1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Blackwood, William

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BLACKWOOD, WILLIAM (1776–1834), Scottish publisher, founder of the firm of William Blackwood & Sons, was born of humble parents at Edinburgh on the 20th of November 1776. At the age of fourteen he was apprenticed to a firm of booksellers in Edinburgh, and he followed his calling also in Glasgow and London for several years. Returning to Edinburgh in 1804, he opened a shop in South Bridge Street for the sale of old, rare and curious books. He undertook the Scottish agency for John Murray and other London publishers, and gradually drifted into publishing on his own account, removing in 1816 to Princes Street. On the 1st of April 1817 was issued the first number of the Edinburgh Monthly Magazine, which on its seventh number, bore the name of Blackwood’s as the leading part of the title. “Maga,” as this magazine soon came to be called, was the organ of the Scottish Tory party, and round it gathered a host of able writers. William Blackwood died on the 16th of September 1834, and was succeeded by his two sons, Alexander and Robert, who added a London branch to the firm. In 1845 Alexander Blackwood died, and shortly afterwards Robert.

A younger brother, John Blackwood (1818–1879), succeeded to the business; four years later he was joined by Major William Blackwood, who continued in the firm until his death in 1861. In 1862 the major’s elder son, William Blackwood (b. 1836), was taken into partnership. John Blackwood was a man of strong personality and great business discernment; it was in the pages of his magazine that George Eliot’s first stories, Scenes of Clerical Life, appeared. He also inaugurated the “Ancient Classics for English readers” series. On his death Mr William Blackwood was left in sole control of the business. With him were associated his nephews, George William and J. H. Blackwood, sons of Major George Blackwood, who was killed at Maiwand in 1880.

See Annals of a Publishing House; William Blackwood and his Sons . . . (1897–1898), the first two volumes of which were written by Mrs Oliphant; the third, dealing with John Blackwood, by his daughter, Mrs Gerald Porter.