William Chambers (April 16, 1800 - May 20, 1883) and Robert Chambers (July 10, 1802 - March 17, 1871) were born into a prosperous family on the border between Scotland and England. Unfortunately, by puberty their family fortunes had declined due to their father's bad loans to French prisoners of war. Left with little Robert Chambers, then 16, opened a small bookstand on Leith Walk, Edinburgh. His brother William, at 18, opened a bookstand of his own on the same street. A short time afterwards the two joined forces. Due to their thrifty business practices and hard work, the duo quickly developed a thriving business and began publishing. Their first publishing venture was 750 copies of "The Songs of Robert Burns", a sure bet in 19th century Edinburgh. They followed up with a series of educational works including several atlases, an encyclopedia, and more Burns books. The firm continued to publish into the early 20th century.