HE NEIDPATH PRESS came into being in 1899 when Allan Smyth became the sole proprietor of the business and the fifth owner of the weekly newspaper Peeblesshire Advertiser and County Newspaper which had began as the Peebles Monthly Advertiser in 1845. However, before that from 1880 to 1899 he had been a partner in the business with James Watson.

James Watson, a bookseller and stationer in the High Street, had acquired the ownership of the newspaper company in 1875 but leased the publishing and printing to a professional journalist James Young. Approaches at that time by Allan Smyth to James Watson to enter into joint ownership of the newspaper company were rejected. This led Allan Smyth starting up his own printing business in 1878 and he begn publishing The Peeblesshire Herald, which closed down in 1880 when he eventually became joint owner with James Watson of the Peeblesshire Advertiser.

As can be seen from the notice that subsequently ended the partnership, James Watson's declared interest was 'Bookseller'. It may be assumed that Allan Smyth as 'Printer' was the partner responsible for the development of the newspaper and the expansion of the printing side of business, taking the initiative to established the new printing plant which heralded a major step forward for the publishing company. It was erected on the first floor of T. W. Wallace, an engineering company in the Bridgegate and now the site of the housing complex at Provost Walker Court.  In the 1930s there was evidence of the reinforcement made to the floor to take the weight of the printing presses and the ancillary equipment.

When the partnership was dissolved, The Edinburgh Gazette in July 7, 1899, p.67, carried the announcement confirming Allan Smyth as sole proprietor and thereafter the books printed and published carried the imprint 'The Neidpath Press | Allan Smyth | Printer & Publisher | Eastgate | Peebles'.

   
The Neidpath Press moved into its own premises at 19 Eastgate early in the new century. They did not have a frontage on the main street and the offices and printing works were located down a close that ran between the Social Club and McKenna the butchers: now Peebles Rugby Club premises and James Forsyth the Butchers.
When you entered the close you faced a magnificent etched engraving on opaque glass of Allan Smyth’s device with Neidpath Castle proudly featured as the centrepiece surmounted by the Coat-of-Arms of the Royal and Ancient Burgh of Peebles. It was the door used by the proprietor, editor, office secretary and Peebleans visiting their first and oldest newspaper, the Peeblesshire Advertiser.  The compositors and printers entered by the Works door at the side of the building, opposite to the entrance to the workshops of cycle agent J. M. Wallace, a son of Thomas Wallace
who founded the engineers in the Bridgegate and later developed a vehicle sales and repair garage with showrooms in the Northgate and on the corner leading to the LNER Station.

The Neidpath Press had a printing room on the ground floor with a paper store and metal remelting room attached; to get maximum light from the skylight windows the composing room was on the first floor and through from it was the office for the proprietor-editor and the chief reporter.  Linking the composing room and machine room was a slim hoist to take the heavy metal formes (chases) containing the type pages for printing. To the rear of the building were outhouses with storage for back issues of the newspaper and for metal and ancillary machinery.

The composing room was lined with racks of typecases, most of the racks having two open typecases mounted on top containing the basic text fount of 7-point Minion used by The Neidpath Press for its newspaper and books.[photo (5)]

The New North Press
The lowercase on the frame had small letters, figures and metal spaces of varying widths to justify the line of type to the precise width; the case lying at an incline was the uppercase with capital and small capital letters, some punctuation marks and accented letters. In the centre of the room was the ‘stone’ on which all type was gathered together to be assembled for the newspaper or books or commercial jobs to be printed, ranging from personal visiting-cards, leaflet and noteheads to very large posters.
The type would then be locked in an iron frame (chase) using wooden wedges that were secured together to form a tight lock or by the modern method of metal bars tighten by a key. The type forme would then be placed in the hoist to be lowered into the print room (‘machine room’).[photo (6)]
Star Base Intertype Machine

The type for the newspaper and the books published and printed by The Neidpath Press was composed by hand until the late 1920s. This changed when a mechanical typesetting machine was installed.   Their first machine was a very early model discarded by a national newspaper publisher and was a Mergenthaler Linotype machine. This in time was replaced by a modern Intertype composing machine and the illustration shows an Intertype similar to one use at The Neidpath Press.[photo (7)] It produced lines of type cast from an assembled line of matrices formed in response to a keyboard, the assembled line was then cast when presented to a mould of molten metal. The matrices were mechanically returned to a magazine ready to be used again; the cast lines of type were automatically assembled in a galley at the side of the composing machine.

It was a revolutionary change for a small newspaper printing office as the machine could produce the output of seven hand compositors in a single day.   In the mid 1930s it was producing all the text required for the weekly newspaper and contributing in the typesetting of a number of commercial jobs.  The compositors still had to typeset the display type (sizes above 12-point) for all the work produced.
The Machine Room had a Wharfedale printing press similar to the one pictured here.  Its main job was to print the pages of the weekly newspaper on a Friday morning.  It also could print eight-page sections of books and when printed on the reverse provided 16 pages; these 16-page sections were brought together to form the complete book which was then stitched and bound; hard-back bindings were contracted out.[photo (8)]  
Bremner Press
The Wharfedale printed all the major commercial jobs: the Burgh of Peebles Valuation Roll was a yearly job which listed all the properties in the burgh showing address, owner and tenant and rateable value; the annual Beltane programme; Freer Smith’s large auction sale posters; and the Burgh Accounts. There were also two other printing machines: a small pedal-operated Arab platen for smaller-size printing invitations, concert tickets and business cards.[photo (9)]; also, a platen similar to one illustrated below, used for all quarto-sized printing.[photo (10)] Large in terms of floor space was a folder which folded and cut the printed sheets to form the pages of the Peeblesshire Advertiser.  It also folded the large sheets of book pages to produce 16-page sections. In the adjacent paper store was a guillotine to cut paper to the size required for printing and to trim book-pages after they were collated into sections.
    image: P1000516.JPG
  Arab Platen   Quarto Platen Guillotine

 

 

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