Prior to the onset of computerisation, to produce printed material in printing houses required an army of workers. The process of letterpress printing was labour intensive and consisted of a variety of work roles. These were strictly segregated by the print unions who dictated how many employees could work in a firm, how many apprentices could be taken on, rates of pay and working conditions.
Within the firm in the pre-production stage of setting type firms employed compositors and readers. In the machine room there were the printers and post production was the bindery, which was the domain of women in firms.
This section details the working conditions and social welfare experienced by Edinburgh printers in the 20th century. Drawing largely on oral interviews with former printers they will include sound files and transcripts of individuals talking about their personal experiences of working roles and starting work in the trade in Edinburgh. Please click on the links to the left for brief histories of these topics.