HER MAJESTY'S PRINTERS.
There exists not far from the spot made classic by
the footsteps of Dr. Johnson, a great irregular black
block of building, reticulated in a mazy network of
close meshes, with blacker alleys and narrow lanes,
from which issue all day long, and every day, still
blacker streams of printer's ink. Like oak timber
that has seen service, the spot is eaten with the tor
redo chambers of age - perforations which riddle it
through and through, yet leave the heart of a
harder and closer texture than before. For it is a heart indeed: an old centre of civilization. Its narrow, tortuous veins and arteries are the channels of
light and life. At every pulsation, wisdom issues
her precepts, genius distributes her gifts, intellect
sends forth her fire, the comforts of religion flow.
Rash people who picture royal roads and rosy paths
to the seat of these blessings, learn the delusion they
have cherished. If the printing craft be ancient
enough to boast a tutelary saint, it is here he holds
By special courtesy, we have been led through every devious way and curious cranny by the resident spirit, whose finger sways undisputed over the busy denizens. One moment traversing an open- air byway, the next we were diving down in nether darkness amongst steam-engines and workshops. Again, aloft, we alighted in large and airy rooms, sacred to compositors, machinists, or pressmen;'frames', machines, or presses. Presto, and we grew bewildered amongst a region of little rooms, and closets, and prentice boys. Whether photographs of the busy scenes will please our readers as much as the original did us, be it yours to decide. We will, with your gracious leave, take you a tour, and present you with both positive and negative pictures.
Join us in heart-the heart of the square of which Fleet Street and Shoe Lane form two sides, and Fetter Lane a third. It matters not at what house or block of houses you announce yourself, for every one, however far detached, has something or another to do with Her Majesty's Printers. Maybe you know the iron gate, with the royal arms gilt at top, which you pass to reach the office where acts of parliament and proclamations are retailed to liege subjects of the queen.
Contiguous to this office, five hundred craftsmen, aided by the power of steam, are ever engaged in putting into a cheap and portable form the bulky results of the six hundred and fifty at Westminster. Although parliamentary work is distributed amongst several great printers, yet so great a share comes to Messrs. Eyre and Spottiswoode, that they are known, par escellence, as Printers to the Queen. Senatorial wisdom, heavy enough when dropped from the lip in debate, feels still heavier when done up in reams, and pressing the shoulders of some young canvas jacket at this establishment.
If we may judge the merit of a constitution by the bulkiness of its records, then assuredly one will be convinced of the excellences of ours, by the mere computation of paper and type consumed every year. It needs the economical working of an enormous business to admit of our laws being obtainable at a cheap rate. This fact removes the appearance of an unfair monopoly of the national work by one or two great firms. Without an assurance of long-continued patronage, no firm could undertake the vast and special arrangements the work requires. Government, of course, takes a large supply of every act, or bill, or blue book. As the Treasury, however, fixes the price at which all papers are sold, we should be apt to think that the largest customer might possibly become the worst. Private demand varies according to the popularity of the subject. Local acts, which interest but few, are charged a somewhat higher price than others. Under any circumstances the sale is barely remunerative.
We will make no critical survey of this department, but pass on to the more general work; that of books and pamphlets. This is the office of Messrs. Spottiswoode & Co. Having, under the obliging auspices of the proprietor, ascended a wind ing iron staircase, we enter a room where a little hundred of compositors are amusing themselves. To one unaccustomed to see them it is an interesting sight. It is instructive to witness a large number of men working together anywhere. Similarity of movement is pleasing to the eye. So here, dipping into their cases as rapidly as a fowl pecks up corn, or Hullah's classes beat time, or we a while ago played tit-tat-toe at school, they arrest our interest.
A ' chase' is pointed out to us, filled with pages arranged so as to fall into their proper order when printed. The type is fresh from the foundry in all its silvery brightness. Pieces of metal or wood, which the compositor teaches us to call furniture,' are placed round, to fix the matter in its proper position. It has also been ' locked up,' to keep every part tight. The ' form' is now properly ' imposed,' and ready for the press below.
A short stay in the compositors' room of a great printer has an interest peculiarly its own. We get a glance at the manuscript, or at the ' revise' of some of our greatest men. To tell the truth, many of them express thoughts far more beautiful than is the handwriting. One compositor heaped wholesale condemnation upon an eminent political writer of the present time, whose patrician scrawl and utter regardlessness of the printer's labour are the abomination to every one into whose hands his ' copy' has ever fallen. No outrageous manuscript was in the office just then, we were told, unless there might be excepted some French writing, without stops or accents, and just so legible that in English it would be anathematised. Compositors will bear us out, that it is too bad to rob a working man of his time, which is his bread. Those writers who think it plebeian to write so as to be easily read do so. It stands to reason that a compositor, paid by the number of letters he sets, loses money by bad copy; and, ' though,' as our informant at Spottiswoodes' says, ' we do get a little allowance sometimes, it is very seldom, and never anything like what we lose by it.'
Outside the door of this room are the stores of type. Cases of letter ready for use are placed in vertical ' racks,' ranged side by side, reaching from the floor to the ceiling, extending round. a spacious area, filling up several unimagined corners. Tons upon tons of type are stowed away, but ready and willing at the call of any of the caterers of the world's enlightenment, to come forth and give wings to thought.
Two or three ' forms' are going off to be stereotyped. It is advantageous to preserve the means of extra impressions of a work likely to have a continuous sale-such, particularly as schoolbooks, which go through. many editions without emendations or revision. This purpose is gained by the thin stereo type metal plates, which may be conveniently packed away after use till wanted again, or multiplied in number, and transmitted any distance. The manager of this section of the works lets us into these secrets while he produces a few of the new shining plates- a whole form paged and arranged in one sheet, and waiting its turn in the machine-room. Other pleasant technicalities he also expounds. The racks contain every kind of letter and typographical sign used in printed composition. Less than five minutes makes us learned in the theory of ' spaces,' and ' hair spaces,' and 'leading', - names given to the metal divisions between words and lines, and a multitude of other terms, for which we now want to look in the manual.
Typo measures his work in true professional style. Instead of inches, it is how many ' pica m's.' His payments, on the other hand, are computed by the number of 'n's' of the type lie may be using that would fill a page.
' Then this is the kind of work you like best,' said we, and pointed to a page or two set up, but having about as many letters as the blank leaves in 'Tristram Shandy.'
' Yes,' he returned; we call that 'fat'. It's a sort of make-up for what we have to do at other times. We don't get enough of it, or we should do pretty well.'
If the same rule obtains in the typography of the ' returns' ordered by the House of Commons, the 'bills','acts,' and ' blue books', there must be a pretty good slice of ' fat.'
'You would like all writers to have plenty of para graphs, and all very short ones, eh?'
' Yes,' the man laughed; but we can't get them of our way of thinking.'
Typo says magazine work is very lean.
A heap of loose type, we are informed, is pie - a species of aliment which makes a Juvenile smack his lips, but is the aversion of a compositor. Pie, in typography, is like 'squab' in Devonshire, a mixture of everything in general, and nothing in particular. Printer's pie is composed of the ruins of a ' form;' when perhaps the work was half accomplished, an unlucky accident has upset it, and mingled the letters, and spaces, and leads. A heap of pie is, on the whole, about as good a test of a printer's temper as any one could desire. If anything could ruffle him, it is that. Well the un fortunate wright knows the Weary work he has before him, to separate the pieces one by one. It were hard to say which is most difficult, to compose the sheet again, or to compose himself.
Before the impression is struck off, very careful revision takes place. First, the ' reader' marks all mere ' literal' errors, and has them rectified. A ' proof' is then ' pulled' and sent to the writer, who, if fastidious, as most are, alters, and re-alters and lets remain as at first, what has cost so much pains in putting together. Authors, if near when their revise is at the 'correcting stone' would sometimes hear worse than blessings invoked upon them for their fastidity and indecision.
Low, monotonous humming and buzzing intimate that we approach the ' reading-boys.' Begging one to continue his duty, he proceeds to the following effect:
' Though a variety of opinions exist as to the individual by whom the art of printing was discovered, yet all authorities concur in admitting PETER SCHOEFFER (three taps on the desk) to be the person who invented cast (one tap) metal (tap) types (tap), having learned the art of cutting (one tap) the letters from the Guttembergs. He is also supposed to have been the first who engraved on copper plates.'
This going on in a rapid manner, with no attention to pause, and in the most grave monotony, is very comical, the taps indicating italics, small capitals or large, as the case may be. The only approach to a rest is the lengthening out of an occasional vowel when an illegible or a hard word is coming, making a long 'the-eh' or a ' to-eh,' instead of ' the' or ' to.' For five minutes he buzzed Greek. Half an hour would have helped us less to interpret the strange sound, than the clandestine peep we took at the paper itself. In particular work, such as the Bible, when the pointing is important, commas and colons, and every other sign, are read off with the text. The introduction of 'com.,' 'col.,' quote,' &c., every half-dozen words, would be very edifying to an audience.
Leaving the ' sanctum' of the reader (who understands the boy better than we, for his corrections are marked in the margin as fast as the boy can read), we pass a number of rooms in which embryo typos are learning their cr aft under the care of experienced men. They are apprenticed as usual, for seven years, and a considerable number of them are not, as in most other offices, ' out-door' but ' in-door' apprentices. Kept thus under the constant eye of the master, they grow up steady, intelligent, good men, although at the sacrifice of that liberty youths at times pine for, and which too often, with their less-cared-for comrades, leads to dissipation and reckless irregularity. Out-door apprentices gene rally are paid a proportion of their earnings. At the Queen's Printers, being in-door, they receive their maintenance, and are encouraged to work well by a small bonus for pocket-rnoney, upon every sovereign their work would amount to. The greater portion of their time they can be intrusted only with common work. Lengthened experience and cultivated tact alone make a good compositor.
The downward journey has located us at length in the midst of ' feeders,' and ' takers-off,' and 'machine-managers.' Presses and machines all worked by steam power, fill another great room. Moving round from the simplest to the most complicated, we are struck with the wonderful economy of labour, and time, and space, brought about by improved machinery, all so requisite in a vast establishment like this. Evidences abound, that the progressive spirit of the age has visited this place as all others. The simple machines are made to strike off copies of two works, even of different sizes, at one movement of the press. Gigantic cylinders, placed opposite, are printing both sides of a large sheet at once. No one can see without admiration the ingenious contrivances by means of which the great cylindrical engines are fed with paper, and then perform every other part of their duty in the most perfect manner without aid. Clutching the expanded sheets one after another, as fast as the ' imp' can supply them, their greed is insatiable. Tapes wind round the paper, carrying it over and under, in and out, up and down, till the while surfaces present themselves to the 'taker-off,' both sides covered with printed wisdom. Most intelligently does the mechanism adjust itself, and perform its duty.
Two boys, and a man to look after them, are required at each machine. The boys are true Londoners-rogues only happy when dabbling in dirt. Some of them are as black as the gentleman upon whom they are occasionally affiliated. To muck themselves from head to foot with ink, though quite needless, proves how hard they have been at work. They are all dressed uniformly in linen suits, some of which must provide poor old mothers at the end of. the week work more troublesome than profitable. A few boys show a remarkable contrast to the others; as if with an innate sense of neatness, they keep white and clean in work that would make sweeps of their comrades. Every boy saves a penny a week for his jacket, and is supplied with a new one twice a year.
Similar interest attaches to the machine-room as to the work-room of the compositors. At one machine there is a new work on which no profane eye has yet been permitted to look. Then the magazines and reviews for the forthcoming month or quarter are assuming their proper form, and we may in anticipation feast upon the literary repast in store for us. Here a people's edition is promising a treat speedily to many readers. At the next press, Parliamentary papers are striking off a far less delectable diet. We recognize as an old friend our diamond edition of the Church Service. Bibles of every variety are at other presses multiplying in countless numbers.
There are two holes in each sheet that excite our notice. We are informed that pins pierce the paper when the first side is printed; these punctures guide the lad in fixing the paper for the second side. True register' is thus secured-a term which our readers will comprehend, by observing how exactly the letters on one page of a volume are placed upon those back to back, on the other side of the leaf. Printing has so greatly improved of late years, that, unless these niceties are attended to, readers will grant a book little indulgence.
One great space is cleared away, and strong woodwork and rafters are being placed to accommodate a larger machine than any yet in the establishment. Visitors to any of the great London works are impressed with like sights wherever they go. The tendency of great places is still to grow. Messrs. Spottiswoode take in house after house, and cover with bricks every vacant space they can seize. Still the cry is, ' Room! room!' Vulcan roars and hisses with the force of twelve horses, in some Vesuvian abyss below. His grumblings are to be attended to immediately; he has been promised a big brother of twice his powers, for society and a helpmate.
Much of the collateral work is done on the premises. Several engineers, lathemen, and other artisans, are employed apart from the printers. Repairs of machines, and even in good part the construction of the steam-engines, are under their jurisdiction.
A great copper is parted off from the steam- boilers, but yet sufficiently near to boil at the same fire, to supply the men with water for breakfast and tea. Men, generally speaking, appreciate a little, hatter than they do great attention in this respect. Whore dining-rooms and culinary appurtenances have been prepared, they have been in a measure failures. Not improbably this arises from the sense of delicacy which prevents men from parading their humble dinners-a similar feeling to that which prevents the poor women from using the new ' wash-houses,' choosing rather their own close room, and waste of fire and laundry needfuls, to half cleanse their poor habiliments. For the apprentices, special arrangements are made, to which we shall have to allude.
Despite the extraordinary encroachments of steam- power, it has not yet entirely superseded the hand- press. Wood-cuts, where there are many of them, are still best printed by the last. Even the illustrations of our ever-welcome friend, the ' Illustrated News,' beautiful as they are from their vertical machine, would be far more beautiful taken with the hand- press. This could not be accomplished, for the blocks themselves are, we believe, curved now to suit the printing-machine. We bestow only a glance, in passing, upon a dozen of these presses at work in an ante-room. Wonders of the age years ago, they are now immeasurably eclipsed by their leviathan progeny.
Multifold as are the operations we witness, it would be tiring to describe them all. The sheets are printed wet; it is necessary to dry them afterwards. A room -well ventilated, and at the same time heated, is slung with a thousand lines, over which hang the sheets till they are dry enough for pressing.' Hydraulic presses are used for this purpose, being so simple in working, yet so powerful in effect. Alternate sheets of mill-board and letter- press are piled up in enormous columns, and submitted to pressure. After some hours they are flattened, and have received a gloss, or cold glaze. The operation is called cold-pressing.
In preparing the paper for pressing, the same economy of labour is seen as before. Two things are always done at once. One great column dwindles down as a workman removes the pressed sheets, and passes the boards towards his mate. Meanwhile another column is rising under the hands of the second man, whose duty consists in making literary sandwiches with the same boards, and fresh sheets from the drying-room.
There has been a cry lately of a scarcity of paper. Demand is grown so vastly, that rags cannot be procured to supply it. Those who fear a catastrophe should visit the Queen's Printers'; they would come away with a full belief that paper enough is stored up in the warerooms there to supply the world for ever. White, massive pillars of paper are the supports apparently to the ceiling. As an area for concealment, we would choose the spacious stowage- room; it would have served the ' Bonnie Prince' better than the Royal Oak. Like great vertical shafts in a mine of rock-salt, the white pillars persuade us of their exhaustlessness. Yet it is the supply of only a few months!
Paper is not so good as formerly; really good paper can hardily be obtained. Cotton is used in its manufacture, in the scarcity of linen. As a consequence, the toughness and durability of the old paper is not secured. Machine-made paper is not so good as that made by hand. For writing purposes in government offices, hand-made paper is still used. Paper for printing is almost invariably machine-made, as is also the general run of letter paper.
Now that the sheets have been struck off and pressed, they only await a few incidental operations before they ate done up into books, stitched and bound, and sent oil; some to their publishers, some to the retail office, some back again to illuminate our Legislature. Great heaps successively vanish through a wicket, and are received on the other side by one who counts them off, sixty to our six. We may meet with them again by-and-by, in a small room, where a troop of tiny gatherers are at work. They are gathering, at the time we look in upon them, an edition of the Book of Common Prayer.
Ranged round the sides of a small room are four counters. Upon them are placed, in like-sized heaps, the sheets of the book. Each pile contains sheets distinguished by the letter which is seen at the bottom of the page of a book. Space enough is left in the middle of the room for half a dozen boys to run round one after another in an endless chase. A merry game of ' Catch who can' goes on. To prevent it being quite unprofitable, each boy catches up the sheets in their proper order as lie passes rapidly round, and deposits the whole book ready for folding and stitching in a pile with others, at the end of each circuit. Quickly the sheets sink lower and lower under their nimble hands and feet. Thousands upon thousands of volumes they will make ready for the binder in the course of a single day.
' We ought to be very good people, with so many Bibles printed for us,' we remarked to our obliging conductor.
' We ought,' is the reply; but it is grievous to think what becomes of most of them.' Where one does good, there are too many bartered away for frivolities, or even evil purposes. The number that find their way to the pawnshop, especially of those given away in charity, stands in array like a national crime.
A 'collator' then receives the sheets properly arranged. By constant practice he is able to detect a wrong placement, or a double sheet, in hardly any time, and with a jerk to eject it. Description conveys but half a picture of Messrs. Spottiswoode's; there is a moral half. Bare enumeration of facts makes one feel that there is work going on here more than surface deep. The photograph on the mind of the visitor is vivid, deep, and pleasing. We have been impressed, throughout our tour, with the quiet demeanour and orderliness, the activity and diligence of every one engaged. They work not with the hurry of eye-service, detecting the approach of an employer, but with a steady attention that persuades us of a habit.
The simple cause of all this is, that the proprietors of the Queen's Printing Office are gentlemen who feel deeply anxious for the welfare of the workers under their care. There are nearly 1000 men in all at work. In the general printing, 350; in the government department, as we have said, 500; and in an establishment a few miles out of the city, given up entirely to Bibles and Testaments, about 100. This little community is governed by a constitution of so great a liberality, that it makes the chief appear to have advanced even upon the many laws they print. The study of our legislative papers has peradventure enlightened their minds and enlarged their hearts.
Messrs. Spottiswoode may be taken as a type-to speak professionally-of a class of masters quite modern in their regard for employés. They are examples of what was once very rare-eminent master- men, who believe that their journeymen have thoughts and feelings capable of cultivation, and independent of their craft. Too few in their position are regardful of those they employ beyond working out of them what they can.
Here we may see in one part a little room, set-off to contain a case of books for the use of the workmen and boys. A librarian is appointed, and a system of rules is carried out with regularity. The management is in the hands of the men themselves. Some idea may be formed of the extent to which the advantages offered by the library are appreciated, from the fact, that the present average number of books in circulation is considerably above a hundred. The great favourites are the weekly periodicals of the best class. Our arts and manufactures are well represented. History and biography, poetry and travels, have illustrations from the pens of the most eminent men. The popularity of the scheme is remarkably great considering that novels are not amongst the books. Not that the managers are squeamish either. A better selection of books it would be hard to find. Every book is unobjectionable, although neither theology nor romance (and very properly) find a place. The peculiar propriety of the mottoes on the catalogue is worth a note. The title-page quotes Seneca very happily, that ' as the soil, however rich it may be, cannot be productive without culture, so the mind, without cultivation, can never produce good fruit.' Over the leaf we are advised, to make the same use of a book that a bee does of a flower-steal sweets from it, but not injure it.' Such sentences are books in themselves.
We enter afterwards a room arranged with forms and desks, and various appurtenances that appertain to a schoolroom. All the boys under the age of fifteen employed in the office of Messrs. Eyre and Spottiswoode, and Spottiswoode & Co., are required to attend school; Reading-boys' from 8 to 9 AM every morning except Saturday - Machine and Warehouse boys on two evenings each week from September to May - from 7 to 8.30 P.M. The instruction is given by the Chaplain, assisted by teachers out of the establishment. The attendance is compulsory, and a fine of 1d. is exacted in case of absence; each boy, however, as a kind of incitement to punctuality and attention, receives a ticket for each attendance; exchangeable at the rate of four a penny, for books, knives, &c. &c., according to his fancy. Prizes are also given for especial proficiency. Examinations take place at stated intervals, which every boy who wishes to be apprenticed must ' pass' before he can be sent up ' to case'.
We learnt also that during the winter months, Mr. W. Spottiswoode, and his brother and sisters, devoted one evening in the week for holding advanced classes for the apprentices and others who wished for further instruction. Nor is music left out of the programme, for there is a choral society which meets once a week, and finds no lack of members to keep it up with considerable spirit.
We are pleased to find that they have in the summer-time, instead of books, a run into the fields to enjoy a game at cricket, or they solace themselves with boating. Clubs for both these recreations are established. A field is rented in the neighbourhood of Highgate for their first method of enjoyment, and many a right hearty and merry match comes off. But how can they find time for these things?' we hear asked, very naturally. It was the inquiry that rose in our own mind. At the moment of asking, we were in the sanctum sanctorum of the proprietor, one of the private offices. Upon the table were heaped bags and towers of silver coin. A reply to the question came in its appropriate place. On observing the cash, out conductor remarked, It is Friday, to-day, I see; we pay the men on Friday afternoon.'
' How do you find that answer? I was told by the chief of a firm the other day, that they had been obliged to go back to the old Saturday night's payments ?'
The evidence of one in the position of the Queen's Printer, and master over so many men is very valuable. It was, 'We find it work admirably.'
' Don't the men take advantage of the Saturday, and make holiday: keeping St. Saturday instead of St. Monday?'
No,' said Mr. Spottiswoode. When the plan was first tried, it was announced that any man who stayed away on Saturday would be discharged; but that has been long ago forgotten; the men come now as an established thing, and don't think of stopping away.
We have no doubt that such would be the invariable result of a fair trial of the plan. It is easy, by regardlessness of the men, to let it become a greater abuse than a Saturday payment. Wives, we doubt not, have felt the blessing of the new plan. Their partners, who could hardly be trusted with the prospect of a Sunday's leisure, dare not venture to break bounds, with a Saturday's work in view. Homes have been a comfort at the end of the week; which once upon a time were the reverse. All the arrangements for the welfare of the employed must have a powerful, unseen, good influence.
Where men are disposed to teach the young by books, they will unconsciously be guarded also in example. Where real earnestness for good is evinced by employers, it must in the end be appreciated by their men.
We are told, that during the summer the men are given Saturday afternoon for their boating and cricket. In winter, when they could not thus employ themselves, they work on till four or five o'clock, instead of leaving off at two. This example is now beginning to be followed by the trade generally.
Winter amusements are more domesticated. Some of the rooms give evidence even now of last Christmas gaities. They are ingeniously hung with garlands of coloured paper, and with rosettes, the work of the young people, who spend a deal of time and labour upon them. Upon their schoolroom they had lavished all their constructive and decorative skill. It was, we are assured, a really beautiful sight.
During these festive times, one or two concerts have been got up. Everything was done in good style, we assure you, too. The library of Mr. Spottiswoode's private house, a fine large room, was used for the hall of performance, programmes of words printed off, and everything as it ought to be. Orchestra and audience, both disposed to please, found-the one, kind critics; the other, performers in their, very best.
Since the great Volunteer Movement commenced a corps has been formed, called the 2nd London, of which Mr. George Spottiswoode is Captain-commandant, originally consisting of men employed in the offices, but now thrown open to all young men front other offices whose time and income are limited. We were told that Mr. Young, the secretary of the Corps, would give us any information, if we called at Head Quarters, No. 10 Little New Street, E.C. It appeared that several local and financial advantages had already induced persons not in the employ of the Messrs. Spottiswoode to swell its ranks, such as the small cost of the really pretty uniform (accoutrements and all only costing 3l.), which could be paid for by instalments, as also the central position of the drill-ground in New Bridge Street, Blackfriars. A drum and fife band we learnt were very strenuously practising, so that they might be able to accompany the corps when they marched out on Saturdays. But the movement in these offices has by no means ended with the men-for a number of the boys have been formed into a cadet corps, and smart little fellows some of them looked in their neat uniform of gray and green.
We are requested now to glance at the accommodation for the apprentices.
' I am not very proud of this part of our establishment, but you had better see all.' So our conductor remarked; as he ushered us through his own private house. Whether he felt proud or not, we thought the youths must be proud of their master. After going through the innumerable rooms of an old English mansion, all of which seemed given up to the apprentices, we began to wonder where the private rooms were. We believe that the master has retained very little space for himself. Twenty six apprentices are in the house, and two or three are coming. Their instruction and supervision seem Mr. Spottiswoode's peculiar charge. The dining-hall of his house is arrayed at our entry with the preliminaries of the midday banquet. As the prentices are the aristocrats of the business, so also there is an aristocracy amongst themselves. Age as well as acquirements place them in advance of the machine boys. Social position, too, is generally very superior; some of them being from respectable well-to-do families. They do not, therefore, attend school, but, as we have said before, receive all their. teaching from their master.
At the top of the house, the rooms are parted off to make a range of dormitories. They are well ventilated, roomy, and clean: so much so as to surprise us, considering the densely-built neighbourhood. Contiguous to the dormitories, we push aside the hangings of a doorway, and enter a complete little sanctuary. Family worship is conducted here by the Chaplain before business in the morning, and before retiring at night. The tiny church must impress a visitor very strongly. We dare not doubt that real good is effected by the daily meeting of master and apprentices for a holy purpose. The place of assembly is arranged with seats and books the fac-simile of a church. The service is short, hut from its very nature is impressive.
Such an example is effecting a great moral change. Printers have been particularly open to the charge of neglecting their employed. Every concession of a master, we have been informed, is registered by the trade, as an extra argument with other masters, to bring about a more general liberal treatment. We regard Messrs. Spottiswoode as partial witnesses with respect to the moral improvement of the craft. Their anxiety that improvement should evince itself and their indefatigability in bringing it about, would tend sometimes, perhaps, to make them give too great importance to the signs. Yet we do not question that vast improvement has taken place. Printers have not always been models of sobriety. Even the remarkably intelligent body of compositors have not always claimed the character. Owing to the exertions and sympathy of good masters, in a great measure, we believe, working men of any craft are a different class to what they were. The great companies, as well as the great masters, are beginning to feel that capital has duties as well as immunities. Throughout our country the feeling is spreading, that the people ought to be educated. If it be really necessary to take the young to work, it then becomes the duty of the employer to see that they are taught. We hail with pleasure such masters as the Queen’s Printers. They are the pioneers of a better state of things.
There must be, in gentlemen whose position enables them, if they chose, to dwell at ease, a deep under-current of pure philanthropy, when we find them giving up comfort for a feeling of duty. There is no glory in it. All that can be got out of it is real hard work and constant anxiety. When we hear the present proprietor attribute much to the good feeling between his father and the men in his time, and when we find, above all, that accomplished ladies also enlist in the cause, it convinces us that the benevolent spirit is common to all.
We may well conclude by appropriating a motto from the biographical section of the catalogue, which section, in its turn, appropriated it from Plutarch. Altered to make it applicable to all masters, it would run— 'We fill our mind with images of good men, by observing their actions and life. If we have contracted any blemish, or followed ill custom, from the company in which we unavoidably engage, we correct and dispel it, by calmly turning our thoughts to these excellent examples.’
The Busy Hives Around Us, 1861