For cen­turies, the appren­tices trained as com­pos­i­tors and press­men while liv­ing and work­ing at the mas­ter printer’s premis­es, but by the begin­ning of the 19th cen­tu­ry most lived at home or in lodgings.

Boys were tak­en on around the age of 14 and spent 7 to 10 years learn­ing their trade, orig­i­nal­ly in both the case-room and the press room. Appren­tices, espe­cial­ly in the ear­ly years, were often giv­en tasks such as clean­ing the type and the print­ing press­es, becom­ing very dirty in the process lead­ing to the nick­name ‘print­ers’ dev­ils’. Appren­tice­ships were not offered to women and few women worked in the trade until the mid­dle of the 19th cen­tu­ry, and then they were main­ly con­fined to low­er paid roles.

As machines became faster and more com­plex, some appren­tices espe­cial­ly in larg­er print­ing works were trained either as com­pos­i­tors or as press­men. By 1914, there were evening class­es for print­ing in Glas­gow and Edin­burgh. By the 1920s Stow Col­lege (now part of the City of Glas­gow Col­lege) in Glas­gow, Heri­ot-Watt Col­lege (now Uni­ver­si­ty) in Edin­burgh and Dundee Tech­ni­cal Col­lege were all offer­ing train­ing cours­es as part of print­ing appren­tice­ships. Train­ing in Edin­burgh was lat­er trans­fered to Napi­er Col­lege, now Edin­burgh Napi­er Uni­ver­si­ty. By the mid 20th cen­tu­ry the length of the appren­tice­ship had short­ened to 4 years.

Some appren­tices attend­ed night school after com­plet­ing their day’s work. A num­ber of train­ing films were made, such as a voca­tion­al film about the print­ing trade (1947) and an intro­duc­tion to type­set­ting (1959).

In the 21st cen­tu­ry lim­its on the age and gen­der of entrants to the print­ing indus­try no longer apply, Appren­tices now under­take a work­place print train­ing pro­gramme lead­ing to a range of recog­nised voca­tion­al qual­i­fi­ca­tions across a num­ber of key occu­pa­tions and print trade sectors.

Print­ing class­es in Edin­burgh were run by Edin­burgh Typographia from the late 1880s: you can down­load the syl­labus for the ses­sion 1891–1892 [PDF 11.7Mb] and William Maxwell’s Address to the Edin­burgh Typographia, giv­en in 1935 [PDF 5.9Mb]

Although some cours­es might involve atten­dance at col­lege for a block of time, or on day-release, s