The Bartholomew directors

George Bartholomew (1784-1871) set the events in motion that would lead to the birth of John Bartholomew & Son when, in 1797, he became an apprentice engraver. His son, John Bartholomew Senior (1805-1861), also trained as an engraver — but, importantly, around 1826 he established his own engraving business. In so doing he established Bartholomew as a company.

Bartholomew's early history was fairly modest. Both George and John Senior worked from home, producing engraving work on commission for an assortment of publishers. However, in 1859 there was a radical change when John Senior's Son, John Bartholomew Junior (1831-1893), opened the firm's first business premises on North Bridge, Edinburgh.

John Bartholomew Junior

John Bartholomew Junior was an ambitious man. He was the first member of the family to learn about new techniques such as lithography. He expanded the business by adding printing to the engraving work they were already famous for. When the firm outgrew North Bridge, John Junior moved the firm to new premises on Brown Square, which is called Chambers Street today.

The era of John George

John Junior relinquished control of the firm to his son, John George Bartholomew (1860-1920), in 1888, which became one of the most eventful years in the firm's history. Not only did the firm see new management, but it also entered into its first partnership, with the publisher Thomas Nelson. The following year, Bartholomew moved to newly built premises on Park Road.

John George's formidable personal and professional achievements marked a watershed in the firm's development. He was described as 'the very Prince of Cartographers', and is recognised today for changing the face of Scottish mapmaking and geographical teaching forever.

However, these achievements came in spite of, rather than because of, the new partnership and premises. When Thomas Nelson died in [1892], John George quickly took a new partner in his cousin, Andrew Scott. Although this helped to relieve some of the problems John George felt with the firm's arrangements, it was only through the move to Duncan Street that he could finally pursue his ambitions in total freedom.

Preparing maps by hand

In his Duncan Street office, John George had the space to conceive new ideas and even prepare draft maps by hand — he was as skilled a draughtsman as any of his staff.

Latterly, his son, John (Ian) (1890-1962), and grandsons, John Christopher (1923-2008), Peter (1924-1987) and Robert (born 1927) carried on in this tradition.


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