Gold Bullion & Glasgow’s First Steam Powered Printing Press

Printing in Scotland

The introduction of printing presses in Scotland proceeded slowly. Beginning in Edinburgh in 1507, then forty-five years later St Andrews in 1552, Stirling in 1571 (for a brief period), Aberdeen in 1622, and Glasgow in 1638. They were apparently one or two man workshops, and it was not unusual for a printer to move from one place to another with their equipment.

Printed by George Anderson , Glasgow 1638

The significance of the first printing press in Glasgow was as a result of the General Assembly meeting in the city requiring the documentation of their decisions to be recorded & disseminated. The year was an extremely important one. In 1638 the General Assembly abolished episcopacy in Scotland; this would lead to civil unrest.

Stereotyping & Type-Making In Glasgow

A reference in the Hunterian Museum suggests Mr. Andrew Duncan, University Printer, introduced Stereotyping to Glasgow in 1818, and, after stereotypers Messrs. Hutchison & Brookman, and also Edward Khull snr operated in the city.

Book Societies began to be established around this time in Glasgow. They operated similar to that of Circulating Libraries, with the difference being that the books belonged to the readers themselves. (chiefly of the working classes.) The periodical Book Publishing ‘Numbers Trade’ which, till about 1796, was hardly known in Scotland flourished in Glasgow, surpassing that of any other Scottish town. By a Report drawn up for Parliament, it appeared that there were in Scotland 414 book hawkers, technically termed canvassers and deliverers, who, on an average of seven years, collected £44,160 per annum in sixpence and shillings; Glasgow accounted for 31%.

Edward Khull

Of German origin, Edward Khull snr, hammerman and printer was made Burgess and Guild Brother of Glasgow by purchase 18 December 1815. In 1819 he became a partner with John Blackie, whose premises he had shared from 1815, becoming the printing department of Blackies as the firm diversified from publishing into printing.

Born in Glasgow, John Blackie ( 1782-1874 ) was originally a weaver but was persuaded that money could be made in the ‘Numbers Trade’. The firm known, after 1890 , as Blackie & Son Ltd was founded on 20 November 1809 by John Blackie snr, in partnership with two friends, Archibald Fullerton and William Somerville and was known as Blackie, Fullerton & Co. as publishers and booksellers.

From Black Boy Close in 1811 (to 37 Queen Street by 1826) the firm was already beginning to publish its own books and in 1819 with Khull’s printing works added at 8 East Clyde Street, operated as Khull, Blackie & Co. The bookselling side of the business continued separately in Edinburgh as Fullerton, Somerville & Co. When Khull left the partnership in 1826 he retained his equipment, but for a time continued to occupy the lower floors of the Blackie offices, moving only in 1830. In 1827 John Blackie, snr, next entered into partnership with Hutchison & Brookman, printers and stereotypers, of Saltmarket, Glasgow.

Khull’s eldest son Edward Khull jnr entered his father’s trade becoming a merchant Burgess and Guild Brother hammerman 1 July 1828. Khull jnr applied to be University Printer following the year long tenure of Hutchison and Brookman in 1831; as on other occasions, the Senate delayed in filling the vacancy until 1833. Khull remained in office for 13 years until 1846. Succeeded in 1848 by George Richardson.

George Richardson started printing in the High Street in 1829, he had printed for the University for almost twenty years before his official appointment, his workshop was a very small one. It only had hand presses, no cutting equipment, and long runs were sent out to other machine printers. His regular employees numbered four or five
journeymen and three apprentice compositors, and one apprentice pressman. One man who had trained as a compositor and pressman was allowed within the trade rules to do both jobs. Richardson was a strict employer, but, even so, he kept his regular staff on through the slack summer months. His restricted workshops were in sharp contrast to those erected by University Printer Duncan at
Villafield in 1818. When Richardson died in 1872 his whole plant was valued at only £213 17s. 10d. plus stock of paper at £15 13s. 5d.

Businesses of Edward Khull & Son

  • 1798: Argyll Street, ‘Napier & Khull’
  • 1803-08: Post Office Court Trongate, ‘Niven, Napier & Khull’
  • 1810: 43 Trongate, ‘Edward Khull & Co’
  • 1812-15: 5 Saltmarket, ‘Edward Khull & Co’
  • 1816-19 East Clyde St. ‘Edward Khull & Co’
  • 1819-26: 8 Clyde St. ‘Khull, Blackie and Co’
  • 1827-30: 8 Clyde St. ‘Edward Khull & Son’
  • 1831-36: 65 Virginia Street. Edward Khull University Printer, stereotype founder and steam-press printer
  • 1836-46: 25 Dunlop St. Edward Khull
  • 1847-48: Canterbury Place. Edward Khull

A 19th Century copy of ‘The Evangelical Expositor or a Commentary on the Holy Bible’, by the Reverend Thomas Haweis, volume I, printed by Edward Khull and Co. for W.Sommerville, A.Fullerton, J.Blackie and Co. Booksellers, East Clyde Street, 1818, bound in black leather with a brass clasp

William McGavin
Engraved by Henry Edward Dawe, published by Khull, Blackie & Co, published by A. Fullarton & Co, after painting by John Campbell
mezzotint, published 1 December 1824
NPG D38087
Glasgow Post Office Directory 1844. . No Copyright

The concern of Edward Khull and Co., exclusive of compositors & printers etc. employed 81 canvassers and couriers, who operated all over Scotland. Two-thirds of the books sold were religious (bibles). The book Numbers Trade was of use in diffusing knowledge and it was said ‘improving’ the morals of the working class, as a person who could not accomplish payment in one lump sum, could more easily afford a subscription in twenty or forty instalments.

It has been calculated that since the commencement of the Numbers Trade 400k + Family Bibles, and several million books were sold in Scotland, which, in all probability, would not have been possible otherwise.

1826 Edward Khull Snr – Contemporary Anecdotes of 8 Clyde St

Andrew Aird: ‘Printers and Printing in Glasgow 1830 – 1890’

Clyde Street, near the old Slaughter House, was Mr. Edward Khull’s snr printing-office. Mr. Khull was of German extraction. In appearance he was pleasant, and always seemed cheerful.

The press-room was in the sunk flat. Many eyes used to peer in through the windows from day to day, the numbers frequently darkening the room. The case-room, stereoroom, warehouse, and counting-house were in the first and second flats.

Mr. Khull possessed a fair share of shrewdness and humour, and was well liked as an employer. Often he was visited by tramps seeking work. He sometimes thought they were untaught compositors or pressmen.

One day a tramp waited on him seeking a job at the press. Mr. K. was suspicious of his being able to ink or roll a forme, or even to pull a bar. He thought he would first see how he would damp a ream of paper. The paper was stripped of its wrapper, and
put on the end of the damping-trough stand. Mr. K. ordered him to damp the ream. In a second or two he lifted it and then dropped it into the trough. Khull shouted, “Oh, ye impostor,” and in a twinkling the tramp bolted.

On another occasion he was greatly annoyed by an apprentice who would not or could not learn to spell, despite all the efforts made to drive this very necessary branch of education into his head. At length came a climax. One day he presented such a dirty, inaccurate proof that his master could stand it no longer. Taking his spectacles from his nose, he thus addressed the offending devil—
“Laddie, ye’ll just gang hame the night, and tell your mother to boil down Fulton and Knight’s Dictionary in sweet milk, and take it to your supper; for it seems to me there’s nae other way o’ driving spelling into you!”

By-and-bye Mr. Khull’s son, Master Edward, appeared in the office as the young lieutenant. His leadership was not as it should have been for the aged father, whose face was soon seen no more in the place that was dear to him. In later life he lived with his son-in-law, Mr. George Penfold, druggist, whose place of business was at the corner of Miller and Argyle Streets, and his house at 75 Argyle Street.

Andrew Aird: ‘Printers and Printing in Glasgow 1830 – 1890’
1819 ‘The Glasgow Geography’Published by E Khull & Co East Clyde St. Glasgow. The United States of North America. The map is taken from an earlier by Arrowsmith.

Edward Khull jnr
In 1834 when working from 65 Virginia Street, Khull Jnr announced that he had begun ‘Printing by Steam’, a process which would enable him to execute work with a facility not previously attainable in the west of Scotland and at the same time with that neatness for which his work had been noted. To proprietors of newspapers and to those interested he stated that he had made suitable arrangements for the safe and speedy conveyance of the ‘Formes’ from and to their respective offices if they wished to avail themselves of his ‘Steam Press’.

1834 Edward Khull Jnr – Contemporary Anecdote 65 Virginia St.

In 1834 Mr. E. Khull Jnr opened a printing-office near the head of Virginia Street. It consisted of three flats.

The ground one was taken up with the stereo-foundry, the next above with the pressroom and picking-room, and the third floor was the case-room, a well-packed apartment, many of the frames in which were double-manned.

In the centre of the floor was the desk of Mr. McPhail, the overseer, by no means a common individual. Smart and well educated, and full of humour, he seemed to be quite content with the Khull establishment. The apprentices had a nickname for him— ‘The Dandy.’

If a compositor, for instance, wished to know how to display a title page, he would step down from his three-legged stool, stand straight up before the man, put both hands on his ribs, his elbows sticking out at right angles from his body, put the heels of his two feet together so as to make his feet appear in line, to show the bookseller’s imprint at the bottom of the page, and tell the compositor to look at him and make the title as near as he could in harmony with the shape of the human form divine which stood before him one Mr. McPhail, after he left Khull’s, he held two good positions in Edinburgh.

Mr. Khull jnr had a very sharp temper, and his tongue seemed to be in complete harmony with it. The work he did was principally furnished by W. R. McPhun, then occupying a small shop in the Trongate opposite the Tron Steeple. It consisted principally of
Roman Catholic literature, and, one would think, not very profitable.

I used to hear of the compositors growling about the lack of fatness in this bookseller’s volumes or pamphlets.

Mr. Khull removed from Virginia Street to a large brick building of several flats adjacent to Dunlop Street Theatre, where his business gradually waned away, and ultimately he gave it up.

After this took place he started for Melbourne, and became there a bullion broker.

Andrew Aird: ‘Printers and Printing in Glasgow 1830 – 1890’

James Cleland had some of his work printed by Khull. As did the botanist Sir William Jackson Hooker. It’s interesting that James Cleland son John disappears from the Glasgow printing scene around 1825. More research is required to possibly understand why. But it’s clear that by the 1830s his father is engaging Khull for his ’Annals’.
“Printed at the University Press, by Edward Khull, Virginia Street. MDCCCXXXIV.”

1837 Printers Dispute

A dispute arose in Glasgow between the Glasgow master printers & their apprentices regarding rules on apprentice numbers & wage rates: according to a printed circular,
dated 14 March 1837 and signed by Edward Khull on behalf of the Glasgow masters, the Glasgow Typographical Society had drawn up an approved scale of wages ‘prepared by the pressmen themselves and that it was never sanctioned by the
Masters’. The circular included a list of the men who ‘being Unionists, have quitted employment’. As well as naming the strikers, the list indicates whether each is an apprentice or a journeyman, and whether they had been working at press or case.

KHULL, Edward, printer to the University, stereotype founder, and steam-press printer, Dunlop st., house. Hazlewood, Dumbreck 1845-46.


The mid 1840s were difficult trading times, a period of long depression with poor harvests, high prices, failure of the potato crop, and violence in Europe. When factories closed there were bankruptcies and barricades at factory gates and the military were called out. Under this climate it’s no wonder that Khull was looking east to a better future.

About 1830 Edward Khull jnr had married Catherine Dennistoun, a distant relation of Alexander Dennistoun (Dennistoun area named after) who was a wealthy merchant. Encouraged by an introduction to Dennistoun’s clients in the Port Phillip District and a ‘power of a draft for £1000’ on Dennistoun Brothers of Glasgow, Khull sailed with his wife and four children in the Greenock built John Gray(b1842) for Melbourne.

He arrived in August 1848, stayed for two months with George Russell at Golfhill and was introduced to management of a sheep run. Embarrassed by the cost of his family’s upkeep in Melbourne and unable to find suitable work for his son, he bought 6200 sheep on Tallygaroopna from the attorney of the absent licensee, Sherbourne Sheppard, and occupied the run. When Sheppard returned from England in 1849 he forcibly ejected Khull and repossessed the property. On 6 April 1852 the case, Khull v. Sheppard, was heard in the Supreme Court and the jury returned a verdict for the defendant.

In January 1851 Khull had been appointed government printer. Soon after gold was discovered at Ballarat he resigned and, with James Patterson as partner, set up as gold-brokers. From early 1852 Khull supplied the Argus with weekly reports on the gold market and with six annual statistical supplements on gold production, prices, exchange rates and other relevant matters. As one of the leading firms in the trade, Khull & Patterson were engaged by the Bank of Australasia to buy gold on commission. In 1853 the banks decided to bypass the brokers and to buy gold on their own account. In the Argus Khull used his weekly column to condemn this ‘illegitimate’ banking business, but he protested in vain and within a few years the banks controlled most of the trading in gold.

Late in 1852 as E. Khull & Co. he began to deal in stocks and shares. The appearance of his first share price list in the Argus, October 1852, marks the beginning of a share market in Victoria. As the banks took over gold dealing he gave more of his attention to sharebroking and became one of the leading figures in the industry. His regularly published share price list contributed to the gradual development of a wider market in stocks and shares. Although not prominent in the negotiations leading to the formation of Melbourne’s first Stock Exchange in April 1861 he was one of its foundation members.

However, he had already become a victim of the aftermath of Victoria’s first speculative market in mining shares. He was involved in insolvency proceedings from May 1860 to February 1861. He had helped to found the Stock and Share Journal on
26 May 1860 which ceased publication in April 1861. His active business career did not long survive these experiences and he went into retirement. Predeceased by his wife, he died aged 79 at his home in Collingwood on 5 May 1884. He was buried in St Kilda cemetery.

A Taste of Life at Katandra in 1863

Tallygaroopna is a rural district and small town on the Goulburn Valley Highway and railway 15 km north of Shepparton in northern Victoria. It was named after the Tallygaroopna pastoral run, which had been taken up by Edward Khull in 1841, and was later occupied by Sherbourne Sheppard (1843-52), after whom Shepparton is named. It is thought that the name Tallygaroopna derived from an Aboriginal word meaning big tree or trees.

The country around was absolutely level and we could only get a view above the trees by driving to Khull’s Range, a small elevation about 200 feet in height, some 10 miles from the homestead. The view from these hills was somewhat unique, as the trees seemed to form a perfectly even plane as far as the eye could reach.

What was most remarkable, however, was the fact that such a thing as a stone was practically unknown in the district, as the whole countryside was a mass of level black soil formed by the overflowing of the rivers, Murray and Goulburn. True that on Khull’s Range, already mentioned, red volcanic stone in small quantities might be found, but grey sandstone of the size of this grinding mill was absolutely unobtainable.

Early history of printing in Virginia St.

As already noted between 1830-35 Khull was based at 65 Virginia St, where the first steam powered printing press in Glasgow was built. However, that is not the only link the street has with the history of printing.

James Miller

Printer and lithographer (& map maker?) was working out of 30 Virginia St in 1825. He is certainly one of the very first to be involved in lithography in Scotland. He was of some repute & influential in the industry. Miller had kept a writing ‘Academy’ at 33 Rotten Row and his ability in penmanship led him into this new line of business in which he was very successful. Some of his apprentices even went on to establish their own firms, like David Allan of Allan & Ferguson whose 1843 plates(20) ‘Views of Glasgow’ are now held by Glasgow University. Incidentally they made a print of the Black Bull Inn in 1840 that gives a good sense of what the foot of Virginia Street looked like at that time.

There is some dispute as to who was the very first in Scotland with respect to introducing Lithography. Some suggest Thomas Hopkirk, the younger of Dalbeth. who certainly had the means coming from a wealthy family. Some say he started John Watson in the lithographic business in 1822/3. Another is that he started in business with the son of James Cleland to form ‘Hopkirk & Cleland’ lithographers at a much earlier date. This firm dissolved and Hopkirk then started Watson and Cleland carrying on the business in his own name.

I can find no Lithographic listing in the Glasgow directory prior to 1821 where it mentions ‘Jn Watson’ and ‘McAllister & Co.’ with John Cleland making an appearance at 30 Virginia St from 1822. However I did notice that the home address of Thomas Hopkirk the younger of Dalbeth was given as 169 George St. This is the same address that Jn Watson is working out of so that lends credence to the history of there being a working relationship there.

Schenck in his book confirms this relationship.

John Cleland’s office in the Glasgow Directory 1824 was at 30 Virginia St ‘lithographic printer’ and it changed hands when it was taken up by James Miller in 1825. Miller then moved to 85 Trongate and afterward to 21 Argyle St where he remained until 1842 when he retired.

Note: William Collins b.1789 (Printers & Publishers) est. 1819 28 Candleriggs Court. This is the original Collins of ‘Harper Collins’ publishers. 1824 published first dictionary Greek & English Lexicon. Retired to Rothesay 1846.

An Edward Collins worked at 42 Virginia Street paper maker warehouse. This was situated between the current Merchant City Inn and M&S Melvin & Lieper building. A Reputation for Excellence: Glasgow Volume II 1994 © Scottish Printing Archival Trust (SC: 012320) states the following on Edward Collins:

Edward Collins who is said to have arrived in Glasgow about 1746 is a rather shadowy figure. Supposedly from Shropshire or Suffolk he is said to have been suspected of being a Jacobite and to have been conscripted, against his will, by the Duke of Cumberland during the rebellion of 1745—46. By 1756 he was established as a papermaker at Dalmuir, near Glasgow, and in that year was awarded a silver medal by the Edinburgh Society ‘for the greatest quantity of the best printing paper, not under six reams’.10 Much, if not all, of the paper used by the Foulis brothers was purchased from Collins and this is no doubt true of the other Glasgow printers. It has been claimed, on somewhat doubtful grounds, that a descendant of Edward Collins was the founder of the Glasgow publishing house of Collins.

Scottish Printing Archival Trust (SC: 012320).

28 Virginia St

28 Virginia St prior to 1826 was located on the grounds of the old Virginia Mansion from circa1797. This is where James Cleland’s father set up his business as furniture maker. It was situated in the vicinity of 63/65 Virginia Street and the current vacant ground at Virginia Place. It was also known as Cleland’s Land and later assimilated into Virginia Court which was located where the present day carpark is situated.

© Cicerone: MerchantCityGlasgow.  All Rights Reserved. 2021 

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