Archibald Constable

1774 - 1827

Publisher. Born in Carnbee (Fife), the son of the Factor to the Earl of Kellie. Constable moved to Edinburgh to work for a bookseller (1788). In 1795 he started his own business selling books and soon entered the world of publishing, with premises on the Royal Mile. He quickly gained a reputation for innovation and editorial independence, having bought the Scots Magazine (1801) and was selected as publisher of the Edinburgh Review (1802). Constable was able to attract all of the major authors of the time, including author Sir Walter Scott (1771 - 1832) and poet and songwriter Robert Tannahill (1774 - 1810). Almost single-handed Constable brought Edinburgh to the fore as a publishing centre, which almost replaced London as the most significant in Britain. Constable purchased the rights to the Encyclopaedia Britannica in 1812 and his company continued to publish this for several decades.

In 1826, Constable suffered insolvency, brought on by the collapse of his London agents, which also bankrupted fellow publisher James Ballantyne (1772 - 1833) and plunged Sir Walter Scott into debt. Constable quickly bounced back, launching Constable's Miscellany, a low-cost review of art, literature and science. He had accurately predicted the appeal of mass-market literature, one of the most significant developments of the 19th C., but died before he saw its success. He is buried in Old Calton Burial Ground. An amount of his correspondence and business papers are held by the National Library of Scotland.

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