Eighteenth century Scottish printmaking

South View of Bothwell Castle

South View of Bothwell Castle by Paul Sandby

NLS conservators Lynn Teggart and Shona Hunter recently attended a symposium on 18th century printmaking in Scotland. The symposium was hosted by St Andrews University, and organised by lecturer Ann Gunn, whose presentation is summarised here.

The preservation and treatment of 18th century prints is a task which most paper conservators will encounter at some point in their career, as many were presented within published volumes; so an understanding of the art historical context in which such prints were produced is useful background knowledge.


Art historians have tended to focus on the work of painters and sculptors from this period – overlooking the work of skilled engravers, of which Scotland had many at this time.

A tour in Scotland

From Thomas Pennant, ‘A Tour in Scotland and Voyage to the Hebrides, 1772’

Engravers worked in many fields from map-making to music publishing. While much has been written about early printmaking in England, the Scottish story has not attracted the same level of attention; hitherto, work has tended to focus on a few well-known figures, but in order to properly evaluate the quality, development and contribution of lesser-known and underappreciated printmakers, their works must be made available and more visible to researchers.


Ann has recently been awarded a grant from the Royal Society of Edinburgh, which will enable her to establish a series of workshops to facilitate further research on the prints of Paul Sandby and his contemporaries. One of the questions she is keen to address is in what way did prints contribute to the ‘discovery’ of Scotland, the Jacobite cause and the Enlightenment? She is also interested in answering the question who were the etchers, engravers, teachers, publishes, dealers and collectors of prints, and who provided the raw materials? She invited delegates to get involved in her project, and was keen to share expertise across a range of disciplines and organisations.

Charles Edward Stuart

Charles Edward Stuart, the Young Pretender, 1745 engraving by Robert Strange

Paul Sandby was a map-maker turned landscape artist. He was a founder member of the Royal Academy, as was his architect brother, Thomas. Although born in Nottingham, he worked in Scotland between 1747 and 1752. Following the suppression of the Jacobite rebellion of 1745, he was employed as a military surveyor in the Highlands, and was later appointed draughtsman to the board of ordnance. It was at this time that he produced some of the watercolour landscapes for which he is most famous. However, Sandby was also a prolific and inventive printmaker. He produced many prints of the Scottish landscape, and documented places, people and landmarks.

Foulis Academy Exhibition

Foulis Academy Exhibition, engraving by David Allen