History at home for Peebles festival

THE PEEBLES home of famous publishing brothers William and Robert Chambers will be open to the public on Sunday.

Present owners Mr and Mrs Ian White are hosting visits to their home, 18 Biggiesknowe, the Chambers’ birthplace, as part of Peebles Arts Festival.

The house was built in 1796 by the publishers’ grandfather, William Chambers, as a wedding present for his newly married son James, a cotton manufacturer.

It was in the box-bed off the parlour that William was born in 1800 and Robert in 1802.

Following their father’s bankruptcy the family moved to Edinburgh where William became a bookseller’s apprentice and in 1818 Robert, then aged 16, began his own business running a bookstall. Later William bought a homemade printing press and published pamphlets before the brothers decided to join forces with Robert writing and William printing.

Their first joint venture was a magazine series called The Kaleidoscope, or Edinburgh Literary Amusement, which sold for threepence. In 1819 they founded W and R Chambers, now Chambers, the worldwide publishing company.

William bought back the old family home when he returned to Peebles in 1850.

A small exhibition of maps of Peebles and Peeblesshire, and artwork by the Scottish artist McIntosh Patrick will be on show.

A Scottish Borders Council (SBC) spokesperson added: “There will also be an opportunity to view an intriguing recent discovery – an early 19th-century book, found in a bookshop in St Andrews, which is overprinted with ‘W. Chambers Library’. The date of the book, 1819, coincides with the opening of William Chambers’ library and bookshop in Edinburgh in 1819. Could this be the great publisher’s first attempt at printing?”

SBC museum staff and the Whites will show visitors round and answer questions and the tours costing £3 will take place at 10.30am, 11.15am, 12noon, 1pm, 1.45pm and 2.30pm.