At the age of fourteen he was apprenticed to a firm of booksellers in Edinburgh, and he followed his calling also in Glasgow and London for several years.
Returning to Edinburgh in 1804, he opened a shop in South Bridge Street for the sale of old, rare and curious books He undertook the Scottish agency for John Murray and other London publishers, and gradually drifted into publishing on his own account, moving in 1816 to Princes Street. On 1 April 1817 the first number of the Edinburgh Monthly Magazine was published, which on its seventh number became Blackwood"s Edinburgh Magazine.
"Maga," as this magazine soon came to be called, was the organ of the Scottish Tory party, and round it gathered a host of able writers.
Thomas" shop operated as a silk merchant. At the end of his life Blackwood was living at 3 Ainslie Place on Edinburgh"s elegant Moray Estate in the West End.
His bookshop was within easy walking distance, being located at 45 George Street. William Blackwood died in 1834 and is buried in an ornate vault in the lower western section of Old Calton Cemetery.
William Blackwood married Janet Steuart (1780-1849) on 29 October 1805.
They had a very large family. All are buried with him in Old Calton except where stated:
Alexander Blackwood (1806-1845)
Robert Blackwood (1808-1852)
Major William Blackwood (1810-1861) came later into the publishing business after a military beginning
Isabella Blackwood (1812-1897)
James Blackwood (1814-1871)
Thomas Blackwood (1816-1855) (buried in Boulogne)
John Blackwood (1819-1879) who took over editorship of Blackwood"s Magazine (buried in Dean Cemetery)
Colonel Archibald Blackwood (1821-1870) adopted a military career, died in Simla in India. Janet Blackwood (1823-1870), married and moved to London (buried in Kensal Green Cemetery).