National Records of Scotland

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William Blackwood (1776-1834)

William Blackwood (1776-1834)

Publisher and founder of 'Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine'

William Blackwood was born in Edinburgh on 20 November 1776. He started his career with an apprenticeship at Bell and Bradfute, Booksellers. He undertook further training in Glasgow and London before setting up a rare books shop in Edinburgh in 1804. He was appointed agent to John Murray in London and to James and John Ballantyne, printers of Sir Walter Scott’s works. He became a leading Scottish publisher and in 1817 launched ‘Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine’. Contributors included James Hogg, John Gibson Lockhart, Thomas De Quincey and John Wilson (Christopher North). William Blackwood was made a bailie of Edinburgh in 1820 and was elected police commissioner, a post he held from 1828 to 1834.

Marriage in 1805

William Blackwood, Bookseller, Lauriston, married Janet Stewart, daughter of Robert Stewart of Stevenson. The entry in the Old Parish Register for St Cuthbert’s is dated 11 October 1805 when they 'gave up their names for proclamation of Banns Matrimonial'.

Proclamation of banns entry for William Blackwood

Proclamation of banns entry for William Blackwood (38 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, OPR 685-2/18, page 54

Death in 1834

William Blackwood Esquire, Merchant and Bookseller in Edinburgh and Freeman of Calton, died on 16 September 1834. The entry in the Old Parish Register for Leith South (which includes records for the Calton Burial Ground) records that he was aged 57 years. The cause of death was ‘not given’. He was buried on 22 September in the old south ground, three feet from the north wall of the tomb purchased by his heirs from James Nairne Esquire.

Death and burial entry for William Blackwood

Death and burial entry for William Blackwood (42 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, OPR 669-2/34, page 336

Testament of 1835

William Blackwood's testament was registered at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on 22 January 1835. It includes an inventory and a trust deposition and settlement. There are lists of monies due to the estate covering many pages and arranged in sections for good, doubtful and bad debts. The fifth provision he made was that any business previously carried out by him should be continued by his sons Alexander and Robert Blackwood. He directs his trustees to make over to them in equal portions all his copyrights in books, magazines and other publications as well as the instruments and implements of his trade and the shop furniture. 

Testament for William Blackwood

Detail from page 903 of the testament for William Blackwood (95 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, SC70/1/71, pages 887-906