This is a replica building. The W & G Baird print shop is housed on the ground floor of a two-storey reproduction building, which was built specifically to support a fine 1600s roof of architectural significance from New Row in Coleraine, County Londonderry.
The shop is designed to illustrate the range of work undertaken by a letterpress printer in a small town in Ulster in the early 1900s. The ground floor of the building has two separate areas the compositor’s room and the machine room.
The machine room contains three working presses:
- a large and ornate Clymer and Dixon - Columbian Eagle platen press, dated 1844
- a Minerva Cropper treadle, platen press, dated 1900
- Albion platen press by Hopkinson and Cope, c 1868
The person who operated these machines was the printer. The compositor set the type. The printer’s duties were to ensure the efficient running of the various printing presses and manage the supplies of the ink and paper.
Next to the machine room is the compositor’s room, where thousands of pieces of printing type were kept in special drawers. When a printing job was ordered the compositor assembled the type ready for printing. A compositor was frequently left to his own devices to construct his page layout with style and artistry.
There has been a printing industry in Ulster for over three hundred years. By the late 1800s the printer’s shop had become part of the fabric of life in Ulster’s towns.
This exhibit was sponsored by the firm of W & G Baird, one of Ireland’s most important printers.
Look out for the three presses in the machine room. Note also the untidy nature of the compositor’s room which is in keeping with how these busy work places tended to be.