Gavin Hamilton, John Balfour and Patrick Neill: a study of publishing in Edinburgh in the Eighteenth Century.
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Eighteenth-century Scottish bibliography is a vast subject still awaiting exploration. There are, however, some landmarks to look for and guides to employ. I am thinking particularly, in the context of my own interests, of the writings of Philip Gaskell, and a work that should open up new sources, Robert H. Carnie’s awaited dictionary of the Scottish Book trade. The national Library of Scotland is in the early stages of compliling a catalogue of its eighteenth-century Scottish books which, no matter what form it takes, will provide scholars with a major tool. The description of books has been and doubtless will continue to be a controvertial subject, but those students who have much to identify can take encouragement, I believe from David Foxon’s ‘Thoughts on the History and future of Bibliographical Description’. In this work I map some particular and general areas of Scottish publishing history by examining the partnership of Gavin Hamilton and John Balfour, and the association they formed with the printer Patrick Neill. I study the partners in their own right as booksellers, publishers and printers, but I am concerned also with the larger bibliographical background. Hamilton and Balfour were strong-willed individuals who bought the force of their personal and private interests to bear on their professional lives; Hamilton, especially, in the period under consideration, saw little difference between his duty as a Scottish gentleman and his activities as a Scottish publisher. He and Balfour were far-sighted and adventurous, and deserve to be thought of as central figures in the story of the Edinburgh book trade.