Publisher. Born Thomas Neilson in Throsk (Stirling). After briefly becoming a publisher's apprentice in London, Nelson moved to Edinburgh where, in 1798, he founded a second-hand bookshop on West Bow. In 1818 he changed his name to Nelson and so the famous publishing firm was born. His sons William (1816 - 1887) and Thomas (1822 - 1892), developed the business internationally, with hundreds of employees, and built fine houses on their estates next to their printing works on Dalkeith Road.
In 1960, the company was sold to the multi-national Thomson Organisation, based in Canada, which built on Nelson's reputation for school and reference books. In 1969, the American subsidiary was sold off and now specialises in bibles, other Christian and reference books and is based in Nashville, Tennessee. About the same time the printing works and offices in Edinburgh were closed. Today the site is occupied by the Royal Commonwealth Pool. The archives of the company (1861 -1969) are held by the University of Edinburgh Library.
Nelson is buried in Edinburgh's Grange Cemetery, along with his sons.