Adam Black

Adam Black FRSE (20 February 1784  24 January 1874) was a Scottish publisher and politician. He founded the A & C Black publishing company, and published the 7th, 8th and 9th editions of the Encyclopædia Britannica.[1]

Adam Black

Portrait by John Watson Gordon.
Member of Parliament for Edinburgh
In office
Personal details
Born(1784-02-20)20 February 1784
Charles Street, Edinburgh, Scotland
Died24 January 1874(1874-01-24) (aged 89)
Edinburgh, Scotland
Resting placeWarriston Cemetery
Political partyLiberal
EducationRoyal High School
Alma materUniversity of Edinburgh
ProfessionPublisher, Politician


Black was born in Charles Street, Edinburgh, the son of Isabella Nicol and Charles Black, a master builder.[2] He was educated at the Royal High School and the University of Edinburgh. After serving as an apprentice to Mr Fairbairn, an Edinburgh bookseller,[1] he began business for himself in Edinburgh in 1808. By 1826 he was recognised as one of the principal booksellers in the city; and a few years later he was joined in business by his nephew Charles.[3]

The two most important events connected with the history of the firm were the publication of the 7th, 8th and 9th editions of the Encyclopædia Britannica, and the purchase of the stock and copyright of the Waverley Novels. The copyright of the Encyclopaedia passed into the hands of Adam Black and a few friends in 1827.[3]

In 1832 his bookshop is given as 27 North Bridge in the Old Town and his home is given as 30 Broughton Place in the eastern New Town.[4] In 1851 the firm bought the copyright of the Waverley Novels for £27,000, and in 1861 they became the proprietors of De Quincey's works.[3]

Adam Black was twice Lord Provost of Edinburgh, and represented the city in parliament from 1856 to 1865. He retired from business in 1865, and died on 24 January 1874. He was succeeded by his sons, who removed their business in 1895 to London. In 1877 a bronze statue by John Hutchison of Adam Black was erected in East Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh.[3] He is buried in Warriston Cemetery on the outer face of the catacombs close to James Young Simpson.


Black was married to Isabella Tait (1796–1877). Their children included Charles Bertram Black (1821–1906), Francis Black (1830–1892) and Adam William Black (1836–1898).

His granddaughter, Eda Lawrie married the botanist Robert John Harvey Gibson.

Trained under Black

William Durham FRSE (18341893) was apprenticed under Black.[1]


  1. Waterston, Charles D; Macmillan Shearer, A (July 2006). Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002: Biographical Index (PDF). I. Edinburgh: The Royal Society of Edinburgh. ISBN 978-0-902198-84-5. Retrieved 22 December 2011.
  2. Millar, Gordon F. (23 September 2004). Black, Adam (1784–1874), publisher and politician. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/2491.
  3.  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Black, Adam". Encyclopædia Britannica. 4 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 18.
  4. "Edinburgh Post Office annual directory, 1832-1833". National Library of Scotland. Retrieved 20 January 2018.

Further reading

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Charles Cowan
Thomas Babington Macaulay
Member of Parliament for Edinburgh
With: Charles Cowan 1856–59
James Moncreiff 1859–65
Succeeded by
James Moncreiff
Duncan McLaren

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