The Printed Book

by Harry G. Aldis, M.A. Cambridge at the University Press 1916

Books of the English 1500 to 1800 Part 8

His books were not a commercial success; the Bible of 1763 was, in particular, a hopeless financial failure. Nor could his types make any headway in the trade, for the Caslon letter had secured a firm hold on the market. But his books remain a landmark in the annals of English typography. Their reputation is due not only to his special type and his good taste, but, recognizing their importance; he also gave particular care to choice of paper and quality of ink. The result of his efforts has caused his name to be bracketed with those other eighteenth century masters of the typographic art, Bodoni of Parma and the Didots of Paris.

The aim which the brothers Robert and Andrew Foulis set before themselves when they established their famous press in Glasgow was not merely to bring out well-printed books, but they aspired also to the distinction of a learned press; and both the quality of their printing and the accuracy of their texts give them a claim to be classed with the scholar- printers of the sixteenth century. Greek and Latin classics and reprints of standard works form the bulk of the numerous publications, more than 550 in number, which they issued between 1742 and 1776. Among these the great Homer of 1756-8, in four folio volumes, stands out preeminent. The renowned 'immaculate' Horace of 1744, with but six errors, is one of the many volumes in smaller format, the good printing, careful editing, and moderate price of which are characteristic of the Foulis press. The stately volumes printed by Thomas Bensley and by William Bulmer in the closing years of the eighteenth century should perhaps be regarded as firstfruits of the modern period of printing.