The Foulis Academy and Foulis Press Collection
A collection of 18th century printed engravings from the Foulis Academy and books from the printers Robert and Andrew Foulis of Glasgow.
About Robert and Andrew Foulis
Robert (1707-1776) and Andrew (1712-1775) Foulis were the sons of a Glasgow barber and wigmaker, Andrew Faulds. The brothers changed the spelling of their surname to Foulis in 1738.
Both were fascinated by books, especially classical literature. During their tour of Europe in 1738 they purchased a number of books which they went on to sell at profit in London and Glasgow, eventually setting up as booksellers within the College of Glasgow in 1741.
Before long, Robert began to publish books and in 1743 he was appointed as the University’s printer. Andrew Foulis joined his brother, and they gained an international reputation for their well-designed editions of classical texts.
The total output of the press reached some 700 volumes. Most of these were scholarly editions of classical authors and other works for the University.
From as early as 1738, Robert Foulis had considered setting up an Academy of Fine Arts in Glasgow and while travelling through Europe in 1751, he bought paintings, prints and sculptures for use in the proposed academy. It is said that there were some 500 paintings in the Academy’s collection, including ones by Raphael, Titian, Rubens and Van Dyck. He also brought back artists and craftsmen - a painter, an engraver, a copperplate printer and two plaster moulders.
Foulis received little help from his fellow citizens, but three wealthy Glasgow merchants - John Glassford of Dougalston, Archibald Ingram and John Coats Campbell contributed sufficient funds to help set up his Academy in 1754.
This was the first school of fine art in Glasgow and was housed in the upper floor of the College Library on High Street. Among the students were David Allan and Robert Paul.
Robert Foulis described the activities of the Academy as ‘modelling, engraving, original history painting and portrait painting’.
A few pupils were enrolled and every year their works were exhibited on the walls of one of the University quadrangles. In the course of its first ten years, the Academy produced over 1000 prints as well as statues, busts and paintings.
The work of the Academy was constantly impeded by lack of money and much of the profits were used to maintain the printing business. After the death of Andrew Foulis in 1775, Robert gave up the struggle to keep it going. He printed a catalogue of its 459 paintings and sold them at auction at Christies in London.
About the collection
The Mitchell Library’s Special Collections has a large collection of Foulis Press books and also a collection of engravings produced by the Academy’s pupils.
View images of the engravings on the SCRAN website.
• Foulis, Robert (1770). The gallery of Raphael, called his Bible: being fifty-two prints, after pictures painted by Raphael and his disciples in the lodges of the Vatican, engraved in the Academy of Arts at Glasgow. Glasgow : Printed by Robert and Andrew Foulis.
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