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Business Archives

The following are our chief archive and manuscript resources for business research.

This list, however, is by no means comprehensive. For a fuller overview of our collections, consult the Archives Catalogue.

Large Business Archives

The publishing firm of Thomas Nelson was founded in Edinburgh in 1798 and first achieved international success by reprinting standard authors at low prices. It expanded to become one of the English-speaking world's most prominent publishers, specializing in popular literature, children's books, religious titles, and educational texts. The records include day books, ledgers, account books, commission books, and a wide range of correspondence. There are also over 4,700 letters from and to the Scottish author John Buchan in his capacity as business partner and literary adviser.

Founded in the port of Leith by a Norwegian-born shipbroker, Christian Salvesen became one of the world's largest whaling companies in late 19th and early 20th centuries. As whale stocks began to diminish after the Second World War, it became a major frozen food merchant. The archives span over a century of activity embrace a wide range of materials, including: ledgers and cash books; invoice and order books; stock books and accounts; station, port, and ship records; voyage books and private journals; letter books and records of telegrams.

Smaller Archives

Brunstane Farm is located between Portobello and Joppa in North-East Edinburgh. The records consist of accounts dating from the 1930s to the 1970s. They offer an insight into mid-20th-century farming practices and the financial pressures and commitments facing a self-sustaining small business.

Campbell & Campbell W.S. (Solicitors) were an Edinburgh-based legal firm. The records consist of private ledgers, ledger balances, exchequer business, letter books, and correspondence on conveyancing.

The Compagnie Française de l'Afrique Occidentale (CFAO) was a trading company founded in Marseille in 1887. It dealt in groundnut leather, soap, rubber and other products throughout France's West African Colonies. This collection consists of the correspondence and papers of Messrs. Donnison and Edwards, Liverpool, who appear to have been legal agents for CFAO. They largely concern property in Nigeria, Ghana, and Sierra Leone, but there is also material concerning captured German vessels and personnel during the First World War.

The Strasbourg-born engineer John Jacob Holtzapffel founded the firm of Holtzapffel and Co. in London in 1794. The firm specialized in the production of iron-bedded lathes with ornamental turning apparatus, but was renowned noted for its high-quality boring and cutting tools. The records consist of ledgers, a customers' journal 1892-1897, and accounts for sales and repairs.

John Johnstone established a printing firm in Edinburgh in the 1790s, gradually expanding into book-binding, book-selling, and publishing. The papers consist of correspondence with authors and professional colleagues.

Helen Millar Lowe (1897-1997) was one of the first women in Edinburgh to qualify as a chartered accountant (1926) and to establish her own accountancy firm. In the course of her career, she promoted many projects to benefit elderly people and fought to protect Edinburgh’s Bruntsfield Hospital for Women and Elsie Inglis Memorial Maternity Hospital. The collection includes a wide range of business and personal correspondence

Edinburgh University graduate Hamish McKenzie founded the charted accountancy firm of McKenzie and Co. in Edinburgh in the mid-1970s. This collection consists of 11 business account books dating from 1976 to 1999.

Other Resources

Further archives with a business element may be found under the following headings:

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