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Robert & Andrew Foulis, the Foulis Press, and Their Legacy
by George Fairfull Smith

Examples of work by pupils of the Foulis Academy

The school founded by Robert Foulis in 1753 became known as the Foulis Academy. Its students, some of whom were as young as eleven when they entered, were taught a wide range of skills which would enable them to work as designers for manufacturers and also as fine artists. Among the best-known students are David Allan (1744-96) ‘the Scottish Hogarth’; James Tassie (1735-99) the modeller; and Robert Paul (1739-70), Charles Cordiner (1746-94) and George Walker (fl.1775-1803) who produced a series of important Scottish views that were published as prints, or used to illustrate books.

The pupils copied paintings and prints in the Academy’s collection, and produced a wide range of works of art for sale. Some of the students’ engravings were used to illustrate books published by the Foulis brothers. They also undertook a number of other commissions including engraving the four medals placed under the Macfarlane Observatory at Glasgow University; a bookplate for use in the University’s Library; illustrations of the collection of the inscribed and sculpted Roman stones owned by the University; and the inscription plate for the town’s first Jamaica Street Bridge.

Artist unknown ‘Glasgow University bookplate’ pasted in Callimachus, Hymns and Epigrams, 1755

The minutes of the meeting of the University’s Faculty on 4 April 1765 record the instruction for Robert Foulis to produce and supply ‘a copperplate of the University Arms an impression of which is to be pasted on every book’.

Sp Coll BD12-b.17


Monumenta Romani Imperii

Glasgow University owns an important collection of Roman inscribed and sculptured stones, and in 1767 it commissioned the Academy to supply twenty engravings of them. They were completed the following year, and some of the copperplates have survived, and are in the University’s Hunterian Museum. The history of the stones and the prints can be found in Lawrence Keppie, Roman Inscribed and Sculptured Stones in the Hunterian Museum University of Glasgow, 1998.

In 1788 the University Faculty decided to reissue the set with illustrations of the stones that had been added to the collection. Glasgow’s James Lumsden undertook the engraving and printing, and Robert Foulis’s son Andrew supplied the title page. In June 1792 the work, with the original Academy engravings and twelve new illustrations printed on ten sheets, was ready for distribution.

[Monumenta Romani Imperii ...]


This is the set of the original 20 engravings, and was the copy presented to William Hunter by the University of Glasgow. The first series of prints have come to be known by the title of the expanded series of prints which were produced in 1792.

Plate XII, [1768].

The initial collection of twenty prints was not published as a volume for sale to the public, nor does it appear to have had a titlepage.

Sp Coll H.2.20

Title-page, 1792.

The title translates as Memorials of the Roman Empire, found in Scotland, especially among the vestiges of the wall laid out under the auspices of the emperor Antoninus Pius, from Forth to Clyde, and preserved at the Glasgow Academy, illustrated.

Plate XXVI, 1792.

Sp Coll Mu21-b.17


Books illustrated by former pupils of the Foulis Academy

Allan Ramsay The Gentle Shepherd 1796.


Robert Foulis’s son Andrew first published this work in 1788 [GUL: BD12-b.14; Gaskell: 688]. Its illustrations were produced by David Allan, and this large paper copy contains twenty of David Allan’s pencil studies for them. The Mitchell Library in Glasgow owns a copy of the 1788 edition with hand-coloured plates.

David Allan, 'Madge  Auld Roudes! Filthy fallow I shall auld ye', plate 8: aquatint, 1788.

William Zachs commented in The First John Murray and the Late Eighteenth-Century London Book Trade, 1998, that ‘Allan’s aquatints for the Gentle Shepherd blended Enlightenment refinement with native Scottish simplicity’.

David Allan, pencil drawing for plate 6 (‘ Whisht doubfu’ carle...’) .

David Allan, ‘And what would Roger say if he could speak?’, plate 7: aquatint, 1788.

David Allan, pencil drawing for plate 7.

Sp Coll Bh14-x.13; Gaskell 703

Rudolph Eric Raspe Descriptive Catalogue of A General Collection of Ancient and Modern Engraved Gems, Cameos as well as Intaglios, taken from the Most Celebrated Cabinets in Europe; and Cast in Coloured Pastes, White Enamel, and Sulphur by James Tassie 1791


James Tassie was one of the most successful of the Foulis Academy’s pupils. He became renowned for modelling portrait medallions and the reproduction of antique gems. Rapse (1737-94), an archaeologist and author, compiled this two-volume catalogue, listing over 15,000 items, which served a dual purpose as a major reference work, and an advertisement for Tassie’s work. The text is in English and French.

David Allan, frontispiece: aquatint

In addition to the frontispiece David Allan, Tassie’s former fellow-pupil at the Foulis Academy, produced 57 plates with illustrations. This shows Minerva, as Goddess of Wisdom, about to examine a cabinet of antiquities Catherine the Great of Russia was Tassie’s most famous patron and commissioned 12,000 of his ‘gems’.

David Allan, plate xxvi

Tassie had access to over 500 collections of antique gems in Britain and on the Continent, including those of the Earl of Carlisle, the Countess of Hopetoun, and Cardinal Borgia in Rome. Allan illustrated specimens owned by Charles Townley, the famous collector of classical antiquities, and Cardinal Albani, among others.

Sp Coll e.10. 41, 42

The Rev. Charles Cordiner of Banff Remarkable Ruins and Romantic Prospects, of North Britain, with Ancient Monuments and Singular Subjects of Natural History, 1788-95


Cordiner became the Episcopal minister in Banff, and wrote on the subject of antiquities. He was one of the few trained artists working in the northern Highlands in the late 18th century.


Title-page, volume 2.

Sp Coll BD5-d.13, 14

The Rev. Charles Cordiner, Antiquities and Scenery of the North of Scotland, 1780


The National Gallery of Scotland owns Cordiner’s The Bridge of Alva, Duff House, Banffshire, gouache, 1774, and the Rock near Banff, watercolour, 1790.

Sp Coll Stone 1144

James Cririe, Scottish Scenery, or Sketches in Verse, descriptive of scenes chiefly in the Highlands of Scotland, 1803.


This book is illustrated by 20 engravings after paintings by George Walker, F.S.A., who was appointed Landscape Painter to the King. They include Edinburgh, Dunkeld, the Pass of Killicrankie, Taymouth, and Bothwell Castle. Apparently Walker envisaged these illustrations forming part of a gallery of Scottish landscapes.

Illustration 'Fall of the Bruar' 1803.

Painted in crayons by George Walker, and engraved by W. Byrne. 

Sp Coll Hepburn q35



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examples of Foulis Press books
examples of prints reproduced in the 20th century after works engraved in the Foulis Academy