Records of A. & C. Black Publishers Ltd

A.& C. Black was founded by Adam Black who was a publisher and politician. He opened a bookshop in 1807 in Edinburgh. He was born on 20 Feb 1784 in Edinburgh and died 24 Jan 1874 also in Edinburgh. He took his nephew, Charles Black (1834-1854), into partnership with him in his publishing business, establishing A. and C. Black in 1834.

The firm acquired copyright to the Encyclopaedia Britannica. In 1851 they purchased the remainder of the copyright on Sir Walter Scott's works. Adam Black retired in 1870, his three younger sons, James Tait Black (1826-1911), Francis Black (1830-1892) and Adam William Black (1836-1898), who were already in the business with him took over the firm. Francis Black, Adam Black's third son was admitted into the partnership in 1855. Adam William Black, Adam Black's fourth son was admitted into partnership in 1858. A. & C. Black moved to Soho Square, London in 1889. A.B. McGlashen was made a partner in 1889, until 1891.

The firm was a partnership from 1807-1914, and then became a public limited company.

The firm bought the copyright of Sir Walter Scott's Waverley novels in 1851. A. & C. Black also published early P.G. Wodehouse , including Psmith journalist, 1915, The pothunters, 1915, Mike : a public school story, 1916, Psmith in the City : a sequel to "Mike", 1919, all of which are available in the library of the Special Collections.

Adam Rimmer Black (1865-1936), son of James Tait Black was bought into partnership in 1891. The James Tait Black biography prize was established in 1919 and is still presented by The University of Edinburgh. Originally there were two prizes (one for biography and one for fiction) and both these were instituted and founded by the publisher’s wife, Janet Coats, through a bequest in her will (dated 8 December 1917) and funded with her own money. Janet Coats died on 15 November 1918 and the first prize was awarded in 1920 for a publication from 1919. The prizes have been awarded every year since then.

The firm acquired Who's Who in 1896. W.W. Callender was made a director in 1899, (retiring 1928) and Adam Rimmer Black were in charge of the company by 1899. In 1906, The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook and Black's Medical Dictionary were acquired. The firm was Joined by George Wilson in 1920, and H.A. Low in 1928 as directors.

S. W. Partridge and Co. Limited was founded in 1850, and in 1930 the firm was purchased by A. & C. Black. Gay & Hancock was also purchased around this time.

Archibald Black (1932-?), the son of Adam Rimmer Black, joined the firm in 1929, becoming a director in 1932, with H.A. Low, and J.D. Newth who joined the firm in 1925, and became a director in 1935.

EP Publishing was purchased by A. & C. Black Publishers Ltd from Seymour Press in 1983.

A. & C. Black Publishers Ltd purchased Ernest Benn Ltd in 1984. Ernest Benn Ltd publications included the Moomin books by Tove Jansson and E. Nesbit books. T. Fisher Unwin was acquired by Ernest Benn Ltd in 1926. The publishing firm of T. Fisher Unwin was the personal business of Thomas Fisher Unwin (1848-1935). Williams & Norgate was founded by Sydney Williams and Frederick Norgate, in business from the 1830s-1950s, and was acquired by Ernest Benn.

A. & C. Black Publishers Ltd was acquired by Bloomsbury Publishing in July 2000.

More information

  • Archive catalogue

    A catalogue of the collection is available as a pdf to download here (1.62 MB)  or search the online database 

    Please note the collection is stored off site, so please contact us to order items 2 or 3 days in advance of your visit.

  • Library items

    • Adam & Charles Black, 1807-1957 : some chapters in the history of a publishing house, by J.D. Newth.  Available in the library of the special collections call number REFERENCE--655.442-ADA/NEW or MARK LONGMAN LIBRARY--070.5092-ADA/NEW


    • Memoirs of Adam Black edited by Alexander Nicolson.  Available in the library of the special collections call number REFERENCE--655.441445-BLA/NIC or MARK LONGMAN LIBRARY--070.5092-BLA/NIC
  • Manuscript numbers MSS 2164, 5301
publishing history correspondence, business records black a and c

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