The Tullis Press: 19th century printing in Fife

Tuesday 9 August 2011
A selection of early Tullis Press books on the shelf.

Robert Tullis (1775-1831) moved to Cupar in 1797 and founded the company of R. Tullis & Company, initially as a bookshop and bindery. In 1803 he acquired a printing press and established the Tullis Press which succeeded in capturing the commercial printing market in Fife and its surrounding area and, between 1803 and 1849, published more than two hundred books. He was appointed printer to the University of St Andrews in 1808. In 1809 he added to the company the Auchmuty paper mill in Markinch, becoming one of the earliest paper manufacturers in Scotland, and in 1822 began publishing the Fife Herald. His son, George Smith Tullis, took over the family trade mid-19th century.

D.W. Doughty, former deputy University Librarian, gave a rough bibliography of the press’s output during the 19th century in a 1967 issue of the Abertay Historical society and its 1970’s addenda, but these are by no means definitive(“The Tullis press Cupar, 1803-1849,” by D.W. Doughty, Abertay Historical Society Publication, no. 12, 1967). The cataloguing of the Cupar section of the Typographical collection (TypBC8) has uncovered around 50 items from the Tullis press (43 printed by Robert Tullis, and seven by G.S. Tullis), many of them being only the second or third known copy in the world, and many of them not found in Doughty’s bibliography.

Engraved plate by Thomas Clerk, depicting bridge building, in R. Tullis's 1809 printing of John Hunter's edition of Julius Caesar's De Bello Gallico.
Title page of R. Tullis's 1826 catalogue of the Library of St Andrews, the first printed library catalogue of the University's collections.

Our holdings illustrate the wide variety of topics that the Tullis outputted:  mostly small-sized, cheaper volumes probably to keep the business fresh and afloat. Some examples of the output under R. Tullis include: Fictional works by Fielding, medical treatises, Sibbald’s History of Fife and Kinross, Grierson’s Delineations of St Andrews, educational books, &c. His most substantial and cleanest works, however, can be found in the Classics: his early printings of John Hunter’s editions of Sallust’s Works, Caesar’s De Bello Gallico (pictured above) and Virgil’s Works are exceptionally clean and mimic the earlier style and output of the Foulis Press, Glasgow. R. Tullis printed at least 17 editions of six classical authors between 1807 and 1828, and two editions of Thomas Ruddiman’s Rudiments of the Latin tongue. Many of these works were sold locally in St Andrews, Anstruther and Edinburgh, and his most popular of works list London booksellers as well. His most important work in regards to St Andrews is his 1826 edition of the University Library Catalogue, the first printed catalogue of the collections at St Andrews (pictured right). This out-sized catalogue was a substantial work, an initial run of 150 copies at 608 pages each. Again, the similarities to the Foulis Press’s 1791 Glasgow catalogue are striking.

Title page of G.S. Tullis's printing of George Buist's Meteorological observations made at Colaba, Bombay.

G.S. Tullis carried on the tradition of printing for the University into the second half of the 19th century , illustrated in our collection by his work with Dr. George Buist on his Provisional report on the meteorological observations made at Colaba, Bombay (pictured left), which is accompanied by the largest item in Special Collections, a hand-drawn chart of barometrical readings from the same observatory measuring in at 18000x2440mm (MS38812, pictured below).  Also of local interest is his 1844 printing of John Jack’s An historical account of St. Monance, Fife-shire, ancient & modern, interspersed with a variety of tales, incidental, legendary & traditional.


The extremely large MS38812, an 18x2.4 metre chart of barometrical readings from Colaba, Bombay, 1843.

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    […] Tullis Russell family business started with Robert Tullis (1775-1831), of the Tullis Press in Cupar, who bought the lease of the Auchmuty Meal mill in 1809 and created the paper making […]

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