The Skilled Compositor, 1850–1914: An Aristocrat Among Working Men, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Skilled Compositor, 1850–1914

An Aristocrat Among Working Men, 1st Edition

By Patrick Duffy


248 pages

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Paperback: 9781138263390
pub: 2016-11-15
Currently out of stock
Hardback: 9780754602552
pub: 2000-12-28
eBook (VitalSource) : 9781315237039
pub: 2017-03-02
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For the first time since its invention over 500 years ago, the print medium is being challenged as the primary means of recording and communicating ideas. Indeed, within the printing industry itself the advent of digital technology has rendered the craft of hand setting metal type obsolete - the days of the skilled compositor are now at an end. Patrick Duffy’s work sets out to examine the experiences of the skilled compositor in the period 1850 to 1914. Focusing primarily on the workplace and the workplace institutions, it aims to explore issues of control, co-operation and conflict in order to determine if the compositor did, as many labour historians claim, belong to an aristocracy of labour. Drawing on a wide range of source material from trade society minutes to Parliamentary Papers, the author explores the diversity of experience that compositors had in the workplace and the uneven patterns of change that the trade experienced. The study throws light on some of the issues raised by these changes: what part did ancient craft traditions play in the maintenance of control in the workplace? Why were women excluded from this particular work when they were accepted in most other parts of the trade? To what extent did trade society officials represent the aspirations of the rank and file membership? Starting with an overview of the nature, growth and development of the trade, the book goes on to examine the occupational and social aspects of the compositors' experience, with a chapter devoted to women's role in the printing trade. Finally, the formation, functions and development of relevant trades unions and employers' associations is discussed. This insightful analysis of the experience of the skilled compositor provides a valuable case study for labour historians at the same time furthering our understanding of a somewhat neglected aspect of printing history.


'Duffy has produced a book of painstaking research, with a remarkable breadth, combining business, labour and social history in fine style.' Business History '… a very useful and convincing study. Both compositors and historians have been well-served.' Albion '… whatever your specialty, you have several good reasons to read Patrick Duffy's study of nineteenth-century compositors… an exceptionally detailed empirical study…' Victorian Studies 'A welcome study of the economic and social identity of British compositors in the second half of the nineteenth century, Duffy's book provides a detailed and sympathetic survey of the workplace experiences of this segment of the printing industry.' Journal of the Printing Historical Society

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; The nature and development of the printing trade; The status of the compositor in the hierarchy of labour; Workplace control and issues of gender; Skilled compositors, their trade union leaders and employers; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.

About the Series

Modern Economic and Social History

Modern Economic and Social History
Modern Economic and Social History encourages the publication of scholarly monographs on aspects of modern economic and social history. While emphasis is placed on works embodying original research, the series also provides studies of a more general and thematic nature which offer a reappraisal or critical analysis of major issues of debate. Economic and social history has been a flourishing subject of scholarly study during recent decades. Not only has the volume of literature increased enormously but the range of interest in time, space and subject matter has broadened considerably so that today there are many sub-branches of the subject which have developed considerable status in their own right.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General