National Library unveils exhibition to mark The Scotsman's bicentenary year

A new exhibition charting the history and evolution of The Scotsman over the past two centuries will today welcome its first visitors.

Ian Scott with items from The Scotsman exhibition. Picture: Jon Savage
Ian Scott with items from The Scotsman exhibition. Picture: Jon Savage

The exhibition at the National Library of Scotland, which is being held as part of the newspaper’s bicentenary celebrations, gathers together a treasure trove of archive material from the publication’s storied past.

One of the highlights is an original copy of the first edition, which was published on 25 January 1817. Only 300 copies of the inaugural issue, then a weekly journal, were sold.

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The exhibition – The Scotsman: 200 Years of a Scottish Newspaper – also revisits some of the major national and international stories to feature in the title over the past two centuries.

The Scotsman newsroom on North Bridge in Edinburgh. Picture: TSPL

The curator of the exhibition, produced jointly by the National Library and The Scotsman, described it as an apt reflection on the history of “one of the country’s leading papers” and the role it has played in Scottish civic life.

The display, which runs until April, incorporates seminal moments when The Scotsman chronicled changes both on its doorstep and the wider world.

In a nod to the days of printing presses, the exhibits include a copper plate of the front page from 21 July 1969, which brought readers news of Apollo 11’s lunar landing.

Other historic accounts include an article from 1824, reporting on the Great Fire of Edinburgh which destroyed vast swathes of the Old Town and led to the world’s first municipal firefighting service.

The Scotsman newsroom on North Bridge in Edinburgh. Picture: TSPL

The display also captures moments that show the changing face of The Scotsman itself. On show will be the issue from 17 April 1956 when, for the first time, news articles replaced classified advertising on the front page.

Ian Scott, a curator at the NLS with a special responsibility for newspaper collections, said: “The Scotsman newspaper holds a special place in the story of Scotland over the past 200 years.

“It has been an acute observer of political, economic and social developments both at home and abroad and has helped to inform and educate its readers while entertaining them at the same time.

“At a time of great uncertainty for the newspaper industry, it is good to reflect on what has been achieved by one of the country’s leading papers.”

With the considerable archives of both the NLS and The Scotsman to draw on, Mr Scott conceded that deciding what to include in the display was far from straightforward.

“We have every issue of the newspaper in our collections,” he added.

“We also have numerous items including the programme for the 150th anniversary dinner, memoirs and histories written by editors and contributors; crossword collections from 1949 onwards, as well as a brief guide to the best places to have afternoon tea in Scotland as suggested by 
readers of The Scotsman’s women’s page in 1973.”

Scotsman Editor Frank O’Donnell said: “We are delighted to be working with the National Library. This exhibition is a fascinating insight into the changing face of Scotland and a rare opportunity to see these issues up close.”

‘The Scotsman: 200 Years of a Scottish Newspaper’ runs from 18 January to 8 April 2018 at the NLS on Edinburgh’s George IV Bridge. Entry is free.