for a single copy. Rural ‘newspaper clubs’ congregated in a reader’s house to hear and discuss the news. [100] Stamp duty permitted newspapers to be posted on repeatedly within seven days, increasing rural circulation. Thus, readership considerably exceeded the production of several hundred weekly. [101] 

‘Taxes on knowledge’ ended between 1853 and 1861 with the object of working-class improvement rather than repression [102] and the Advertiser became a penny daily in 1861 [103]. Mass-market newspapers became widely available along with an explosion in periodicals. In Mrs Middleton’s 1885 list in the Collection included 20 dailies, most priced 1d, around 240 weeklies, 80% of which appeared on Friday and Saturday for weekend leisure. A further 600 monthlies, priced between a halfpenny (mainly religious) and a half-crown demonstrated the size of the late Victorian market. [104]  This flood of newsprint from outwith Dundee not only marked a change in the volume of information available to Dundonians but also changed the range and nature of information published in the town. John Leng’s Peoples Journal exploded after 1858 to the largest weekly circulating outside London in 1862 with a strong proletarian appeal. By 1866 circulation topped 100,000, reaching 250,000 in 1914 [105]. The Journal and other newspapers in Local History have been used by researchers, such as Donaldson, to study the extent and nature of serialised fiction in Scotland in contrast to the book market.

What value has the study of information about print culture in the Local History section of the Library? It has been shown from the Lamb Collection that publishers and booksellers supplied an active and growing urban and hinterland social market. A plethora of commercial and voluntary libraries and reading rooms spread the printed word somewhat beyond the increasingly affluent middle-classes and supplied technical information and improving literature. It appears that entertainment and leisure reading, supported by the local book-trade remained predominantly bourgeois until late in the century. Expense, poor reading standards and social exclusion deterred many of the poor, but from the late 1850s the local press transformed itself to supply a highly competitive national mass-market with newspapers and ‘improving’ periodicals. The working classes obtained their news and leisure reading from the new dailies and periodicals. Throughout, the poor were objectified as masses in need of control. From Kirk libraries and schools, providing moral and religious reading, responsibility passed to free municipal libraries and publishers of cheap newsprint. Literacy standards improved remarkably as a result. This must have contributed to changes in attitudes and behaviour and made more palatable elite acquiescence in working-class emancipation. 

MS sources
Lamb Collection, Dundee Library

Internet Paper
Twigger, R, Inflation: the value of the pound 1750-1998 in House of Commons Economic Policy and Statistics Section Research Paper 99/20, February 1999

Printed Sources

Allardice, A, The Dundee Directory and General Register for 1834, Dundee, 1834
Cameron, I., A Highland Chapbook, Stirling, 1928
Chalmers, J, The Dundee Directory and Register for 1829, Dundee, 1829
_________, The Dundee Directory for 1837, Dundee, 1837
_________, The Dundee Directory for 1840, Dundee, 1840
_________, The Dundee Directory for 1842, Dundee, 1842
_________, The Dundee Directory 1850, Dundee, 1850
_________, The Dundee Directory 1853, Dundee, 1853
Chalmers, C, The Dundee Directory 1856, Dundee, 1856
Colvill, T, The Dundee Register for 1783, Dundee, 1782
_________, The Dundee Magazine and Journal of the Times, Vol I, Dundee, 1799
Colville, T, The Dundee Directory for 1809, Dundee, 1809
_________, The Dundee Directory for 1818, Dundee, 1818
_________, The Dundee Register and Directory for 1824, Dundee, 1824
Corr, H, An exploration into Scottish Education in Fraser & Morris, Edinburgh 1990
Devine, T & Mitchison, R.,(eds) People & Society in Scotland, I, 1750-1830, Edinburgh 1988
Donaldson W. Popular Literature in Victorian Scotland, Aberdeen, AUP, 1986
Fraser, WH & Morris, RJ,(Eds) People & Society in Scotland, II, 1830-1914, Edinburgh 1990
Gatrell, VAC, The Hanging Tree, Oxford, 1994
Gordon. IA. (Ed) The Member – an autobigraphy by John Galt, Edinburgh 1985,
Hill & Alexander, The Post Office Dundee Directory 1858, Dundee, 1858
Hume, J, (Ed.) Early days in a Dundee Mill, 1819-1823. Extracts from the Diary of William Brown, Dundee, 1980
MacCosh, The Dundee Post Office Directory for 1846, Dundee, 1846
MacKenzie, A. Newsplan: Report of the Newsplan Project in Scotland, London, 1994
Millar, AH. The Dundee Advertiser 1801-1901, A centenary Memoir, Dundee, 1901
Miskell L, Whatley C, & Harris R. Victorian Dundee, Image and Realities, East Linton, 2000
Murdoch, A & Sher, R, Literary & Learned Culture in Devine & Mitchison, Edinburgh, 1988
Myles, James.(Ed) (alias Simon Strap), A feast of literary crumbs or letters, poems, sonnets, songs and nonsense by Foo Foozle and Friends, ancient citizens of Dundee. Originally published by Valentine in 1848 and reprinted by William Kidd, Dundee, ND
__________.  Chapters in the life of a Dundee factory boy. Dundee, 1951 reprint
Norrie, W. Dundee Celebrities, Dundee, 1873
Scottish Printing Archival Trust, A Reputation for Excellence, the History of Dundee & Perth Printing Industries, Dundee, 1994.
Smith, A.M., (Ed) Dundee in 1793 and 1833, St Andrews, 1991
Smith, W.J. (Ed), James Chalmers inventor of the adhesive postage stamp, Dundee, 1970
Snape, R. Leisure and the Rise of the Public Library, London, 1995
Whatley, A, The Diary of John Sturrock, Millwright, Dundee 1864-65, East Linton, 1996
Withrington, DJ, Schooling, Literacy & Society in Devine & Mitchison, Edinburgh, 1988


[1] Taken from the Dundee Directories.
[2] WJ Smith, James Chalmers, inventor of the adhesive postage stamp, Dundee, 1970, p11 William Chalmers opened in Castle Street as bookseller, binder and stationer in 1788. James, his brother took over in 1809. In 1829 James was ‘bookseller, printer and ink manufacturer’.  Succeeded by James’s son Charles from 1853 until 1877, the firm eventually became David Winters.

[3] Lamb Collection, 362(41), p7 Address delivered at Complimentary dinner in Queen’s Hotel to George Petrie, FSA Scot on 18th May 1896.

[4] Lamb Collection, 362(41), p1

[5] Lamb Collection, 362(41), p3

[6] Lamb Collection, 391(74) – a list of books published by James Chalmers.

[7] Lamb Collection, 362(41), p6

[8] Lamb Collection 362(41), p8

[9] Lamb Collection 232(13) – a page from the Bookseller’s Circular of 1885.

[10] T Colville, Dundee Directory, 1818 and 1824

[11] T. Colville, Dundee Register, 1783

[12] A. Smith, Dundee in 1793 and 1833, St Andrews, 1991, p209

[13] Hill & Alexander, Post Office Dundee Directory for 1858, Dundee

[14] Plot of number of booksellers, binders and stationers in the Dundee Trade directory between 1809 and 1858.

[15] Plot of population against booksellers showing an apparent improvement in the ratio of Dundee’s population to booksellers in the Trade Directory.

[16] W. Donaldson, Popular Literature in Victorian Scotland, Aberdeen, 1986, p72

[17] Advertisements appear every month in the Dundee Advertiser in 1810, 1820 and 1830 for new works by Edinburgh and London publishers.

[18] Examples of auctions of personal libraries include Bishop Strachan’s in 1810 (Dundee Advertiser: 9th feb 1810; 1500 volumes from the library of the late Dr Traill, Panbride (Dundee Advertiser: 25th feb 1851); The library of merchant James Fairweather in 1861 (Lamb collection, 8(10)) or another Bishop of Brechin in 1889 (Lamb collection, 8(7)).

[19] In the Dundee Advertiser for 21/7/1820 is an ad for Constable’s Philosophical Journal Volume V, priced at 7/6 for the cheap edition or £1/10/- complete octavo in boards. I have a number of similar works, most published between 1800 and 1830, such as Scotia Redidiva, volume I part I, 1826, edited and published by Robert Buchanan, George Street Edinburgh, ‘handsomely printed in octavo on fine wove demy, price 7/6 in extra boards’. Many works, especially of fiction, were produced in three volume sets and it is frustrating to find just one volume of the set on a bookstall. 

[20] Chalmers, Dundee Directory, 1850, 1853, 1856, and Hill & Alexander PO Dundee Directory, 1858

[21] Lamb Collection, 362(41), p8 – Maintosh lived at 83 St Andrews Place

[22] Lamb Collection, 7(1)

[23] J. Chalmers, Dundee Directory for 1842

[24] Lamb Collection, 7(7-13)

[25] Lamb Collection, 279 (33)

[26] Lamb Collection, 7(32-36)

[27] Lamb Collection, 82 (5-10) - George Petrie was at 27 North Lindsay Street

[28] Lamb Collection, 82(19)

[29] Miskell Whatley & Harris, Victorian Dundee Image and Realities, East Linton, 2000, p77

[30] Lamb Collection, 82(19)

[31] Lamb collection, 7(2)

[32] W. Donaldson, Popular Literature in Victorian Scotland, p72

[33] Lamb Collection, 8(16)

[34] Lamb Collection,8(16) & 316(6)).

[35] AM Smith, Dundee in 1793 and 1833, 1991, p33. These daily wage rates are from the OSA of 1792. There had been 50% inflation due to war by 1807 (see Twigger on inflation indices below), but even taking that into account, the joining fee and annual membership would still represent 4 days work for a mason.

[36] AM. Smith, Dundee in 1793 and 1833, 1991, p46

[37] Lamb Collection, 6(7)

[38] Lamb Collection, 362(41) an 1896 speech confirmed that R. Nicoll was in business 1765 to 1786 and operated a circulating library in 1782

[39] W. Norie, Dundee Celebrities, Dundee, 1872, p52

[40] Dundee Advertiser of December 25th, 1807

[41] Dundee Advertiser of June 7 1810. In a new catalogue of his French library James Chalmers offered 500 works. The entire library, with the latest additions, exceeded 5000 works.

[42] Dundee Advertiser, 5th May 1810

[43] J. Chalmers, Dundee Directory, 1837

[44] Lamb collection, 320(2), W Methven of Castle Street, 1853 Circulating music library catalogue

[45] Lamb collection, 6(11)

[46] Lamb collection, 6(15), instituted 1823. Fines for overdue books were 3d/week – near draconian! It had 500 works, almost entirely religious and moral. Opening hours were Saturday nights 7.30 – 9.00.

[47]   Lamb collection, 6(10), instituted 1840. Fines for overdue books were 1d/week. It had 500 religious works. Opening hours were Saturday nights 7.00 – 8.00.

[48]   Lamb collection, 6(9), it had 400 religious works. Unlike the others it had scaled charges. 6/- pa for 3 volumes at one time, 4/- for two and 2/- pa for a single volume at a time.

[49] H Corr, An exploration into Scottish Education in H. Fraser & RJ. Morris, (eds), People & Society in Scotland 1830-1914, 1990. p294  ‘If the nation will not pay for the school-master to prevent crime, it must pay ten-fold for the repression of social disorder, and for coercing an unhappy, dissolute and reckless population.’

[50] Lamb collection, 102(2), catalogue dated 1887

[51] Lamb collection, 82(19)

[52] Lamb collection, 6(23), p1

[53] According to an advertisement in the Dundee advertiser of 25th January 1850 the Reading room at 5 Reform Street offered ‘the most popular and interesting metropolitan and provincial newspapers and periodicals’. It was supplied with 6 dailies, 1 tri-weekly, 4 bi-weeklies, 21 weeklies news magazines, 6 monthlies and 4 quarterly reviews.   Its library stocked 326 works (Lamb collection 6(25)).

[54] Lamb collection, 6(16)

[55] A. Smith, Dundee in 1793 and 1833, p47

[56] Lamb collection, 1(11), p5

[57] Lamb collection, 1(11), p17

[58] Lamb collection, 1(11), p12

[59] Lamb collection, 265(17)

[60] Simon Strap, (Ed). (alias James Myles), A feast of literary crumbs or letters, poems, sonnets, songs and nonsense by Foo Foozle and Friends, ancient citizens of Dundee. Originally published by Valentine in 1848 and reprinted by William Kidd, Dundee, ND

[61] A. Smith, Dundee in 1793 and 1833, p113

[62] Lamb collection, 82(19) These are typical prices for different classes of book in Myles’ 1850 catalogue.


Price in pence .. %age of sales .. 40% margin .. Number of books .. calculated income
6 50 2.4 10101 £101.01
12 30 4.8 6060 £121.21
24 12 9.6 2424 £96.97
30 8 12 1616 £80.81
20202 £400.00

price in pence .. %age of sales .. 15% margin .. Number of books .. calculated income
6 50 0.9 15475 £58.03
12 30 1.8 9285 £69.64
24 12 9.6 3714 £148.56
8 12 2476 £123.80
      30950 £400.03
[65] Lamb collection, 6(7), 1833, 12/- pa for 1222 works

[66] Lamb collection, 6(4), 1826: 18/- pa or 1/9 monthly for 1389 works

[67] R. Twigger, Inflation and the value of the pound, 1750-1998, House of Commons, 1999. Taking the 1974 value of the pound at 100, its purchasing power between 1821 and 1870 remained fairly stable around 10 +/-2, while in 1998 the index was 592 giving an inflation factor of 60.

[68] The income of an artisan or clerk today has increased roughly by a factor of 400 from £50 pa to £20000 pa (see wage rates in Hume, 1980, p40) so that a 1/- book cost 180 minutes work in 1850 while today’s £5 book represents about 30 minutes work. Mill hands earned as little as five to ten shillings a week rather than the artisans’ £1. John Sturrock earned £52/4/2 in 1865 (see C.Whatley, Diary of John Sturrock,1996, p108)

[69] C Whatley, Diary of John Sturrock, p107-126. Sturrock bought Crabbes’s poems @ 3/6; Milton’s poems @ 2/6; Mason on Self Knowledge @ 1/-; Webster’s Dictionary @ 4/-; Molesworth’s Pocket book of engineering formulae @ 4/6; 35 parts of English Mechanic @ 3/-@ Total 18/6. Sturrock also bought 48 copies of the weekly Peoples Journal @ 1d; 24 of the daily Advertiser @ 1d; 5 of the bi-weekly Advertiser @ 2d; and 10 of the Sunday Magazine @ 7d: total 12/8.

[70] C. Whatley, The diary of John Sturrock, income and expenditure, p107-126

[71] R. Snape, Leisure and the Rise of the Public Library, London, 1995, p20. The quotation was by Brotherton in the House of Commons debate on the Public Libraries Bill.

[72] Lamb Collection 274(4c), p7-9

[73] Lamb Collection 274(4c) – Free Libraries: their working and advantages. A report compiled from official sources by Peter Begg and printed for gratuitous distribution by the Dundee Working Men’s Association., in the hope of promoting the formation of an intelligent public opinion in reference to free public libraries and especially of facilitating the adoption of the public libraries act by the citizens of Dundee. Published at Dundee Advertiser Office, 1861 

[74] Lamb collection, 274(7)

[75] Lamb collection, 274(7), p8,12

[76] A. Murdoch & RB. Sher Literacy & Learned Culture in T. Devine & R. Mitchison, (eds) People and Society in Scotland, 1760-1830, 1988, p134

[77] W Donaldson, Popular Literature in Victorian Scotland.  Fiction in book format was dominated by London publishers. Scottish publishers concentrated on non-fiction. This became even more the case later in the century. 

[78] Ian Gordon. (Ed) The Member – an autobigraphy by John Galt, Scottish Academic Press, 1985, introduction p1

[79] DJ Withrington, Schooling, Literacy & Society in T. Devine & R. Mitchison, (eds) People and Society in Scotland, 1760-1830, 1988, p179: From the 1818 survey of schooling in Dundee, ‘All the poorer classes are within reach of schools and are willing to make considerable sacrifices to procure education for their families.’  According to the table on p184, by 1834 the Northeast, including Dundee and Aberdeen had the highest proportion of the Scottish population in school learning to read and write.

[80] H. Corr, An exploration into Scottish Education in H. Fraser & RJ. Morris, (eds), People & Society in Scotland 1830-1914, 1990. In 1833 it was claimed that 96% of male millworkers in Scotland could read (Page 292) and in 1855, 89% of men and 77% of women could sign their names (p294)

[81] W. Donaldson, Popular Literature in Victorian Scotland, Aberdeen, 1986, p18

[82] I. Cameron, A Highland Chapbook, Stirling, 1928, p13 A chapbook was a book sold by a chap man. Chap means cheap. ‘The chapbook was the forerunner of present-day popular literature. It made no attempt at literary style, it did not strive to elevate or instruct; but it told homely amusing things in which the poorer classes were interested. In many case it took the place of the ballad in diffusing the romance interest which is always the deepest interest of the folk’.

[83] CA. Whatley, Altering images of the industrial city: the case of James Myles, the ‘Factory Boy’, and mid-Victorian Dundee in L. Miskell, CA. Whatley & R. Harris, (eds) Victorian Dundee Image and Realities, East Linton, 2000, p73

[84] Whatley, Diary of John Sturrock, p52

[85] W. Donaldson, Popular Literature in Victorian Scotland, Donaldson estimated that roughly 240 ‘working-class’ novels were published in Scotland in book format between 1860 and 1900. By contrast he estimated that 5000 or more appeared in serialised format in Scottish newspapers and periodicals during the period. Most used Scots dialogue and, particularly earlier in the period were strongly moralistic and didactic. However, no detailed analysis has been done on this subject.

[86] T. Colville, Dundee Register, 1783

[87] SPAT, A reputation for excellence,  p2

[88] SPAT, A reputation for excellence,  p3

[89] Murdoch & Sher, Literary & learned culture, p136

[90] V. Gatrell, The Hanging Tree, Oxford, 1994, p157.

[91] V. Gatrell, The Hanging Tree, p160

[92] AH. Millar, The Dundee Advertiser, p2

[93] A Mackenzie, The Newspaper Project, Edinburgh, 1994, p135

[94] SPAT, A reputation for excellence,  p3

[95] A Mackenzie, The Newspaper Project, Edinburgh, 1994, p130

[96] A Mackenzie, The Newspaper Project, Edinburgh, 1994, p135

[97] AH. Millar, The Dundee Advertiser, p1

[98] AH. Millar, The Dundee Advertiser p9 and Microfilm copies of the Dundee Advertiser

[99] AH. Millar, The Dundee Advertiser, p9

[1] W. Donaldson, Popular Literature in Victorian Scotland, p20

[101] AH. Millar, The Dundee Advertiser, p8. Chalmers was paid 31/6 to print an edition of the Advertiser in 1801. Elsewhere it is stated that stamp duty was 3d per copy and production costs accounted for most of the rest of the 6d price. Hence @ 2d a copy, 31/6 would pay for printing 190 copies.

[102] W. Donaldson, Popular Literature in Victorian Scotland, p2

[103] W. Donaldson, Popular Literature in Victorian Scotland, p24

[104] Lamb collection, 7(26).

[105] W. Donaldson, Popular Literature in Victorian Scotland, Aberdeen, 1986, p24-28