A perspective representation of Mr B. Bensley's printing machine (steam printing press) from T. C. Hansard, Typographia: An Historical Sketch of the Origin and Progress of the Art of Printing, London, 1825.

B. Bensley was Benjamin Bensley, the son of Thomas Bensley, an English printer known as an innovator in the fields of steam-powered printing presses and lithography for book illustration. Thomas Bensley had actively supported, both financially and with practical trials, the efforts of Friedrich Koenig to develop steam-driven printing machinery. Dibdin writes that 'After great toil, and proportionally heavy expense, Mr. Bensley has completed the establishment of a self-working press, which prints on both sides of the sheet by one and the same operation - and throws off 900 copies in an hour!' Thanks to the efforts of the likes of Bensley the small print runs of the hand-press era became a thing of the past. (DOD: 74598900)
The Steam King, 'London Published Aug 3rd 1829 by Thomas McLean, 26 Haymarket'

Political satire showing a demonstration of a steam engine by a politician who is using it to generate dozens of bills. 3 August 1829. Hand-coloured lithograph. ©Trustees of the British Museum.
NLS MS.24779 – Table to show what the public ought to pay for bread

This page is an extract from a nineteenth-century commonplace book. It gives a table 'to show what the public ought to pay for bread when wheat is at certain prices'. There is also a note on a French farmer's method 'To destroy weevils in Granaries'. The table of bread prices was copied from the newspaper John Bull. In its original form this paper was founded in 1820 and ran with nearly 4,000 issues until 1892. The name was re-used in several twentieth-century publications. (DOD: 74496196)
A Royal Coronation Pass

The publisher John Murray II's pass for the coronation of George IV, which took place on the 19th of July 1821.  George IV barred his wife, Queen Caroline, from attending.
'Geordie and Willie 'Keeping it up'-- Johnny Bull pays the piper' from William Hone, The Northern Excursion of Geordie, Emperor of Gotham, and Sir Willie Curt-his, the Court Buffoon, &c. &c., London, [1822].

Colour etching by George Cruikshank of King George IV wearing green kilt and green plaid kissing girls and quoting from Burns (Green grow the rashes o) with Sir William Curtis similarly attired dancing a jig before a young bagpiper. Curtis, then MP for the city of the London, had accompanied the King on his jaunt to Scotland. Described as a 'robust, jovial, coarse-featured, self-confident man of convivial habits and flamboyant tastes, Curtis was a constant target of whig and radical cartoonists' (ODNB). He lent himself to further ridicule by appearing, like his royal master, in full Highland costume at George IV's levee at Holyrood in 1822. (DOD: 74604560)
The King, and Canning, his Game Cock!, [London, 1827?]

Political broadside printed by James Catnach, who made a lucrative business printing street literature in the Seven Dials area of London in the 1820s. The broadside was possibly published on the appointment of George Canning as prime minister by George IV on 12 April, 1827. Canning had helped to found the Quarterly Review as a Tory rival to the Edinburgh Review and was known as an excellent parodist himself from his days contributing to the Anti-Jacobin. The reference to Canning being the King's 'game cock' may be an allusion to the unsubstantiated rumours that Canning had had an affair with Princess Caroline after she became estranged from her husband. Canning's term as prime minister only lasted a few months as he died in August of that year. (DOD: 74892754)
The Balance of Public Favor, London, 1827.

Lithographic satirical print depicting Sir Walter Scott and Thomas Moore, two friends but also literary rivals, sitting on opposite ends of a giant set of scales. The scales are not balanced: Scott is seated on the higher scale, looking gloomy, clutching the nine volumes of his biography of Napoleon, while Moore is on the lower scale, looking pleased, and confidently holding up a single small volume for Scott to look at. The print refers to the fact that Scott's The Life of Napoleon Buonaparte was due to be published on the same day in 1827 as Thomas Moore's prose romance The Epicurean, a tale, based on his unfinished poem Alciphron; however, Moore managed to get his book published a day earlier. Scott's biography was subsequently a commercial success but met with a very mixed critical reception, whereas Moore's first novel was an immediate commercial and critical success, hence 'the balance of public favor' falling in Moore's favour.
Playbill of Edinburgh Theatre Royal, advertising the first performance in the theatre of Ivanhoe, or, The Knights Templars in May 1823.

The vogue for stage adaptations of Walter Scott's novels really began with Isaac Pocock's Rob Roy MacGregor in 1818, although there had been earlier attempts at adaptations with somewhat mixed success. By the time Scott died most of his novels and poems had been adapted for the stage. In this particular performance Ivanhoe shares the bill with The Barber of Seville, presumably an adaptation of Beaumarchais's comedy, a reflection of the international literary exchanges from which Scott's works would also benefit.
Archibald Constable to John Murray II on Walter Scott

Account of the expense of publishing one of the many later editions of Walter Scott's poem Marmion: A Tale of Flodden Field, enclosed in a letter from Constable & Co to John Murray, 25 May 1825.
NLS MS.10989, f.51 – Water colour drawing of Walter Scott's Abbotsford, built by Scott using his literary profits

From an album of sketches in watercolour and in pencil and wash, made during a tour in Scotland from July to September, 1823. The artist, who was English, travelled from Loch Lomond and the Trossachs to Inveraray, Staffa, Glencoe, Killin, and back to Loch Lomond. (DOD: 74518845)
NLS MS.3906, f.208r – Letter from Thomas Carlyle to Sir Walter Scott, 13 April 1828

This is the first of two letters that Carlyle wrote to Sir Walter Scott in 1828. Sir Walter Scott had presented Goethe with a set of his Life of Napoleon, and Goethe in acknowledgement sent two medals of himself, asking Carlyle to deliver them to Scott. Carlyle wrote eagerly and at some length, quoting Goethe's letter and craving an audience to present the tribute. 'Naturally it must flatter my vanity and love of the marvelous,' he wrote on 13 April 1828, 'to think that by means of a foreigner whom I have never seen, I might now have access to my native sovereign'.

Scott failed to answer Carlyle's letter, and a reminder was sent to him on 23 May. Again, and equally uncharacteristically, Scott did not acknowledge it. Carlyle was hurt, and never forgot the incident, which affected his whole attitude to Scott and his writings. (DOD: 74494705)
The Townley Gallery and the erecting of the new gallery; in foreground construction materials and figures, including labourers, beyond at right scaffolding across front of new gallery, and at left of centre the Townley Gallery. 1828 Watercolour by George Scharf.

As the collections of the British Museum expanded rapidly, in part due to the acquisition of objects that were formerly in French collections, such as the renowned Rosetta Stone, Old Montagu House and the various structures that had grown around it, such as the Townley Gallery, proved too small for the Museum. In 1823, Sir Robert Smirke began work on creating a totally new building, which would become the most imposing example of Greek Revival architecture in London. George Scharf notes the scale of the undertaking on the recto of this drawing: ‘There will be forty four columns to the façade and 10, 000 tons of stone used as Mr. Baker the builder told me’. The work was accomplished in stages, with the King’s Library built first from 1823 to 1826, followed by the West Wing, which we see in this view. However, the West Wing was not fully completed until the Townley Gallery was pulled down in 1846. The large open space in the foreground of this view, formerly part of the garden of Montagu House and used as a builders’ yard as work on Smirke’s building progressed, would later become the site of the British Museum’s Reading Room. ©Trustees of the British Museum.
NLS MS.787, f.34 – Letter from Francis Jeffrey to Thomas Carlyle regarding his essay on Robert Burns, 22 October 1828

A letter from Francis Jeffrey, editor of the Edinburgh Review, about Thomas Carlyle's essay on Robert Burns, written in Craigcrook on the 22nd October 1828. An excerpt: 'How can you be so absurd as to talk of my cancelling that excellent paper of yours on Burns, after it has given both of us so much trouble - or to imagine that I do not set a due value on it, because I was compelled to make it a little shorter, and induced to vary a few phrases that appeared to me to savour of affection - or at all events of mannerisms?'

After objecting to Carlyle's proof-correcting (largely, in this case, the replacing of editorial deletions), Jeffrey adds that 'I am afraid you are a greater admirer of yourself than becomes a philosopher, if you really think it material to stick to all these odd bits of diction, and to reject every little variation on your inspired text.' (DOD: 74494700)
NLS MS.42770 - List of titles in John Murray’s Family Library series

John Murray's Family Library was a popular series of non-fiction works edited by John Gibson Lockhart. It was published from 1829 to 1834. The opening page, shown here, states that the 'moderate cost' of the series 'has placed the Work within the reach of all classes of Readers'.
NLS MS.43546 - Marino Faliero poster

Public notice that a performance of Lord Byron’s play Marino Faliero, Doge of Venice will go ahead in defiance of an injunction by the Lord Chancellor. Reaction to the performance proved tepid, but its going ahead spoke both to the enormous celebrity of Byron and to the cultural prominence of the theatre.
The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction, No. LXVII, Saturday January 24, 1824.

The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction was, in the words of the Gentleman's Magazine, 'the most popular of all the cheap weekly works' and the 'prototype' for a wave of new periodical publications that served greatly to expand the reach of literary culture. This number, with a publication date slightly fewer than three months before the date of Byron's death, opens with an examination of the poet's family home, Newstead Abbey.
Byron Vault Book

This manuscript was created by Sir John Bowring (1792-1872) as a memorial book for visitors to Lord Byron`s family vault in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire, where his remains were interred after they were denied a place in Westminster Abbey for moral reasons. It contains over 800 visitors' entries, recording date of visit and name, and often their hometown and occupation, along with 28 poetic and 36 prose inscriptions, depicting the scale of literary pilgrimages to the poet's final resting place.
A Shilling Well Laid Out - Tom and Jerry at the Exhibition of Pictures at the Royal Academy

One of the plates from Pierce Egan's immensely popular (and snappily titled) Life in London: Or, The Day and Night Scenes of Jerry Hawthorne, Esq. and his Elegant Friend Corinthian Tom, accompanied by Bob Logic, the Oxonian, in Their Rambles and Sprees Through the Metropolis, originally published in numbers commencing in the autumn of 1820 before being issued as a complete work in 1821. This plate shows the protagonists at one of the key artistic gatherings of the metropolitan calendar.
David Wilkie, The Chelsea Pensioners reading the Waterloo Dispatch, originally entitled Chelsea Pensioners Receiving the London Gazette Extraordinary of Thursday, June 22, 1815, Announcing the Battle of Waterloo

Commissioned from the Scottish painter David Wilkie by the Duke of Wellington, this painting was first exhibited at the Royal Academy summer exhibition in 1822. It was so popular that a rail was installed to protect it from the thronging crowds. Image from Wikipedia.
Agreement regarding Campbell's British Poets

Indenture between Thomas Campbell and John Murray for the Specimens of the British Poets, dated 22nd December 1819. Anthologies and collections were key forms during the 1820s, as culture was mustered and remastered for expanding audiences.
NLS Acc.12583 – Letter from Sir Walter Scott to William Scrope, 1823

Illustrated with pen and wash drawings of Abbotsford and Melrose Abbey by Hugh William Williams. (DOD: 74495418)
Plate from Thomas H. Shepherd, Modern Athens! Displayed in a Series of Views, London, 1829.

Plate showing the Advocates Library (now the upper library of the Signet Library). The Signet Library building, begun in 1810 to a design by Robert Reid, with principal interiors by William Stark, originally comprised a Lower Library for the Society, completed in 1815, and an Upper Library for the Faculty of Advocates, completed in 1822, in time for the famous visit of King George IV to Edinburgh. Shortly afterwards the Faculty decided to build a new library immediately to the south of, and parallel to, the Signet Library, and to meet the cost of its construction it was agreed in 1826 that the Upper Library should be sold to the Society for twelve thousand pounds. Thus the Advocates sold its part of one of the most iconic and impressive library buildings in Scotland/UK and ended up with something far less impressive! (DOD: 74560380)
Cover of George Cruikshank, Phrenological Illustrations; or, An Artist's View of the Craniological System of Doctors Gall and Spurzheim, London, 1830.

Cruikshank's humorous take on the pseudo-science of phrenology, based on the theories of the German physicians Gall and Spurzheim, which swept Europe in the early 19th century. (DOD: 74570400)
Adv.MS.9.1.2, f.55r – Defence for David Landale, accused of the fatal shooting of his banker, George Morgan in the last duel in Scotland, 1826

(DOD: 74559073)
NLS Ms.42488 - Manuscript of a poem by Thomas Moore entitled 'Thoughts on Editors'

This satirical poem was sent - perhaps pointedly - to the publisher John Murray in 1831.


This gallery displays surviving material remnants of the 1820s relating to a range of topics the network hopes to address.

All images kindly provided by the National Library of Scotland, unless otherwise specified.