Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Constable, Thomas (1812-1881)

CONSTABLE, THOMAS (1812–1881), printer and publisher, youngest son of Archibald Constable [q. v.] by his first marriage to Mary, daughter of David Willison, was born at Craigcrook, near Edinburgh, 29 June 1812. He learned the business of a printer with Mr. C. Richards in St. Martin's Lane, London, and commencing on his own account in Edinburgh soon occupied a position of prominence. On 7 Sept. 1839 he was appointed her majesty's printer and publisher in Edinburgh. Shortly after the death of Dr. Chalmers in 1847 he purchased the copyright of Dr. Chalmers's works, and of the 'Life' by Dr. Hanna, for 10,000l. Although the undertaking resulted in loss, it did not deter him from further publishing enterprises. About 1864 he began to issue the series of schoolbooks still known as 'Constable's Educational Series,' among the more notable books of the series being Morell's 'English Grammar' and Clyde's 'Geography.' In the same year he published the first volume of the complete edition of Dugald Stewart's 'Works,' edited by Sir William Hamilton and extending to ten volumes. About 1866 he projected 'Constable's Foreign Miscellany,' consisting of translations of important foreign works in general literature. The series was continued for several years, but was not remarkably successful. Among other publications of Constable were Calvin's 'Commentaries,' the novels of Giovanni Ruffini, and the earlier works of Dr. John Brown, author of 'Rab and his Friends.' In 1860 he discontinued the publishing business, his stock being chiefly disposed of to Messrs. Edmonston & Douglas. In his later years Constable devoted his leisure to literary occupation. His life of his father, published under the title 'Archibald Constable and his Literary Correspondents,' 1878, while of permanent interest from the valuable materials he had at his disposal, displays both sound judgment and considerable literary skill. He was also the author of 'Memoir of Lewis D. B. Gordon, F.R.S.E., Professor of Civil Engineering and Mechanics in the University of Glasgow,' printed for private circulation, Edinburgh, 1877, and of a 'Memoir of the Rev. Charles A. Chastel de Boinville,' London, 1880. He died 26 May 1881. By his wife Lucia Anne, daughter of Alexander Cowan, papermaker, Valleyfield, near Edinburgh, he had issue. His son Archibald became partner with him in 1865, and received the appointment of printer to her majesty in 1869, the business being carried on under the designation of 'Thomas & Archibald Constable, printers to the queen and to the university of Edinburgh.'

[Notice in Scotsman by Dr. Walter C. Smith, 28 May 1881; private information.]

T. F. H.