Thomas Nelson

1822 - 1892

Thomas Nelson
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Thomas Nelson

Publisher. Son of Thomas Nelson (1780 - 1861), he joined the family publishing firm in 1839. He is noted for inventing the rotary printing press, which was a significant technical advance because it used a continuous feed of paper to print much faster than the alternatives. Nelson exhibited his invention in the Great Exhibition of 1851, but he never patented it and it was widely copied. In 1854, he travelled to New York and became the first British publisher to open an office in the USA.

Nelson built a castellated Gothic mansion, which he named St. Leonards, on an estate next to Edinburgh's Holyrood Park, adjoining his brother's house, Salisbury Green. St. Leonard's Hall is now the administrative centre for the University of Edinburgh's Pollock Halls residential complex.

Nelson is buried in Edinburgh's Grange Cemetery, next to his father and brother. His sons Tommy and Ian took over the company, and the author John Buchan (1875 - 1940) played an important role in its management, especially after Tommy was killed during World War I.

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