Descendants of historic printer sought

Jo Francis
Monday, July 4, 2022

Celebrations to mark 400 years of printing in Aberdeen include a call for help in tracking down descendants of the city’s first printer, Edward Raban.

Raban: transformational influence on the region
Raban: transformational influence on the region

The University of Aberdeen and Robert Gordon University (RGU) have teamed up with printmaking workshop Peacock & the Worm and Aberdeen City Council Library and Information Service on a series of events and an exhibition to tell the story Raban, who set up the region’s first printing press in Castle Street in 1622.

Raban was a well-travelled Englishman of German descent, who learned the craft of printing in the Netherlands. 

He came to Aberdeen at the invitation of Sir Paul Menzies and Bishop Patrick Forbes. 

He printed under the sign of ‘The Townes Armes’, which continued to be the signboard of the Aberdeen Printers for at least 100 years.

Professor Peter Reid of RGU commented: “Raban was both industrious and ambitious, producing one hundred and fifty titles in twenty-seven years. He called himself the 'Laird of Letters' and was engaged in the political, religious and civic questions of the day. Yet, for all that, he is an elusive figure.

“As part of our 400th anniversary celebrations, we are hoping to track down descendants that might still be living in the north-east. Raban is not a particularly common name so we are interested in anyone who has it in their ancestry”.

Raban’s daughter Elizabeth married Gavin Milne in Aberdeen in 1648, resulting in a family line with the more common Milne surname. 

On Saturday 16 July there will be a day long seminar at the University of Aberdeen’s Sir Duncan Rice library with a display of rare books including 14 works by Raban, along with talks from a range of expert speakers.

Other events including printing workshops will run until December. 

Jennifer Shaw, assistant curator of Museums and Special Collections at the University of Aberdeen, said: “The innovation of printing enabled people to share knowledge quicker and more widely, changing the way people communicated and social relationships.

“Edward Raban was fundamental to bringing about these changes in Aberdeen and left a legacy that could be felt for centuries.

“In 2022 – 400 years on from his arrival in Aberdeen and the printing of his first material – it is fitting that we celebrate his life, legacy and the transformational influence he had on this region.”

The Raban 400 project has been made possible thanks to funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. 


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