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THE

LONDON QUARTERLY
QUARTERLY REVIEW,

No. CXXIX.

FOR DECEMBER, 1839.

ART. I.—1. The Printer. 12mo. pp. 87. | We shall, therefore, at once proceed to one of these establishments, and by our sovereign power summon its motley inmates before us, that they may rapidly glide before our readers in review.

In a raw December morning, just before the gas-lights are extinguished, and just before sunrise, the streets of London form a twilight picture which it is interesting to contemplate, inasmuch as there exists perhaps no moment in the twenty

And noo, ma freends,'-some fifty years ago, said an old Highland preacher, suddenly lowering a voice which for nearly an hour had been giving fervid utterance to a series of supplications for the welfare temporal as well as spiritual, of his four hours in which they present a more flock,-And_noo, ma freends, the good guiltless aspect; for at this hour luxury man repeated, as, wiping his bedewed has retired to such rest as belongs to itAlthough the brow, he looked down upon a congrega-vice has not yet risen. tion who with outstretched chins sat lis- rows of houses are still in shade, and altening in respectful astonishment to this though their stacks of chimneys appear new proof that their pastor's subject, un- fantastically delineated upon the grey sky, like his body, was still unexhausted; yet the picture, chiaro-oscuro, is not altoAnd noo, ma freends,'-he once more gether without its lights. The wet streets, exclaimed, with a look of parental be- in whatever direction they radiate, shine nevolence it would be utterly impossible almost as brightly as the gilt printing over to describe-'Let us praigh for the puir the barred shops. At the corners of the Deil! There's naebody praighs for the streets, the gin-palaces, as they are passed, appear splendidly illuminated with puir Deil!' gas, showing an elevated row of lettered and numbered yellow casks, which in daylight stand on their ends unnoticed. The fashionable streets are all completely deserted, save by a solitary policeman, who, distinguished by his warm great-coat and shining belt, is seen standing at a crossing drinking the cup of hot salop or coffee he has just purchased of an old

Charles Knight. London. 2. Printing in the Fifteenth and in the Nineteenth Centuries. Penny Magazine,

No. 369.

To our literary congregation, we beg leave to repeat very nearly the same two exclamations, for, deeply as we all stand indebted to the British press, it may truly be said 'There's naebody thinks of its puir deils,' nor of the many kindred spirits, 'black, white, and grey,' who, above ground as well as below, inhabit the great printing-houses of the land we live in.

VOL. LXV.

1

barrow-woman, who, with her smoking arrived. Not a sound is to be heard save kettle, is quietly seated at his side, while the slow ticking of a gaudy-faced wooden the cab and hackney-coach horses, with clock, the property of the workmen, which their heads drooping, appear as motion- faithfully tells when they are entitled to less as the brass charger at Charing. refreshment, and which finally announces Cross.

to them the joyful intelligence that the An Irish labourer with an empty hod hour of their emancipation has arrived. over his shoulder, a man carrying a saw, On the long wall opposite to the range of a tradesman with his white apron tucked windows hang the printed regulations of up for walking, a few men, “far and wide a subscription fund, to which every man between,' in fustian jackets, with their contributes 2d., and every boy 1d. per hands in their poekets to keep them week, explaining how much each is en. warm, are the only perceptible atoms of titled to receive in the sad hour of sick. an enormous mass of a million and a half ness, with the consoling intelligence that of people all the rest being as complete. 51. is allowed to bury him if he be a man, ly buried from view as if they were lying and 21. 10s. if merely a boy. Along the in their graves.

whole length of the building about a foot But as our vehicle proceeds, every above the floor, there is a cast-iron pipe minute imparts life to the scene, until, by heated by steam, extending through the the time Blackfriars bridge is crossed, the establishment upwards of three quarters light of day illumines the figures of hun- of a mile, the genial effect of which moddreds of workmen, who, unconnected with estly speaks for itself. each other, are, in various directions, On the right hand, touching each frame, steadily proceeding to their tasks. stands a small low table, about two feet

Among them, from their dress, gait, and square. A hasty traveller would probably general appearance it is not difficult here pronounce that all these frames were alike, and there to distinguish that several are yet a few minutes' attentive observation printers; and as we have now reached not only dispels the error, but by numerthe gate of one of the principal buildings ous decipherable hieroglyphics explains to which they are marching, we must to a certain extent the general occupation alight from our cab,' that we may by a of the owners, as well as the particular slight sketch delineate its interior for our character of each. readers.

For instance, the height of the frames The printing establishment of Messrs. at once declares that the compositors Clowes, on the Surrey side of the Thames, must perform their work standing, while (for they have a branch office at Charing the pair of easy slippers which are underCross,) is situated between Blackfriars neath each stand suggests that the occupaand Waterloo bridges. Their buildings tion must be severely felt by the feet. extend in length from Princes-street to the working jacket or the apron, which Duke-street, and in breadth about half the lies exactly as it was cast aside the evendistance. The entrance is by rather aling before, shows that freedom in the arms steep declivity into a little low court, on is a requisite to the craft. The good arriving at which, the small counting- workman is known by the regularity with house is close on the left; the great which his copy hangs neatly folded in the steam-presses, type and stereotype-foun- little wooden recess at his side—the dry, and paper-warehouse, on the right; slovenly compositor is detected by having and the apartments for compositors, read- left his MS. on his type, liable to be blown ers, &c., in front.

from the case--while the apprentice, like In the last-mentioned building there are the carpenter, known by his chips,' is disfive compositors' halls, the largest of covered by the quantity of type which lies which (on two levels, the upper being scattered on the floor on which he stood. termed by the workmen the quarter. The relative stature of the workmen can deck”) is two hundred feet in length. The also be not inaccurately determined by door is nearly in the centre, and, on en- the different heights of their frames. The tering this apartment at daybreak, the roomy stools which some have purchased stranger sees at a coup d'ail before him, (and which are their private property, for on his right and left, sixty compositors' be it known that the establishment neither frames, which though much larger, are furnishes nor approves of such luxuries) about the height of the music-stands in are not without their silent moral; those an orchestra. At this early hour they are with a large circumference, as well as all deserted, their daily tenants not having those of a much smaller size, denoting the diameter of a certain recumbent body, light brown easy slippers, and then un. while the stuffed stool tells its own tale. folding their copy they at once proceed. The pictures, the songs, the tracts, the to work. caricatures, which each man, according By eight o'clock the whole body have to his fancy, has pasted against the small arrived. Many in their costume resemble compartment of whitewashed wall which common labourers, others are better clad, bounds his tiny dominions, indicate the several are very well dressed, but all bear colour of his leading propensity.

One in their countenances the appearance of man is evidently the possessor of a seri- men of considerable intelligence and eduous mind, another is a follower of the fine cation. They have scarcely assumed arts. A picture of the Duke of Welling. their respective stations, when blue mugs, ton denotes that another is an admirer of containing each a pint or half-a-pint of stern moral probity and high military tea or coffee, and attended either by a honour: while a rosy-faced Hebe, in a smoking hot roll stuffed with yellow butvery low evening gown, laughingly con. ter, or by a couple of slices of bread and fesses for its owner that which we need butter, enter the hall. The little girls, not trouble ourselves to expound. In the who with well-combed hair and clean midst of these studies the attention of the shining faces bring these refreshments, solitary stranger is aroused by the ap- carry them to those who have not breakpearance of two or three little boys, fasted at home. Before the empty mugs dressed in fustian jackets and paper caps, have vanished, a boy enters the hall at a who in the grey of the morning enter the fast walk with a large bundle under his hall with a broom and water. These are arm—of morning newspapers: this intel. young aspiring devils, who, until they lectual luxury the compositors, by a have regularly received their commis. friendly subscription, allow themselves to sions, are employed in cleaning the halls enjoy. From their connection with the previous to the arrival of the compositors. different presses, they manage to obtain Besides ventilating the room by opening the very earliest copies, and thus the the windows in the roof, beginning at one news of the day is known to them—the extremity, they sweep under each frame, leading articles of the different papers are watering the floor as they proceed, until criticised, applauded, or condemned-an they at last collect at the opposite end of hour or two before the great statesmen of the hall a heap of literary rubbish; but the country have received the observaeven this is worthy of attention, for, on tions, the castigation, or the intelligence being sifted through an iron sieve, it is they contain. One would think that invariably found to contain a quantity of compositors would be as sick of reading type of all sizes, which more or less has as a grocer's boy is of treacle ; but that been scattered right and left by the dif this is not the case is proved by the fact, ferent compositors. · To attempt to re. that they not only willingly pay for these store these to the respective families from newspapers, but often indemnify one of which they have emigrated would be a their own community for giving up his work of considerable trouble; they are time in order to sit in the middle of the therefore thrown into a dark receptacle hall on a high stool and read the news or grave, where they patiently remain un. aloud to them while they are labouring at til they are remelted, recast into type, their work: they will, moreover, even and thus once again appear in the case of pay him to read to them any new book the compositor. By this curious trans. which they consider to contain interestmigration Roman letters sometimes re. ing information! It of course requires appear on earth in the character of italics very great command of the mind to be

-the lazy z finds itself converted into the able to give attention to what is read from ubiquitous e, the full stop becomes per. one book, while men are intently employe haps a comma, while the hunchbacked ed in the creation of another. mark of interrogation stands triumphantly prentices and inferior workmen cannot erect—a note of admiration to the world! attempt to this, but the greater number,

By the time the halls are swept some astonishing as it may sound, can listen of the compositors drop in. The steadi. without injury to their avocation. Very est generally make their appearance first; shortly after eight o'clock the whole body and on reaching their frames their first are at their work, at which it may be oboperation is leisurely to take off and fold served they patiently continue, with only up their coats, tuck up their shirt-sleeves, an hour's interval, until eight o'clock at put on their brown holland aprons, ex. night. change their heavy walking shoes for the It is impossible to contemplate a team

The ap

of sixty literary labourers steadily work. sions, adapted in size to the number of
ing together in one room, without imme- letters they are to contain.
diately acknowledging the important serv- In the English language the letter e
ice they are rendering to the civilized inhabits the largest box; a, c, d, h, i, m, n,
world, and the respect which, therefore, 0, r, s, t, u live in the next sized apart-
is due to them from society. The minu- ments; b, f, g, l, p, v, w, y dwell in
tiæ of their art it might be deemed tedious what may be termed the bedrooms, while
to detail ; yet with so many operators in j, k, 9, x, z, a and æ, double letters, &c.,
view it is not difficult, even for an inex- are more humbly lodged in the cup-
perienced visitor, to distinguish the dif- boards, garrets, and cellars. And the
ferent degrees of perfection at which they reason of this arrangement is, that the
have individually arrived.

letter e being visited by the compositor
Among compositors, as in all other pro- sixty times as often as z (for his hand
fessions, the race is not always gained by spends an hour in the former box for
him who is apparently, the swiftest. every minute in the latter), it is evidently
Steadiness, coolness, and attention are advisable that the letters oftenest requir-
more valuable qualifications than eager- ed should be the nearest. Latin and
ness and haste; and, accordingly, those French books devour more of c, i, l, m, p,
compositors who at first sight appear to 9, s, u, and v than English ones, and for
be doing the most, are often, after all, these languages the cases' must there-
less serviceable to themselves, and, con- fore be arranged accordingly.
sequently to their employers, than those The usual way of filling cases with
who, with less display, follow the old letters is by distributing the type pages of
adage of slow and sure.'

books which have been printed off. AlOn the attitude of a compositor his though the ideas or words of one author work principally depends. The opera- would not, especially in his own opinion, tion being performed by the eyes, fingers, at all suit those of his brother writerand arms, which, with considerable ve- (for instance, suppose the type pages of locity, are moved in almost every direc- The Diary of the Times of George IV. tion, the rest of the body should be kept were distributed to set up ' The Bishop as tranquil as possible. However zealous, of Exeter's Charge to his Clergy')—yet therefore, a workman may be, if his the letters which compose them are shoulders and hips are seen to be moved found in practice to bear to each other by every little letter he lifts, fatigue, ex- exactly the same proportion. The most haustion, and

the result; profligate pages are, therefore, quite as whereas, if the arms alone appear in acceptable to the compositor who is motion, the work is more easily, and, about to print a sermon, as a volume on consequently, more successfully execut-cookery, or even on divinity; and thus, ed. The principle of Hamlet's advice to in death, books, like their authors, are all the players may be offered to

may be offered to com- democratically equal. positors :

The distributing of the letters from the

type pages into the square dens to which • Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced they respectively belong is performed it to you. Do not saw the air too much with with astonishing celerity.. If the type your hand, thus, but use all gently. tame neither, but let your own discretion be were jumbled, or, as it is technically your tutor : suit the action to the word, the word termed, “in pie,' the time requisite for to the action.'

recognizing the tiny countenance of each

letter would be enormous, but the comBefore a compositor can proceed with positor, being enabled to grasp and read his copy, his first business must evidently one or two sentences at a time, without be to fill his cases,' which contain about again looking at the letters, drops them 100 pounds' weight of type of nine sorts, one by one, here, there, and everywhere, viz. :1. capitals; 2. small capitals ; according to their destination. It is cal3. Roman letters (for italics separate culated that a good compositor can discases are used ;) 4. figures; 5. points tribute 4000 letters per hour, which is and references; 6. spaces; 7. em and about five times as many as he can comen quadrats, or the larger spaces; 8. pose; just as in common life all men can double, treble, and quadruple quadrats; spend money at least twenty times as 9. accents. There are two cases ;' the readily as they can earn it. upper of which is divided into 98 equal As soon as the workman las filled his compartments; the lower into 53 divi- cases, his next Sisyphus labour is by

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