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Archibald Constable (1774-1827) - Publisher

He was born on 24th February 1774 at Carnbee in Fife, Scotland, where his father was factor to the Earl of Kellie. In February 1788 he was apprenticed to the Edinburgh bookseller Peter Hill and so began a lifetime's involvement with the book trade in the city. He set up shop on his own account in the High Street in 1795 and made a handsome living by selling antiquarian books. Not content to remain on the retail side, Constable acquired possession of the Scots Magazine and  General Intelligencer in 1801 and in 1802 he began to publish the Edinburgh Review. In his respect for his editor and the contributors, and his insistence that the magazine be published on a regular basis, Constable was the first modern publisher. His policy paid dividends and he quickly attracted authors to his imprint; Sir Walter Scott joined him in 1803, when the third volume of The Minstrelsy Oo The Scottish Border was published. To keep Sir Walter Scott, Constable paid him large advances and his firm prospered. In 1811 Robert Cadell joined Constable as a partner and his caution became a much-needed balance to Constable's increasingly rash optimism. In 1812 Constable purchased the rights to the Encyclopaedia Brittannica, and published a number of supplements to it. Following the collapse of its London agents. Hurst Robinson and Company, the firm crashed in 1826 and the bankruptcy and consequent shame led to Constable's early death on 21th July 1827. Despite the ups and downs of his business relationships with Scott and his inability to deal with financial crisis, Constable was a first-class publisher, whom Lord Cockburn once described as "the most spirited bookseller that has ever appeared in Scotland".

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