Cowie's Printer's Pocket-Book and Manual/Rules to be observed in Companionships

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2219555Cowie's Printer's Pocket-Book and Manual — Rules to be observed in Companionships1830George Cowie


The disputes which frequently arise in printing-offices upon trifling, as well as intricate, points, can only be settled by a reference to the general custom and usage of the trade. These misunderstandings, which annoy and retard business, often take place in companionships consisting of three or four compositors; it is therefore highly desirable that the generally received rules and regulations on this subject should be explicitly and clearly laid down for the future comfort of the compositor.

Taking Copy.

If printed copy, and the compositor is desired to follow page for page, each sheet, as it is given out, should be divided into as many parts as the companionship may consist of, and the choice of each part, if it materially varies, should be thrown for. During the absence of either of the companionship, if he be likely soon to return, some one should throw for him, on condition that he will be able to get through this fresh taking, with what remains of the last, so as not to impede the imposition of the sheet.

Another method may be adopted, viz. for each person to agree to receive regularly of the different takings a certain number of pages; but if this plan be followed, the bulk of the copy must not be subject to the inspection of the companionship, but kept by the overseer, and dealt out by him as it is wanted, or it will inevitably cause contention; for the compositor likely to be first out of copy, if he has free access to that which remains unfinished, will observe whether the next taking be fat or lean—if the latter, he will hold back and loiter away his time, in order to avoid it, and thus materially delay the work. On the other hand, if this taking appear to be advantageous, and there should happen to be two or three of the companionship out of copy at the same time, a sort of scramble will take place who shall have it, which will end in dispute and confusion;—on no account, therefore, should the copy be open to examination, unless for the purpose of ascertaining the charge per sheet.

With manuscript copy it will be better to take one from the other in such a manner as not in the smallest degree to delay the imposition, or block up the letter; that is, that no compositor may retain the making up too long, by holding too large a taking of copy. Compositors are apt to grasp at a large portion of copy, with the view of advantage in the making up, though nine times in ten it will, as before observed, operate as a loss to them, by their eventually standing still for want of letter. If by mistake too much copy has been taken, the compositor should hand a part of it to the person next in the making up, to set up to himself.

If parts of the copy should be particularly advantageous or otherwise, each of the companionship should throw for the chance of it: the person to whom it may fall, if he have copy in hand, must turn that copy over to him who is about to receive more copy; but for trifling variations from the general state of the copy, it cannot be worth the loss of time necessary to contest it; though it frequently happens that a litigious man will argue half an hour on a point that would not have made five minutes' difference to him in the course of his day's work.

If one of the companionship absent himself from business, and thereby delay the making up, and there is the smallest probability of standing still for letter, the person who has the last taking must go on with this man's copy, whether it be good or bad.

Making up of Letter.

The number of the companionship, if possible, should always be determined at the commencement of the work, that they may all proceed upon an equal footing. It should be well ascertained that the letter appropriated for the work will be adequate to keep the persons on it fully employed.

If any part of the matter for distribution, whether in chase or in paper, be desirable or otherwise, for the sorts it may contain, it should be divided equally, or the choice of it thrown for.

When a new companion is put on the work after the respective shares of letter are made up, and if there be not a sufficiency to carry on all the companionship without making up more, he must make up an additional quantity before he can be allowed to partake of any part of that which comes from the press.

Making up Furniture.

Two of the companionship who may have the greatest proportion of the first sheet, should make up the furniture for that sheet; and though it may be thought that a disadvantage will be felt in making up the first sheet, they having to ascertain the right margin, yet, properly considered, this disadvantage is sufficiently balanced by their not being likely to meet with a scarcity of furniture, which will frequently occur after several sheets are made up. The other companions in rotation, as their matter is made up, will take an equal share of the furniture. Should an odd sheet be wanted, it will be better to throw for the chance of making it up.

By observing a proper method in cutting up new furniture, the same will be serviceable for other works, as well as the one for which it is intended, even though the size of the page may differ, provided it agrees with the margin of the paper. The gutters should be cut two or three lines longer than the page; the head-bolts wider; the back furniture may run down to the rim of the chase, but must be level with the top of the page, which will admit of the inner head-bolt running in; the difference of the outer head-bolt may go over the side-stick, and the gutter will then run up between them. The footstick only need be cut exact, and the furniture will completely justify.

Imposing and distributing Letter.

The person to whose turn it falls to impose, must lay up the form for distribution; but as continual disputes arise on this subject, and as it can only be ascertained by comparing the number of pages composed, with the number put in chase by each person, we therefore recommend their keeping an exact account of these pages, which had better be done agreeable to the following plan:—

Compositors' Names. By whom

This scale should always be kept by the compositor in the making up; who, when he gives it away to the person that follows him, marks down the number of pages he has made up opposite to the proper signature, and under his own name: also when he imposes, he inserts his name in the column appropriated for that purpose. By following strictly this mode, every sort of dispute will be prevented: and though a private account may be necessary for individual satisfaction, yet it will not avail in settling a general misunderstanding, as the various private accounts may differ, and the charge of inaccuracy may be alleged with as much reason against one as the other; but in this general scale a mistake can be immediately detected. It also operates as a check on those who may be inclined to write out of their proper signature, or to charge more pages than they have imposed.

In making up his matter, a compositor should be particularly careful; as, if the work he is on be very open, with whites, &c., he must see that the depth of the page corresponds with the regular body of the type which the work is done in; for, unless care is taken in this particular, the register of the work must be incomplete. The pressman cannot make the lines back, if accuracy is not observed in making up the matter; and it would often prevent many quarrels and inconveniences, if the compositor was more attentive to this important branch of his duty.

As the letter is laid up it should be divided in equal proportions; and, if it can be so managed, each person had better distribute the matter originally composed by him; for, by this means, the sorts which made his case uneven will again return to him.

It may happen, from one of the companionship absenting himself, that his former share of letter remains undistributed at a time a second division is taking place; under these circumstances, he must not be included in this division. In the event of a scarcity of letter, if any man absent himself beyond a reasonable time, his undistributed matter should be divided equally among his companions, and when he returns, he may then have his share of the next division.


The compositor, whose matter is in the first part of the proof, lays up the forms on the imposing stone, and corrects. He then hands the proof to the person who has the following matter. The compositor who corrects the last part of the sheet locks up the forms.

The compositor having matter in the first and last part, but not the middle of the sheet, only lays up the form and corrects his matter; the locking up is left to the person who corrects last in the sheet.

A compositor having the first page only of the sheet, is required to lay up one form; also to lock up one form if he has only the last page.

If from carelessness in locking up the form—viz. the furniture binding, the quoins badly fitted, &c.—any letters, or even a page, should fall out, the person who has thus locked up the form must immediately repair the damage. But if from bad justification, or in leaded matter, the letters ride upon the ends of the leads, the loss attending any accident from this circumstance must fall upon the person to whom the matter belongs.

It is the business of the person who locks up the form, to ascertain whether all the pages are of an equal length; and though a defect in this respect is highly reprehensible in the person to whom it attaches, (whose duty it is to rectify it), yet if not previously discovered by the locker-up, and an accident happen, he must make good the defect.

The compositor who imposes a sheet must correct the chargeable proof of that sheet, which is also generally at the same time corrected for press, and take it to the ready place. He must also rectify any defect in the register, arising from the want of accuracy in the furniture.

Forms will sometimes remain a considerable length of time before they are put to press. When this happens, and particularly in the summer, the furniture is liable to shrink, and the pages will, in consequence, if care be not taken, fall out; it is therefore the business of the person who has locked up the form, to attend to it in this respect, or he will be subject to make good any accident which his neglect may occasion.

When forms are wrought off, and ordered to be kept standing, they are then considered under the care of the overseer. When they are desired to be cleared away, it is done in equal proportions by the companionship. During the time any forms may have remained under the care of the overseer, should there have been any alteration as to former substance, such alterations not having been made by the original compositors, they are not subject to clear away those parts of the form that were altered.

If the pressmen unlock a form on the press, and from carelessness in the locking up any part of it fall out, they are subject to the loss that may happen in consequence.

The compositor who locks up a sheet takes it to the proof press, and the pressman, after he has pulled the proof, puts by the forms in the place appointed for that purpose.

Transposition of Pages.

Each person in the companionship must lay down his pages properly on the stone for imposition. The compositor, whose turn it is to impose, looks them over to see if they are rightly placed; should they, after this examination, lay improperly, and be thus imposed, it will be his business to transpose them; but should the folios be wrong, and the mistake arise from this inaccuracy, it must be rectified by the person to whom the matter belongs. Pages being laid down for imposition, without folios or head lines, must be rectified by the person who has been slovenly enough to adopt this plan.