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Making the News

Newspaper Printers

Detail, The London Post, Number 2, 1646. Courtesy of the British Library

Producing a newspaper required several different kinds of skills and, because the type was set by hand, took much longer than it does today. Often, each person in the printer's shop had a special job to do.

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The Master Printer
The master printer was the boss. Because of his knowledge and experience, he supervised the other workers.

Journeymen and Apprentices
Journeymen and apprentices worked with a master printer to learn how to operate a printing press and run a print shop. Journeymen were paid for their work and had already completed their apprenticeship, but were not yet considered "masters" and did not have their own shops. They might help set type, correct the author's manuscript, and operate the press.

Printers' apprentices were often teenaged boys. Apprentices mixed inks, helped take finished sheets off the printing press, and ran errands. In England, apprentices had to work with a master printer for at least seven years—and they didn't get paid!

Operating a printing press took strong arms. Often, two men worked together: one printed the sheet, while another put more ink on the type form to get it ready for the next piece of paper.

Compositors placed the letters together to lay out the words as they should appear on the printed page. First, they picked out each letter from a box called a type case. Compositors used a tool called a composing stick to arrange the letters into words and sentences. When finished, the compositor tied all the sticks together and placed them in a frame, which went onto the printing press.

  Brainy Quotes

Journalism allows its readers to witness history; fiction gives its readers an opportunity to live it.

~John Hersey

Did you know?

Compositors had to arrange the letters upside down and backwards in order for them to print correctly on the page!

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