Starting Work
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Starting work in an Edinburgh Printing Firm



Until the 1900s, a seven year apprenticeship was spent entirely on the shop floor. Although one of the better paid professions, poor conditions in printing houses throughout the 18th and 19th centuries led to a high death rate through consumption and other chest disorders.

In the twentieth century working conditions improved and the work undertaken by print unions meant that printers enjoyed better conditions, rates of pay and holiday entitlement than their counterparts in the papermaking industry.  To enter into the printing industry meant a job for life.  Generations of the same family often entered the trade and worked in the same firm. Jobs were often obtained through word of mouth and people tended to live within close proximity of where they worked.

Watch a film advertising the advantages of working in the printing industry in the 1990s.

Listen to an oral account from a former employee of Thomas Nelsons talking about starting work at the company and a binder recounting the way she was recruited.

Listen to an account of a former printer talking about the first year of his apprenticeship and a former bookbinder talking about the number of apprentices taken on by T & A Constable.

Listen to an account of a Napier employee talking about the establishment of print education at the College.