At times I joined Allan Smyth when he was working at the typecase or at the stone assembling type.  It was a privilege to observe the Master Printer select the typeface to be used for text and display lines, encouraging me to understand why he was using that particular style of type.  His hands were no longer nimble but he worked with care and showed his craft skill as he pieced together a complicated ornamental border composed of very small metal type pieces to complete the front page of a report for one of the local societies, such as the Ancient Order of Foresters or the Good Templars.

My earliest typesetting jobs were single-column headlines for the newspaper, then progressing on to double-column display advertisements. My favourite 'ad' was Veitch's as it always had an artistic line-drawing portraying an item of fashion. The type to be used with it was a challenge and many of the old types of Smyth & Watson purchased in the 1890s from the typefounders of Milller Richard in Edinburgh once again saw the light of day in the newspaper! An enjoyable and important part was taking the finished proof of the 'ad' across for Mr Bishop Veitch to appraise.

I remember being instructed on laying out type pages on the stone for printing a book. Imposition is the art of placing pages in their correct sequence so that when printed and folded the work will read in the correct order. There were 'templates' carefully stored in the composing room which were brought out each year for the printing of the Beltane Programme; eight pages to be printed on the reverse by a second forme of eight pages and when folded and trimmed would read in a 16-page sequence.

Half-way though my second year of apprenticeship I was given the opportunity to learn to operate the Intertype machine. I would man the machine during the operator's lunch break and felt the responsibility on my young shoulders to ensure that the machine was still in working order when my brief hour was over. No mean task, as inexperience and carelessness could lead to a possible breakage of a working part or causing splashes of molten metal which jammed up the machine requiring an hour or so to clear. If this happened on a Thursday it could affect the production time of the newspaper as the page formes were required to be on the press early the next morning.

Before the advent of machine composing all the content of the newspaper and all the books were hand typeset. When the type had been used for printing the newspaper it would be returned to the case, each letter separately dropped back into its compartment in the typecase to be available to be used again. Book type pages would be stored in galley racks so they could be brought out when a reprint was required. The spacing in each line of type had to be adjusted in the composing stick so that the line would be exactly the width required or the chase would not lift from the stone as type would drop out. Spaces of varying width were available in the typecase for this purpose.

It was a privilege to work in the composing room which was a 'nerve centre' of the town with news pouring into it, and as you typeset the news and announcements you became informed by the reports. It was the same when the compositor worked on commercial jobs; you became aware of information when typesetting the Valuation Roll, confirming who was a tenant and who owned various houses and also what other properties. The local newspapers were at that time 'newspapers of record' and all events and meetings fully reported in the weekly columns. Provost, Bailies and Councillors were quoted verbatim as they debated in the Council Chambers and it was noted how they voted on the various issues. It was the same for the Peeblesshire County Council and Education Committee meetings. I was the 'copy boy' that carried news items exchanged between Frank Bain the Chief Reporter at the Peeblesshire Advertiser and William Kerr the Editor of the Peeblesshire News. It was not always possible for them to attend every meeting or event in the town as often timings would overlap, so they covered for each other and reports exchanged so that they could be rewitten in the style of each newspaper.


This excerpt from Dr. C. B. Gunn's The Book of Remembrance for Tweeddale: Burgh and Parish of Peebles, Book II, page 341, shows the standard typeface of Minion used for the newspaper and books. A typographical style had to be carefully followed in The Neidpath Press about spacing between words which had to be evenly distributed throughout the line; an 'em' space after a fullstop and before the beginning of a new sentence; and a very thin space inserted before the semi-colon, question-marks and when using quotation-marks. There were also rules to be observed about the use of capital letters and in the hypenation of words.

This page shows this has been followed but it has also been selected to demonstrated the authority of Dr Gunn's book. It was quoted in support of a claim to add the name of Private David Stewart to those commemorated by the Peebles War Memorial when it was discovered his name had not been listed. It was subsequently added when the Memorial was recently refurbished.



Page Links ~ Index, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9