Mr. James Tait Black
By the death of Mr. James Tait Black, which occurred recently at his residence at Ayr, an interesting link with the publishing world, both of the earlier and of the later Victorian age, is severed.
Mr. Black was the second son of Adam Black, publisher of the seventh and eight editions of the "Encyclopædia Britannica," and friend and successor of Macaulay in the Parliamentary representation of the City of Edinburgh. His mother was a sister of William Tait, proprietor of the once famous Tait's Magazine. Born in 1826, Mr. Black received his early education at the well-known Moravian School of Neuwied, in Rhenish Prussia, and afterwards at the Royal High School of Edinburgh, under Dr. Carson. After serving his apprenticeship with Messrs. Longmans and Co. in London he joined his father in Edinburgh, and ultimately, on the retirement of the latter , he became senior partner in the firm of which his brothers, Francis and Adam William. were now also members. His complete withdrawal from business responsibilities was as late as 1899. As a publisher Mr. Black is worthy of mention as having been an early and successful leader in a movement which has since reached great dimensions, the sixpenny reprints of the Waverley Novels, which had a great success, having been largely due to his sagacity and enterprise. His most noteworthy achievement was the production of the ninth edition of the "Encyclopædia Britannica," which was begun about 1870 and reached its completion in 1888, In the literary as well as in the commercial aspects of this work he took a warm interest throughout, alike during the editorship of Professor Baynes and during that of Professor Robertson Smith. That latter in 188o put on record a cordial tribute to the ability and liberality which the publishers had shown, not only taking "the warmest interest in the literary work, but also giving the editors the manifold assistance which can be derived from a practical knowledge of affairs."
Unlike his father, Mr. Black, who was of a kindly and philanthropic but somewhat retiring disposition, at no time took part either in municipal or in Imperial affairs. He sought relaxation from the cares of business chiefly in artistic pursuits; he was an accomplished musician, had acquired considerable proficiency as a painter in water-colours and as an amateur in all branches of photography, and was a zealous and judicious book-collector.
Mr. Black was twice married—first to a daughter of Mr. Maurice Lothian, widely known and respected in legal and ecclesiastical circles, in the Edinburgh of his day, and afterwards to Janet, daughter of Mr. Thomas Coats, of Ferguslie, Paisley. His son by the first marriage is Mr. Adam Black, at one time also a member of the firm of A. and C. Black, and his daughter is the wife of Mr. George Coats, of the Forest of Glen Tana.