Individual Working Roles with the Printing Industry
'Printing and bookbinding was one of the best paid factory jobs there were'
Entry into Edinburgh firms was controlled by the number of apprenticeships laid down by trade unions. On the trades side, entrants went through the Printers’ Exam. Their apprenticeships lasted seven years for males (later six) and four years for females, after which they became journeymen.
Throughout firms, males and females each had their own distinct work roles. Men had the highest status jobs which included composing and printing. Women generally undertook a range of tasks that were described as ‘laying on and taking off’. These included feeding sheets into printing presses, folding and stitching. The trades also had a hierarchical structure. At the top were the process workers followed by the lithographers, compositors, printers and then bookbinders. Each trade had its own work conditions, hours of work, and rates of pay.